On the road again: the impact of Rock for Life’s summer tour

Guest commentary by Jeff McLain

I believe it was 1998 when I first encountered Rock for Life. I was at Creation Festival with my friend Jon Campbell and his youth group. The festival was awesome—every artist and vendor I wanted to see, all together in one place. We had heard about this event for years, in fact, it had started in my hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in a small rural park called Muddy Run. Creation quickly outgrew its home there and moved three hours west to its current location in Mt. Union, Pennsylvania.

But it wasn’t until 2001 that I would return with my good friend Matt Wiggins and become more acquainted with RFL and its mission. That was the year when I had a chance to think through my pro-life stance and become more educated about the topic. It had a profound effect on me.

In 2004, I volunteered to help RFL at Creation Festival with Erik Whittington and Phil Eddy. Phil Eddy, RFL’s previous tour manager, was my roommate at the time and he really opened my eyes as to what RFL was doing. I decided to attend the pro-life march on Capitol Hill, as well as the counter protest at the March for Women’s lives in Washington, D.C. I quit my job in Christian theater to pursue working in the Christian music industry, so I got the chance to tour with some Christian music artists and volunteer for RFL at Kingdom Bound and Soulfest, too. During the few weeks that I did help out, I realized the power and the impact of engaging, educating and reaching out to our peers. Even though we were at a Christian music festival, I found my fellow Christians to be unaware of the pro-life message. They had never researched nor sought out information, so I had the chance to discuss the truth with many people. I also met many that had abortions and had never sought the forgiveness and healing for their lives.

Because of the experience I had working the booth in 2004, I decided to sign up for the whole RFL tour next time. Erik Whittington, RFL director, accepted me and I joined the tour with Phil Eddy and Kortney Blythe. Together with Erik’s family, we all headed out in a less-than-glamorous RV for a few months on the road. During this tour, I actually had the chance to serve as an instrument in the return of an individual to Christ. She was also able to find help from Rachel’s Vineyard  for her post-abortion brokenness. I still hear from her and her husband from time to time. I returned for future tours and, in 2009, I moved to Virginia for the opportunity to become the new RFL tour manager. My wife and I hit the road with a compassionate team of our peers for seven weeks last summer.

RFL tours are not all fun and games. Sure, it is great to be able to have a chance to inspire, incite and instruct your generation. It is also great to be able to see the country, coast to coast. However, touring also means inclement weather, 14- to 16-hour-long days at the booth and, sometimes, over a day-and-a-half long drives with no break. At one point this year, I will be on the road for 63 days straight, with no days off to visit home.

So, why go to Christian music festivals? Most young people who attend these concerts are uninformed pro-lifers. If you ask them, they will tell you that they are pro-life because that is how they were raised, but they will not know what it means. This is where we come in: to educate and move them to action. Many young people leave knowing why they are pro-life and we arm them to do something about it. Some young people say that they are pro-life with exceptions. We educate them. Some young people bring their friends who are not pro-life. Many, through God’s help of course, can be converted to the pro-life position.

It’s definitely worth it. At every festival, we meet people that tell us the reason they have their baby or the reason their friend has her baby is because of the things that they learned at our booth. At one festival, a gynecologist told me that, because of our information and the damage he has witnessed, he no longer prescribes hormonal birth control products. Scared pregnant women have approached us and we have had the chance to talk, pray and help them decide to choose life. Some of these festivals attract over 70,000 individuals, giving our team a chance to talk to thousands and thousands of individuals about what it means to be pro-life and how they can make a difference in their churches, schools and neighborhoods. RFL also has enlisted the help of hundreds of bands to support its mission. Often, they will give a supportive shout-out from the stage and will wear our pro-life T-shirts and hats. We arrive with a small store of products, selling hundreds of T-shirts and thousands of stickers and pins, and handing out thousands of informative pamphlets that help people understand their thoughts on abortion and save babies. Every year, we hear about new RFL mini-chapters starting up all over this nation, bringing our resources and message to communities long after the tour is over.

The signs of summer are quickly returning: warm weather and humidity, baseball (go Phillies!), cookouts and family vacations. Once again, American Life League’s RFL project is preparing to send a team to travel the country and spread the pro-life message at Christian music festivals, just like they have since 1994. RFL will promote human rights for all people, born and preborn, from the moment of our biological beginning, which is the very message of personhood. And I will have the honor of doing what I think is the most important task I can—saving babies on the RFL summer tour. What a great way to spend 63 days!

Jeff McLain is RFL’s tour manager and head of artist development. You can find out more about Rock for Life’s summer tour schedule online at www.rockforlife.org.