Derek Carr in Fresno: Christian conference in city started with a ‘dream in my heart’

Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr first dreamed of bringing a Christian conference to Fresno after attending a similar event in Michigan a couple years ago.

“What I saw at that conference blew my mind. … Literally people just being healed right in front of me. … When I saw that, I said, ‘Man, how awesome would that be if this came home?’” Carr recalled Friday in Fresno. “All of a sudden my heart just burned for home.”

That dream becomes a reality Friday night and Saturday with The Altar Conference at Fresno’s Save Mart Center, which will feature an array of Christian speakers and music.

Carr first contacted evangelist Mattie Montgomery in 2017 about bringing something like the conference they attended together to Fresno. Montgomery is president of The Altar, formerly called Awakening Evangelism.

In honor of the event, Mayor Lee Brand made a ceremonial proclamation declaring April 5, 2019 a “Day of Worship” in Fresno.

The one-time proclamation asks all citizens of the city to “join together in prayer and worship to be a shining example of what can be accomplished through unity.”

“It just blows my mind. … It started with just a dream in my heart to do something like this here in Fresno,” Carr said.

The former Fresno State football star talked about maturing while he was in Fresno and how his Christian faith has helped him.

“I was someone that ran around these streets here in this city doing things that I should have never been doing. … I was searching for the truth all the time,” Carr said, “I grew up in a church but through junior high, high school and a little bit of college I didn’t live it out.”

Carr, the grandson of a minister, said what he did in his youth to please himself didn’t bring satisfaction.

“It left me empty, and then I found a love that fulfilled me,” Carr said of strengthening his Christian faith. “I will stand here and get tears in my eyes. No one can ever say, ‘Well, he’s just a preacher boy.’ No, I’ve lived both sides of it. I’ve seen both sides of it.”

He said what he gained was “a joy inside of me that I couldn’t get with anything else.”

Carr said all of his professional success is “worth nothing compared to this love I feel in my heart, to be honest with you.”

“My sole purpose and my whole goal is that people will just find that love. And I do believe that the thousands of people that are going to show up will find that love.”

Carr hopes The Altar Conference just “intensifies” what’s already happening in the city.

“I think the pastors in this city have done a fantastic job of preaching unity and preaching togetherness and preaching love,” Carr said, “and all we want to do is accelerate that. All we want to do is bring all of those people into the same room.”

Carr talked about his love for the people of Fresno and the kindness they showed his family as his son underwent surgeries at Valley Children’s Hospital.

Carr recalled strangers frequently hugging him and telling him, “We’re praying for your son. We’re in this together.”

“It was unbelievable,” he said. “I get emotional thinking about this still to this day.”

Carr hopes this weekend’s conference brings Fresno “the same love that I’ve found.”

The Altar Conference

Opening night: 7 p.m. Friday at the Save Mart Center, 2650 E. Shaw Ave., Fresno.

Saturday: Three sessions, 10 a.m., 2:30 p.m., and 7 p.m.

Cost: $20

Derek Carr is expected to speak both days alongside other Christian speakers.

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Carmen George is a features and news reporter for The Fresno Bee. Her stories have been recognized with Best of the West, George F. Gruner, and McClatchy President’s awards, and nine first or second place awards from the California News Publishers Association. She has a passion for sharing people’s stories to highlight issues and promote greater understanding.