God is God. That is the idea behind theGIG, an open prayer and worship event hosted by the Salvation Army on Friday nights at the Chaves County Courthouse lawn.
Budding from the idea to give high schoolers a place to practice their faith publicly, theGIG, which held its first open prayer session on May 6, has grown to draw a total attendance of 2,711 and a total of 482 seekers, those who come for prayer, in its first four months. Captain Beau Perez, corps officer for the Roswell Salvation Army, said these numbers are low estimates, given theGIG held a session for three nights during the UFO Festival, which attracted people from all over the world.
TheGIG attracts those wanting to hear a gospel message. It also encourages people to pronounce their faith in Jesus Christ, loudly over a microphone, inviting those who call him their savior and lord to come to the courthouse lawn. Food is always provided, and, oftentimes, bands perform during the event. Seekers often perform their own songs and music as well. “We don’t want it to look like a [auth] church service,” Perez said. “We’re not the fancy building people, we’re the outside people.”
The event has also drawn local churches, that preach to Jesus Christ, who have taken advantage of TheGIG as an opportunity to talk about their respective services and deliver announcements, Perez said. Yet most who come to TheGIG believe it’s their church, says Jim Ridgway, who along with Perez created the idea for theGIG. The ultimate mission is to evangelize the city, “We’re calling the city to repentance. We’re preaching Jesus Christ, we’re preaching salvation. We’re bringing people to know God,” Ridgway said.
The message of theGIG, adopted and influenced by the Welsh Revival message, is broken down into four points: read the bible and have it straighten out your mind; do what it says immediately; get rid of all sin and grow in God’s grace; go public with your experience of gospel. Although there is a close correlation with the Welsh message, Perez said society is inevitably different now, and he must assume that most people are biblically illiterate. The message is also meant to inspire those who attend theGIG to pass the message along to others.
From the beginning, Perez and Ridgway have been honest that they don’t know what they are doing. Describing theGIG as organized chaos, Perez says Ridgway and himself are simply the hosts and moderators of the event, and allow God to lead each night’s worship. Encouraging those in attendance to express their faith in a positive way, Perez says how that faith is expressed in a given night is different.
Those who come to theGIG have dealt with, or are currently experiencing, awful problems, according to Perez. At times, the Salvation Army is able to assist seekers with additional needs they have, beyond their spiritual needs. “A lot of what the Salvation Army does is we’re feeding the greater context of all life’s need, spiritual and physical,” Perez said. One Friday night, a family who had been kicked out of their house approached the courthouse lawn. The Salvation Army, first addressing their immediate needs, set-up and provided the family with emergency housing, Perez then asked the family if they would like to pray with those present at TheGIG. Introducing them to a boy scout, who had previously been kicked out of his home himself, Perez said the boy led the family in prayer. Attributing the efforts to God, Perez said, “God’s making a difference down there [at TheGIG]. He’s making a real change in people’s life.”
TheGIG has seemingly ignited the desire for other open worship events throughout the country, and even the world. Monroe, La., now holds its own GIG two nights a week, a group of young people from Hobbs have started coming weekly to the courthouse lawn to learn how to lead a GIG in their community, and a town in New Zealand has even created its own GIG. As a personal goal, Perez and Ridgway want to bring theGIG to every town in eastern New Mexico.
Ridgway says the community has expressed their liking for the freedom theGIG provides, finding church to be confining. “If you want to be public, we’ll let you,” Perez said. “You can’t do at church what you can do at theGIG.”