The good folks over at LarkNews.com have uncovered what might be the most under-reported evangelical story of the year...
SALEM, Ore. — A new breed of Purpose-Driven Life fanatics is traveling from city to city to attend 40 Days of Purpose programs, temporarily swelling the sizes of local churches and overwhelming parks and neighborhoods.
"They were like locusts," says Ben Smythe, pastor of First Nazarene church which held a 40 Days program in tiny Winslow, Ariz., but stopped when the church's small groups were overrun by thousands of visitors.
The roving group of 10,000 people is made up of Baby Boomers seeking new life direction, young college students opting out of traditional career channels, and street vendors making a buck off it all.
"We live for this stuff," says Don Radke, 51, who left his job in financial services in February to hopscotch from one 40 Days program to another. "It's a great vibe to always be around people discovering their life meaning."
Self-described "purps" and "PDL-heads" (pronounced "puddleheads") say they enjoy the process of finding their purpose so much that it has become their ultimate goal.
"I'm on my 400th day of purpose and I still feel invigorated," says Wendy Sotter, 44, a "proud purp" from Omaha. "My purpose in life is to find my purpose. It's like a constant high."
Purps use the Internet to map out 40 Days programs across the country.
Dewey and Marsha Williams of Salem, Ore., made the mistake of holding a 40 Days Bible study in their home. Two weeks before the first meeting they received a mysterious call from a man who asked if they had enough portable toilets, and was there a field nearby to set up tents?
"I thought it was a crank call," Dewey says, but one day he awoke to see his street transformed into a carnival. A registration table was set up in his driveway. Five thousand people signed up to participate in the program.
"We only had room for 50 in the house," he says. "The rest stood out on the lawn."
"PDL-head" Lanny Brecht was one of them. He went through eight different 40 Days campaigns last year, camping out in church parking lots, partying through the night in small group meetings and talking endlessly about his destiny.
"I dig turning people on to the purpose-driven lifestyle," Brecht says. "It charges me up."
He shrugs off questions about his own purpose.
"My purpose is here, it's now," he says. "It's the journey, not the destination."
Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., had no comment on the phenomenon, though the church has quietly designated part of its parking lot as "purp alley" for followers who want to camp there between programs.
All content © 2005 LarkNews.com, Joel Kilpatrick
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