Aleasha Hintz – Staff Writer
It’s Sunday, September 20th. A local farmer, Mark Vermeer, is hosting a nine-hour worship event in Sioux Center. Families, couples, and young adults gather on the football field to worship as attendees of The Stand. Lawn chairs and blankets speckle the turf, and the gray, windy skies keep the area cool.
The inspiration for The Stand goes back to 1999 when Vermeer had an encounter with God at a youth event. Vermeer was a counselor, and one night the worship pressed on despite the singers leaving. Students and counselors alike chanted the words from a song called “Agnus Dei,” singing “Worthy, you are worthy,” for nine minutes after the lights went out. Nobody wanted to stop.
“That element is the hope for this event,” Vermeer said. Two and a half years ago he listening to that song again and felt led to recreate the experience. After a year of praying on it, Vermeer, his wife, and their daughter began working on making that dream a reality.
Vermeer’s daughter Aftyn is a junior business major at Dordt. She did most of the scheduling and worship band recruiting for the event. Aftyn attempted to make The Stand a community-based event by recruiting area worship bands, speakers, and pastors for the day. She also led one of the worship groups. The day before, Aftyn said her foremost hope was that “The truth and the glory of Jesus would be undeniable.” Vermeer agreed.
One speaker in the afternoon, David Gomez from Iglesia Nueva Esperanza, preached his message in both English and Spanish to reach both sides of the community. Most people were seated on the field or in the bleachers. The worshippers leaned in towards the stage as they sang.
“We are called to be united, loving one another,” Gomez said.
Since the initial outbreak of COVID-19, gatherings like this have become rare.
“If there’s no risk, what’s the purpose of gathering?” Vermeer said. “He [Jesus] risked his life for us, the least we can do is worship.” Aftyn said her wish is that the Holy Spirit will put a desire in people’s hearts and that this desire would override any fear.
Few people chose to wear masks or socially distance at The Stand, and neither were enforced. A modest-yet-engaged crowd formed near the stage, and volunteers in blue shirts littered the field and surrounding area. Children yelled as they played on the side of the field. One volunteer twirled colorful flags to the music. Strangers conversed about their faith and worries near the food trucks.
One high school volunteer, Myka Schut, said she found serving at The Stand to be a great opportunity to help others grow in their faith and to stretch her own.
“It’s a win-win.” Schut said.
It is not a coincidence that The Stand is held on September 20. The first half of Luke 9:20 served as a theme for the day’s worship. “But what about you?” he [Jesus] asked. “Who do you say I am?”
It’s late. Large lights illuminate the field and the crowd had quieted as they reflect on the last nine hours of speakers, music, and prayer. As The Stand comes to a close, attendees are encouraged to answer the question from Luke for themselves. Vermeer says he hopes by the end of the night, people will know the answer to this question and want to tell others about Jesus. It’s been a long day of worship; the crowd disperses and quiet falls over the football field