LIMA — Last August, Jessie Roark asked a simple question to her daughter: “Who won the football game?”
She answered with one word: “Lima.”
Six months later, Roark is trying to fill the Spartan Stadium with 5,000 worshipers as a way to spark a new wave of volunteerism and reverse years of community malaise.
Roark didn’t attend the Lima Senior High School and Lima Central Catholic football game back in August, but her daughter’s answer at the time got Roark thinking. At the end of the day, “Lima” — the community — did win that football game. Thousands from across the city came together to celebrate their community pride.
She wanted to do it again.
“If we can fill that stadium for the football game why can’t we do it for Christ?” Roark said. “Before I know it, I’m sitting in meetings and talking to all sorts of people about putting this on.”
Scheduled for May 30, the Fill the Stadium event will feature an afternoon of communal worship, volunteerism and testimonials meant to unite, heal and create hope for those throughout the region. Starting at 1 p.m., volunteers will spend the first hour hiking east across the city from Town Square to Spartan Stadium to assemble and fill sporting complex. Once inside, the crowds will be fed and worship will begin.
The rest of the day will be filled with hearing testimonies “of others who have overcome life challenges by forming a relationship with Christ, worship(ing) with the community worship team and fill(ing) the stadium with the presence of God,” according to an event press release.
”I’m just really excited about it,” Roark said. “People are coming out of the woodwork to be involved, and I’m just very excited about it. I don’t think they’ll want to miss it.”
So far, Roark said she’s been in contact with 41 churches throughout the region, and she’s working to recruit the rest. She estimates the city alone has roughly 150 churches that comprise Lima’s faith community.
“If we can’t unite our differences and come together as one, then how do we expect the (wider) community to come together,” Roark said.
Prior to the main event, Roark is calling for volunteers, and there’s a few different venues to participate. One such opportunity is a community worship team. Event organizers are looking to bring together individuals from many different churches to create a 100-member group that will perform throughout the city.
Outside of the team, Roark estimates that the event will require roughly 200 people to volunteer to make sure the event goes off without a hitch.
Other opportunities include participating in the “Feed the 5,000” portion of the event, when the crowd will be fed with a semi-trailer full of packed lunches. If there’s more food than people, the truck will leave the stadium and make its rounds throughout the community to hand out food at housing complexes and whoever else they may meet.
Students will also have the option to participate in a sort of “faith olympics” to take place prior to the main worship event. Roark said she’s working with Fellowship of Christian Athletes groups in schools across the county that will select athletes to participate in a communal sporting event.
“Most will tell you, if we get 5,000 people, that’s a success,” Roark said. “That’s not how I feel about it. If we get 5,000 people in the stadium, and nothing changes, it’s not a success. But if we get five people, and there’s change, then it’s a success.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.