History in the Making
Festival of Hope kicks off in Uruguay
March 20, 2009 - March 19, 2009—One newscaster said it well: "This is historic. It is the first time our channel is transmitting live from a Christian event in Uruguay." View photos here
by Janet Chismar
In a nation known for secularism, the Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham is making a huge impact. Among the opening night crowd of 9,500, approximately 815 people made decisions for Christ.
Gustavo Vaneskahian, a local journalist, said his news broadcast will show the people the significance of the Festival. "Now they will come to the stadium tomorrow and Saturday.
"For me," Gustavo added, "I am believing for a miracle now in this moment. And you are living with us this miracle."
Behind the Scenes
Long before the Festival ceremonies started, churches across Montevideo began to train their members in discipleship. They have prayed and sacrificed to make this event happen.
A number of people, like Guillermo Castro, have canvassed the streets, inviting people to the Festival:
Many local people are volunteering behind the scenes at Charrua Stadium, the Festival venue.
Jaimie and Tammy Lancaster, two Festival counselors, are members of a Free Will Baptist Church in Montevideo. Missionaries from the United States, they have lived in Uruguay for 10 years. "We wanted to use this opportunity to serve," said Jaimie.
"I pray that this will be the beginning of something," he added. "For six months we’ve worked and it would be easy to hope it’s the end, but I really hope it is the start of something much bigger in Uruguay."
The couple was surprised to learn that there are 3,000 counselors volunteering. "We are part of something big and that is nice to know," said Tammy.
According to special needs supervisor Gloria Hernandez, most events in Uruguay don't accommodate the disabled, especially at a soccer stadium. She is happy to lead that dedicated team of volunteers.
Watch a video clip of Gloria from the stadium:
A psychologist by profession, Gloria is using her skills to advance the Kingdom of God. She works with an association that provides free counseling to those in need and helps kids struggling with drug addiction.
"The eyes of the Lord are over the special needs people tonight and always," said Gloria. "He healed the blind and deaf in His day and He loves them now."
Voices Raised in Praise
Among the musical guests tonight were Marcos Vidal, Lily Goodman, Ivanna Izquierdo, Los del Camino and a wildly popular folklore dance troupe.
With stars dotting the sky and seagulls seeming to join in harmony overhead, the Spanish voices rang with a universal sound of praise.
Dennis Agajanian and the Gutierrez Brothers were a hit and the Tommy Coomes Band scored big after being seen in the Mi Esperanza video.
Tommy, John Barbour and the band took a few minutes after they stepped off stage to talk to our video crew and ask for prayer.
The Value of the Soul
Speaking from the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 8, Franklin Graham told the crowd about the value of the soul. "Since I have been here," said Franklin, "I have learned that there are some problems in your beautiful country. About 81 percent believe in God, but they don’t trust God to solve their problems."
One out of four people suffer from depression, Franklin said. "People are turning to drugs and suicide to solve their problems. But I want to tell you tonight that God has the solution to your problems."
He spoke about the many people he saw walking and running along the river promenade in Montevideo and joked about the aging of his own body. But even with exercise, our bodies die, he added. "You have a soul and that is what matters."
The Bible says the soul is precious, Franklin explained. "God says your soul is of more value than all the gold, all the diamonds, all the oil, all the wealth of the nations, all of the real estate. The soul lives for eternity."
What profit is there in gaining the world and losing your soul?
"Tonight your life can be changed," said Franklin. "You can have hope that your soul is secure for eternity before Almighty God. The soul is not the body. When you die this body returns to the dust of the ground. Your body is not the real you. Your soul lives in your body – they will never bury the real you."
Jesus came to this earth on a rescue mission, Franklin said. "Jesus Christ became death for us. He went to the cross, He died on the cross, He shed his blood for you. He took your sins to the grave.
"Jesus is not dead, He is alive, He is here tonight. If you are willing to leave your sins, if you will receive Christ, He wants to forgive you tonight. If you willing tonight to trust Him as your savior, if you willing to turn from your sins and accept Christ into your heart and your life, He will cleanse you and forgive and give you new life."
You Can Accept Christ
Just like the thousands in Uruguay, you too can accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Follow the Steps to Peace and make sure your soul will be with God for eternity.
Pray for forgiveness right where you are! God will hear. Let us know how we can pray for you.
Other Articles from this Festival:
Seeds of Change
Conversations about God
An Interview with Franklin Graham