Last week, as Hurricane Irma veered toward Florida, the Christian music festivals Rock the Universe at Universal Studios and Disney's Night of Joy at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports both altered plans by canceling the second night of the concerts, which were to take place the evening before the hurricane hit. However, Friday evening went on as planned, and worship leaders Kari Jobe, Chris Tomlin and many more from a variety of genres took the stage to put Jesus front and center.
Jobe, who performed the songs "Forever," "What a Beautiful Name" and "I Am Not Alone," as well as singing with her husband, Cody Carnes, said there was "something special" about bringing the songs of worship outside of the walls of the church at Universal.
"You have people from all kinds of denominations, people who just want to connect with God. They love to hear about hope," she said. "They love to be inspired. And I think that's the kind of crew you get out here. And honestly these are some of my favorite nights. People are just radical for Jesus. It's awesome."
During her set, which featured some moments of drizzling rain, Jobe told the audience how much she loves to worship in the rain and remarked about praising God in the midst of the storm. To her, worship happens despite of one's surroundings and yet is able to transform the environment.
"More than just the music, I love that God brings healing, deliverance and breakthrough into our lives through worship," she said. "We declare things. It's like an exchange. We bring things we are walking through, and we are reminded that it's bigger, God's way higher and greater than anything we're facing. And we declare truth over circumstances."
Tomlin, who sang later in the evening, remarked of the "special" conditions at this year's event.
"We are excited to be here in Orlando for Rock the Universe," he said. "It's obviously an incredible crazy time to be in Florida playing a concert, but I think it's going to be special in the midst of it."
Although he had planned a family vacation around the event, like many travelers, plans changed, and his family returned home before the concert.
"I didn't want them to get caught," he said. "If someone's going to get caught, I'll take the hit and let the family be gone. So unfortunately, we're postponing [our family time at the parks] and trying to come back soon."
Tomlin led the crowd through several of his popular songs, including "God's Great Dance Floor," "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)," "Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)" before ending the evening with "Good, Good Father" and "Great Are You, Lord."
Friday's event at Universal also included concerts with Lecrae, Lauren Daigle, 7eventh Time Down, Social Club Misfits, Hollyn and more.
Over at Disney's night of Joy, Friday's concerts included MercyMe, TobyMac, Zach Williams, Natalie Grant, Colton Dixon and Matt Maher, who praised the state's emergency management system. Although he considered changing travel plans, he instead played Friday night's show and then bussed back later that evening, missing the majority of the exodus of evacuees.
"Really thanks to the leadership in Florida and state government, we were able to get out in plenty of time," he said. "By the time we left, the majority of people who were driving from south Florida had already gotten somewhere."
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