FORT LAUDERDALE Fla. (BP) – As the lights dimmed in Fort Lauderdale's Calvary Chapel sanctuary Lisa Hitchcock didn't know what was happening. But when 17 figures carrying lanterns ascended the stage she wept.
Hitchcock a history teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was among the 3500 attending LifeWay's Feb. 23-24 Living Proof Live with Beth Moore event – on its 20th anniversary.
The Friday night session began with a choreographed tribute to the 17 people slain in the Feb. 14 shooting at the Parkland Fla. high school – just 13 miles from where Moore the LifeWay team and volunteers would minister to this grieving community.
"God knew I would need to be here" said Hitchcock who bought her ticket months ago.
During the tribute Beth Moore read a letter she crafted that included a prayer on behalf of the loved ones of those killed in the attack a prayer for the injured a list of the names of the slain and a declaration of ministry to the Fort Lauderdale region.
"We are so sorry" said Moore as she choked back tears after the tribute. "Scripture tells us we have been foreordained in the times and places we will live.... It's no accident we are gathered in this place. And for those of us who came from hundreds or thousands of miles away we have come to sow faith and seed of God's Word into this suffering part of our country. We will grieve with them and we will believe God for and with them. And until they can stand again we will stand for them."
To commemorate the inaugural Living Proof Live Moore's message for the weekend was the same subject she taught on Feb. 21 1998: "The Living Water." Too often she explained people go to a cistern -- a tank in the ground that holds water. Sometimes they settle for a small container of water. But the only source that will satisfy is the well of Jesus Christ – the Living Water.
"Water is not just a desire" she told the audience as she taught through various Scriptures referencing living water. "It's not just a hope. It's an absolute necessity for life. This weekend we have come to meet Jesus at the well."
Since launching Living Proof Live in partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources in 1998 Moore has spoken at more than 200 events in all 50 states and in Canada. More than a million women have attended and counting simulcasts more than 2 million women have been reached.
Two of those women sisters Cynthia Still and Lisa Santino Calvary Chapel members returned to celebrate what God began in their lives through the first Living Proof Live event 20 years ago.
When Still thumbs through her Bible she said it's obvious to her that Moore's ministry left an indelible mark on her life. She said God used the 1998 event among a series of others to draw her to Him. Less than a month later she trusted Christ as her Savior.
"One book that changed my life was (Moore's) 'Breaking Free'" Still said. "She was instrumental during that time period in my life. And it changed everything."
Santino was a Christian at the time but she said the 1998 event helped put her faith on a deeper trajectory.
"What (Moore) has done in my life has caused me to dig deeper into the Word which I hadn't done. It made me want to have a deeper relationship with the Lord" she said.
Still said she is eager to see what the Lord has for her now 20 years later.
"He began such a healing that day" she said. "And He did it through women in my life who helped grow me. Betsy Langmade was one of them."
Langmade now a LifeWay event coordinator was the city coordinator for the inaugural Living Proof Live as the women's ministry director at First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale. She said placing women into the hands of the local church for continued ministry has been the legacy of this event since its inception.
"We're not coming in just for the sake of the event" Langmade said. "We're coming to provide a catalyst for ministry we hope will happen long after we've packed up and moved on to the next city."
And ministry is what Hitchcock plans to do as she returns to work this week at Douglas High. Having taught history there for 27 years she calls it her "home away from home." Although she's still reeling after losing several students in the attack she said the corporate worship and prayer along with Moore's message have given her resolve to get back in the trenches.
"My main concern is I want to be for my students the teacher I have always been" Hitchcock said. "But they need to grieve. I want to say to them 'I love you and I'm here for you' and let them know it will be OK."