Seeds of Change in Uruguay
Preparation from 1962 through today
March 19, 2009 - March 18, 2009—Although Uruguay often is labeled agnostic or atheist, a fresh openness to the Gospel is sprouting.
by Janet Chismar
Maybe it began in 1962, when the Billy Graham team stopped here on a tour of South America. The seeds certainly took root with My Hope in 2007 and are being watered by people this week – passing out fliers across Montevideo for the Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham.
Read a short excerpt about Uruguay from Just As I Am by Billy Graham:
"The vice chairman of the Crusade in Montevideo was the pastor of the city’s largest Methodist church, the Reverend Emilio Castro (not a relation of the Cuban dictator). He stayed by my side throughout our visit, taking me everywhere in his little car.
"First, everywhere we went, we sensed a deep spiritual hunger and a yearning for a personal relationship with Christ. We came away committed to further ministry there.
"Second, we came away with a new sense of the importance of Latin America and of its potential for the future.
"Since that trip, we’ve returned a number of times to various areas, eventually visiting almost every country in South America." ~ Billy Graham
*Photos are from the 1962 Billy Graham Crusade.
Ernesto Dueck is one Christian who has seen change in Uruguay. The former national coordinator for My Hope Uruguay serves on the Franklin Graham Festival Committee.
“What happened with My Hope was historic,” says Dueck. “Close to 1600 churches got together and that has never happened. Over 30,000 decisions were made. The results can be seen in every single church throughout the country.
“There is a new openness to the Gospel,” says Dueck. “This country was known as agnostic. Some 35 percent claimed officially not to believe in God at all. But later there was a spiritual awakening – a spiritus movement that was Afro-Brazilian in influence. That has come and gone. Then a new political party came in and they thought that was the hope for the country, and there has not been much change.
“So we are ready for this Festival to see real change and people depositing their hope in the only One who brings lasting hope. The spiritual hunger is here, not necessarily for the things of God. But they’ll see that Jesus is the only One who satisfies for good.”
Festival de Esperanza
Taking the mantle from his father, Franklin Graham is poised to boldly share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Uruguay the next three nights. Even when criticized for being an evangelist, Franklin is happy to share the Good News around the world.
Watch a clip from a press conference earlier today:
"This is my message for Uruguay," said Franklin. "Everyone can experience God's forgiveness. Their life can change immediately, forever, eternally."
"We want this Festival to be fun," Franklin added. "There will be lots of great music. Invite everyone to come."
By extending that invitation, Franklin modeled a Festival cornerstone called Operation Andrew—a “Bring a Friend” campaign. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the first disciples of Jesus Christ. After Andrew met Jesus, the first thing he did was introduce his brother to Jesus.
In addition to prayer, inviting a friend perhaps plants the greatest seeds of change.
"Great joy will come as people watch neighbors and friends they have prayed for and brought to the Festival make commitments to Christ and become part of a church fellowship," Franklin concluded.
Watch a video about a member of the Montevideo street team: