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Laurie overflowing with faith

The answer is, he loves it — it probably helps that people seem to think he's pretty good at it — and wants to share the peace he's found in his faith with those who will listen.

But in the end, Pastor Greg Laurie said he shares his time among the Harvest Crusade, his home ministries in Riverside and Irvine, his duties as a police chaplain for Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, and the pretty-much-always-on-call nature of his work because he loves it.

So the question, of course, is why do so much?

"It's juggling a lot of balls," he said. "Every now and then, I drop one. I'm learning to this day to say no to things. I'm overcommitted at times, but I love what I'm doing more than any time in my life."

Though it all can be overwhelming, he still finds himself returning from a vacation with five more projects in his head.

The project taking up most of his attention right now is the 2013 SoCal Harvest at Angel Stadium of Anaheim set for Aug. 23 to 25. Once again, Laurie will be the star speaker amid several Christian musicians and, this time around, a new A&E reality star.

"People are really excited to hear Phil Robertson from 'Duck Dynasty,'" he said of one of the stars of the TV show about an entrepreneurial Southern family that manufactures duck calls.

Laurie's love of his work is why the 60-year-old evangelical Christian has been speaking at and helping to organize the traveling tent revival — albeit it one in large stadiums — for 24 years. And it is his manner of preaching that keeps his growing audience coming back.

Laurie is known to relay personal stories to connect with his congregation. Though his world has changed much since he started preaching at 19, he said he leads a normal life.

"I take and find joy in the simple things in life," he said. "I hang out with my grandkids and play. I like to be with friends, have something good to eat. I surf once a year when I'm in the mood and the water is warm. Sometimes, I get on my Harley.

"And there's a lot of fun in the ministry — a lot of laughter. It's serious stuff we deal with, and we try to find the joy and fun when we can."

Laurie uses this blend of real-life anecdotes, biblical references and comedic timing to allow the audience to feel entertained as it receives his spiritual message.

The specific message, and how an audience hears it, can often depend on the venue. He said the primary reason people go to their neighborhood church is to develop and use their gifts and be a part of a community of believers.

But a large Crusade event is often for the nonbeliever.

"It is a time to discuss questions about God and life," he said, adding that there is plenty for believers at the events as well.

"It's a great time for Christians to gather," he said. "It can be a giant celebration — or even a party. Sometimes you can feel like you're all alone out there."

Because part of Laurie's everyday life includes an ongoing effort to bring comfort to the weary, he finds himself talking about why God allows tragedies to happen. He said he wondered the same thing when his son died in a car accident five years ago.

"Sometimes people ask if I will ever get back to normal," he said. "No. It's a new kind of normal. You learn to live with pain. But it has opened my heart to others in pain. I want to say they can survive this. It doesn't have to be the end of their life. Sometimes it feels like it could be."

It is this understanding and compassion Laurie brings with him when he is called for his chaplain duties with the Newport Beach or Costa Mesa police departments. He is there to comfort, not proselytize, in times of tragedy.

"I got a call late at night, somehow it seems to always be late at night," he recalled. "I had a man who's wife had taken her life. That's a hard thing to deal with. He wanted me to tell his daughter what happened.

"I try to be a calming influence. I didn't know if he believed in God. It's not the same as being a pastor. I'm there to help when the news is heard or for the officers."

He said he has invited those who have gone through a traumatic experience to come to his church if they want spiritual guidance. That is when he becomes the minister again.

It is then up to the listener to be open.

"I talk about what I've been through in my life and show how my faith has gotten me through," he said "There's nothing I can say to make a person believe. That's not my job, frankly. That's the job of the Holy Spirit. I'm a messenger."

It is a sentiment he said he sometimes relates in his ministry through a story from his childhood.

"I used to deliver the Daily Pilot," said the pastor, who lived in Corona del Mar at the time. "You get really good at throwing the paper — over the hedges, on the door step. I delivered the news. I didn't write it, didn't make it, I delivered it."

He said he's still in the news business, at least in a way: "As a preacher I deliver the news — now it's good news."

The annual Harvest Crusade in Anaheim will be live-streamed on http://www.harvestcrusades.org. An outreach called Harvest America will be held in Philadelphia and simulcast to thousands of locations on Sept. 28 and 29, according to a news release.

If You Go

2013 SoCal Harvest

When: 7 p.m. Aug. 23-25

Where: Angel Stadium of Anaheim, 2000 E. Gene Autry Way

Cost: Free; stadium charges $15 for car parking and $30 for bus parking

Web: The event will be broadcast live over the Internet and can be accessed at http://www.harvestcrusades.org

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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