Among the 1,100 people converted to Christianity at the recent three-day revival in the Camden Yards stadium was a man who had been polishing his gun and planning to kill two people when a friend phoned to urge him to attend.
That was one of the dramatic accounts of conversion heard last night at West Baltimore's New Shiloh Baptist Church. "God arrested his anger," the Rev. Harold A. Carter told a congregation of newly-declared Christians, "and three people are alive today."
"Thank you, Lord," someone shouted from the pews. Applause and shouts of "Amen" followed.
The principal organizers of the Oriole Park revival -- including Dr. Carter, pastor of New Shiloh, and the Rev. Frank M. Reid III of Bethel A.M.E. Church -- said its success had inspired them to plan an ambitious follow-up event next year. The purpose will be to attract thousands of young black men to God and family values.
"Organizing black men, first locally and then nationally, to build themselves spiritually is one way to begin tackling some of the ills that are destroying the black family," the two ministers said in a joint statement.
They reported that the total attendance for the three revival services at the stadium on Oct. 2, 3 and 4 was about 82,000. Much of the preaching during the revival was aimed at young men caught in the web of Baltimore's drug trade.
One of these men said last night of his conversion, "At first, I didn't know who was speaking to me. But then I knew -- it was the Lord."
A 10-year-old boy said he could not explain what he felt during the revival -- although he knew it was good -- but a 7-year-old boy said, "I felt the Lord coming into my body."
Dr. Carter told about 150 new Christians who filed to the altar to receive copies of the New Testament signed by him and Dr. Reid, "You'll sing better than the choir! You'll have more reason to sing!"
Dr. Carter, Dr. Reid, Leronia A. Josey and State Sen. Larry Young scheduled a press conference for tomorrow morning at New Shiloh to discuss the follow-up "National Congress of African-American Men Determined to Live for Christ." It will be held next October at an as yet undetermined Baltimore location.
Mr. Young, D-City, and Ms. Josey, a lawyer who is an active laywoman at Bethel, were two other principal organizers of the three interfaith services at the stadium which they called the "Baltimore Determined Revival Crusade."
In their announcement of next fall's effort, the organizers said in a statement, "It is necessary to keep alive the hope and healing experienced at the crusade."
Dr. Reid said, "We've learned that there has been no national conference of this kind anywhere in the country, focused on young African-American men who are determined to follow Christ."
The Bethel pastor credited his ministerial colleague with the conference idea. "God gave this vision to Dr. Carter," Dr. Reid said, adding that the organizers will welcome assistance with the planning from other churches and groups. It will "a non-political event," he noted.
The revival was the first non-baseball event in Baltimore's new downtown stadium.
While there was no charge for admission, free-will offerings totaled about $124,000, probably more than enough to cover costs, Ms. Josey said. Any money raised in excess of costs will go to social service programs at Bethel and New Shiloh.
More than 30,000 cans of food were brought to the revival, to be divided among the Maryland Food Committee, Bea Gaddy's xTC soup kitchen and the two churches.
Also at the revival, 624 people registered to vote in the Nov. 3 election. "We want them to be good citizens, but we do not tell them who to vote for," Dr. Reid explained.
And the organizers pointed proudly to another statistic: On Oct. 4, the last day of the revival, Baltimore police said not a single shooting was reported in the city.