Joel Osteen brings message of hope to Chicago
BY ARIEL CHEUNG Staff Reporteremail@example.com August 7, 2011 12:00AM
Joel and Victoria Osteen (left) open “A Night of Hope” Saturday night. “You need to get ready, because jubilee is on the way,” he told the crowd estimated at 37,000. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Updated: November 16, 2011 1:23AM
Daniel Wang, a 13-year-old from Gurnee who is battling a brain tumor, wrote a letter to televangelist Joel Osteen last month after hearing an inspiring sermon on his weekly broadcast.
Osteen told the story of a painted vase that went through fire and trials but came out more beautiful than before. The message touched the teenager, who was dealing with trials of his own, as he went through treatment.
On Saturday evening, Wang sat in front of the White Sox dugout at Cellular One Field, a Bible in his hand and a smile on his face, as Osteen hugged him briefly before striding to the center of the field for “A Night of Hope,” an event filled with messages from Osteen and his wife, Victoria, brimming with positive energy.
“God can breathe new life, God is a resurrection God,” Osteen told the crowd estimated at 37,000.
“You wouldn’t be alive unless God had another victory in store for you. You need to get ready, because jubilee is on the way,” he told them.
It’s a message that rang true for many in the crowd — which erupted in applause and cheers throughout the event — as well as for Wang.
“Every time I go [to treatment], I say no more, but he makes it easier,” Wang said. “I’m glad I had to go through this, because it was God’s plan for me to meet Joel.”
Osteen’s message has inspired millions around the country and in Houston, where his multimillion-dollar ministry has its headquarters.
“He’s got such a warm, positive message. It’s infectious,” said Mike Jasinski, 29, of Ingleside. “You can’t help smiling when he starts talking.”
He said he rediscovered his faith during Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He has been watching Osteen’s television program for years, and seeing the minister Saturday was a reminder of how faith changed his life, he said.
Osteen kicked off the event by welcoming the crowd and touching on his religious philosophy, followed by a message from his wife, also a minister at their Lakewood Church. “This world, this economy would like us to believe ‘I can’t,’ that we’re hopeless, we’re helpless and our hands are tied,” she said. “But we’re going to celebrate the ‘I can.’ ”
Some critics say Osteen’s preaching focuses too much on personal profit through prayer and lacks any hint of God’s wrath or punishment for sin. But members of Saturday’s crowd believed in Osteen wholeheartedly.
“You feel his compassion, his honesty,” said Evette Cager, 45, of Maywood, who was there with her daughter Jessica. “He doesn’t push, ‘Give give give.’ ”