NEW YORK - He preaches to tens of thousands of Houstonians and millions more watch on television. Every year pastor Joel Osteen, his wife Victoria and members of Lakewood Church take their message on the road to stadiums worldwide.
Last week they packed Yankee Stadium in New York, and Local 2 was invited for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look inside this incredible Night of Hope.
About 24 hours before the crowds arrived and the big screens went live, Local 2 joined Osteen as he checked in with his audio team and reviewed camera and lighting positions.
"We tried at a couple of stadiums to put the staging in the outfield, but it just didn't feel right. It feels right there at second base," Osteen told Local 2.
The preparations were being made for a crowd of nearly 60,000 who came from all over to hear his message of hope.
"How exciting is this?" asked Local 2's Dominique Sachse.
"You know we just feel blessed to be here," Osteen said. "It's amazing to be at what's called the most famous stadium in the world."
After the final walk-through, Joel and Victoria returned to their hotel for rest, reflection, preparation and prayer.
As dusk approached on the night of the event, you could feel the energy and excitement outside Yankee Stadium as the faithful arrived.
Everyone in line had a story to share and a special reason to attend the Night of Hope. Declan Peer, 13, traveled more than two hours with his mom and dad.
"I'm here because my dad had leukemia and he (Osteen) helped us get through this tough time," Peer shared.
Tom Peer has been fighting cancer for eight months. Chemotherapy was taking its toll. "His words of encouragement, his books, we find are inspirational to us," he said.
Bob and Frankie Clark flew in from Jacksonville, Florida.
"He's been an inspiration for so many people, and we're just honored to be here," Bob Clark said.
As the crowd filed in to the stadium and Osteen walked out of the Yankee's dugout, Sachse asked him to share his thoughts before going to bat with his message of hope.
"Tonight we're going to try to inspire people, lift their faith, hopefully they'll go out with a new perspective and know that God is in complete control," Osteen said. "I never dreamed I'd be doing this, but that's part of the message, that God will take you places you never dreamed of."
For the next two and a half hours, the stadium came alive with music and praise.
"Our prayer is that you would leave here knowing you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you," Victoria told the crowd. "If you're facing a challenge, you're facing a difficulty, I want you to know that you can make it through tonight."
"Not one us are going out of here the way we came in. We're going to go out of here inspired, healthier, full of victory," Osteen added.
Even when the music stops and the big screens go dark, it's hard to get people to actually go home.
For Thelma Scott, a Lakewood choir member and volunteer, home is Houston. She suffered a stroke last year, making Osteen's message of faith, healing and restoration even more relevant.
"I thank God for this message, because if I would have missed it, I would have missed a blessing," Scott said.
Friday morning, Local 2 will take a closer look at some of the outreach programs Lakewood organizes in conjunction with the Night of Hope events.
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