Bishop T.D. Jakes, senior pastor of the Dallas-area Potter's House, has a world following.
So it's no real surprise that he would be taking his annual praise party, known as MegaFest, to Johannesburg, South Africa. The big festival, previously anchored in Atlanta, re-emerges after a one-year hiatus, this time as MegaFest International. It will take place Oct. 10-12.
The event may eventually be brought to Dallas, as Bishop Jakes has said previously he'd like to do, but it will maintain its foreign flavor, he said.
The spiritual rejuvenation festival always was international, said Bishop Jakes, who heads one of Dallas' prominent megachurches.
“Historically, we've always drawn about 10,000 international delegates to MegaFest. We have drawn people from as far away as Switzerland.
”When you get 80,000 people to an event and 9,000 of them are international, you really don't notice it. But we keep registration records on people and … we are more interconnected now than we've ever been.“
Bishop Jakes said he isn't sure how many Americans will join him in Africa, but he knows it will be in the thousands. He anticipates that total attendance will be about 200,000.
The pastor's Africa focus is part of a broader and growing effort on the part of American Christian churches to take the Gospel message along with humanitarian and economic assistance to struggling people in various countries across the continent.
TIME OF REFLECTION
Although the sessions will last only three days, many other activities are scheduled around that time, including several tours.
”We tried to leave enough time for people to customize this visit because for many, many people this is a vacation,“ Bishop Jakes said.
But in addition to fun, he said, the trip is an opportunity for African-American attendees to reconnect with their history.
”Many people are saying this may be the largest gathering of people of color to go back through the Middle Passage since slavery,“ Bishop Jakes said, using the term for the slave ships' travels in the era of New World colonization.
”For people of color this is not only a chance to have great worship and strengthen the economy of Africa, but also a time to reflect back on where many of them have come from.“
He sees the conference as having a wide embrace.
”MegaFest was always more than a church service, but I want our folks to see an opportunity to express ourselves culturally and empower ourselves economically,“ he said.
”We're going to have a good time. I believe in having a good time but also believe in having a purpose. When you can combine praise and purpose, I think people really walk away fulfilled … they can leave Africa empowered to do so many things.“
‘ROCK THE CRADLE'
One of the people traveling from Dallas to share in the MegaFest International experience is former State District Judge Faith Johnson. Johnson is an elder at the Potter's House, a nondenominational Pentecostal-style congregation in Mountain Creek, Texas, and a member of the church's board of directors.
”If you're going to go to South Africa, you want to go with Bishop Jakes,“ said Johnson, adding that her roommate on the trip will be the sister of Gov. Rick Perry.
”I've been to all, I repeat, all of the MegaFests, and when I've left them I've left them empowered, refreshed, determined and recommitted to be everything God wants me to be. Now can you imagine what it will be like for me when I leave Johannesburg?“
Bishop Jakes said the opportunity to expose people to a different culture and way of life was a big reason he chose to take MegaFest to Africa. But he also wanted to give something back to people there. Already his ministry provides water wells, food and help for AIDS orphans. And he said that would continue.
In addition to worship, tours and cultural experiences, though, Bishop Jakes said taking a throng to Africa and establishing ties is something he believes is important spiritually and politically, and he considers MegaFest an ideal vehicle for that.
”Africa is the cradle of civilization. This is a great opportunity to rock the cradle, so to speak, and do something significant,“ he said.
© 2008, The Dallas Morning News.
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ARCHIVE PHOTOS on MCT Direct (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): jakes; tdjakes AMX-2008-08-27T08:18:00-04:00