Churches join for a day of praise

Christians gather for God, music, food, fun at third-annual event



Praise flowed Sunday at the Clark County All Church Picnic as more than 3,000 people came together as Christians.

And with a $25,000 budget, this picnic was elaborate, with music and a multitude of activities spread across the grassy acreage adjacent Vancouver’s Pearson Field.

“I’m excited about the response because God’s going to do incredible things with this,” said Ryan Hurley, 36, a developer who is the founder and director of Detour Ministries, the nonprofit that sponsored the free five-hour picnic.

At 2:45 p.m., Fifth Street was lined with cars, and people were streaming in as Portland-based Christian alternative rock band Sons of Day sang, “People get ready. There’s a train a comin’ … Don’t need no ticket. You just thank the Lord.”

All area Christian churches were invited. Hurley said more than 75 of them were represented at the event.

“We need to be talking about the message of Christ, the thing we agree upon,” Hurley said.

Pearson Air Museum housed booths representing about 60 organizations, including Christian Family Adoptions, Open House Ministries, All God’s Children International, Forward Edge International and Project Patch. Under a long tent outside, more booths sat, including one staffed by the Friends of the Carpenter, an area group that ministers to the homeless.

This was not an exclusive event, said Jessica Turpeinen, the assistant director of Detour Ministries, which operates out of US Digital Outreach, a Christian ministries center in east Vancouver.

Asked which denominations were present, she said, “There’s Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists. Everyone is here. It’s wonderful. I’m just astonished at the showing today.”

This was Vancouver’s third all-church picnic.

Around the grounds, there were children’s activities, including a climbing wall.

“We have the longest Slip ’N Slide in Vancouver,” said Hurley, part of the leadership at Crossroads Community Church.

The event included a dunk-a-pastor booth, a display of some 50 classic cars, food booths, large tents with picnic tables, a prayer garden and a large stage with a huge video screen projecting the lyrics sung by the bands. Comedian Mike Williams also took the stage at midafternoon for a set.

Three Christian radio stations were broadcasting the event, Turpeinen said.

At 3:30, the Sons of Day was belting out “Everlasting God.” Some in front of the stage held hands high in worship.

Michelle Best, 41, of Lake Oswego, Ore., might have spoken for many when she said, “I just think (the event) is pretty awesome, when you know you’re surrounded by Christians.”

Teresa Ross of Vancouver said she was impressed with “the churches being unified and coming together as one.”

She and her companions, Brooklynn Gardner, 17, and Audrey Smith, 13, were three of the hundreds of people seated on blankets across the grounds.

Brush Prairie’s Dan Szmania, 45, looked content in his lawn chair. An ordained preacher who now is in sales, he said, “If God is with you, who can be against you?” His son, Kevin Szmania, 23, joined him at the picnic.

Donations, including funds from 17 major sponsors, funded this year’s event.

“It’s really educational about the Lord,” said Mae Peters of Portland, who was there with her daughter, Lynette Pasa of the Fisher’s Landing area. Pasa, who worships at Clark County’s City Harvest Church, had daughter Ruth, 8, with her. Ruth said she was looking forward to the bungee bouncing booth.

“You feel like you’re part of one big family,” said Lynette, adding that she was impressed with the picnic.

Didn’t make it to this year’s event? Not to worry, said Turpeinen, who promised its return next year.