Tens of Thousands Accept Jesus in Uruguay
Festival results exceed expectations
March 23, 2009 - March 21, 2009—They hoped that many would come to Jesus this week in Uruguay. Mi Esperanza (My Hope) prepared the country for Franklin Graham's messages, but no one could have anticipated such a huge harvest.
by Janet Chismar
See photos from the final night »
On the final night of the Festival of Hope, the crowd in Charrua Stadium overflowed into the parking lot. Close to 24,000 people came and almost 1,800 made life-changing decisions for Christ.
When you add up the attendance over three days, 71,000 attended and 8,250 people came forward at the invitation. Considering the total population in Uruguay is 1.7 million, the percentage is amazing.
“This is historic. We’ve never seen anything like this and the church here is excited,” said Ernesto Dueck, a missionary who was born and raised in Uruguay, helped lead the My Hope project in Uruguay and also served on the Festival’s local executive committee.
“Now it’s time to follow up. This week, every church in every neighborhood in Montevideo and surrounding towns and cities of Uruguay will make contact with the people who were saved at the Festival."
"As we follow up, these people will be connected to the local churches and the church will continue to grow and work together more and more in a united way, and we will see Uruguay come to know Jesus.”
Preparing the Field
Long before people began pouring in to the stadium, scores of people were preparing the "field" through prayer, training — and even mowing and hammering.
Hugo Fazio led a team of 150 volunteers who worked day and night to make a crumbling and abandoned soccer stadium usable. "Since they allowed us to get into the building – it was so deteriorated – it took us 15 days to do this," Hugo explained.
He and the team worked hard in spite of personal challenges: "For the past three years, I have a sickness that is not curable. The doctor says it has no solution, so today, I cannot believe I am part of this.
"I am so happy," Hugo shared, "so happy that I don’t have words to express that God has loved my life so much and the honor he has given to me to be part of this program, which is the largest we have done in this country."
See more of Hugo's story in this video:
We asked Hugo why he did this: "I am here because I love God. It is the only way I could be doing this. We have made a lot of sacrifices. There were many hours invested in this that we did not go to work, time we didn’t attend our family’s problems. Only the love for God could make us do this."
Prayer & Invitation
One of the Festival counselors/interpreters saw her own harvest tonight. For 40 years, Beatriz Melo's father has been praying that his brother—her uncle—would accept Jesus into his life.
A night ago, she was entering the names of those who had been saved into a computer, when one named leaped off the page. It was Beatriz's uncle! See more in this video blog:
Luz Malegarejo also prayed and invited friends: "To think that something that started with 15 people in my small home during My Hope,— now to see a stadium full of people — my Father, my God is so great!”
On the first night, Luz prayed with a young man who is 23 years old and also with a woman who is 80. The older woman is a neighbor that Luz helps. "I am very excited for this moment, because it is the first time since I accepted Christ four years ago, that I led someone."
Her husband and her daughter now know the Lord, too. "Many things changed in my life when I accepted Christ."
One of the most touching moments came just off stage tonight. Ebony, 12, was born blind, but that did not stop here from attending the Festival. Even though she accepted Christ at the age of 9, she wanted to come to hear and meet singer Lily Goodman.
After talking to Lily, Ebony told us: “The Lord has blessed her voice and God has used her to get Christ in my heart through her song. I told her we are going to sing her song in my church. My dream was to meet her. I wish I could talk to her longer, but I know it is not possible.”
The Prodigal Son
On his final night in Montevideo, Franklin Graham had to take one last step to become an unofficial citizen of Uruguay. He had to drink yerba mate on stage!
The national drink is everywhere! Mate is an infusion prepared in a container called mate. Dry ground leaves of yerba mate are mixed with hot water and drank using a metal straw.
After taking a sip on stage, Franklin declared it “really good.” He then proceeded to preach about the prodigal son from the Gospel of Luke,
Read a synopsis of Franklin's message:
I want to look at a young man in the Bible who was running – he was running from his family – he ran to sex and drugs and alcohol.
This is a young man who comes from a good home. There is a father who loves his 2 sons.
They had some wealth – this young man was restless – he wanted his inheritance now. He wanted to party. He didn’t want to work. People don’t want to wait. They want to buy on credit. They want to party.
We all search for personal happiness. We think if we have a lot of money, that it will make us happy. If that were true, rich people would be happy. They think a new car will make them happy. Then the car gets old and scratched.
We think the latest fashions will make us look good and be happy – or a flat screen TV – or a new iPhone.
Man is searching for happiness. He wants peace and joy. You have a vacuum inside of you that can only be filled by God. God wants to give you joy. He wants to give you peace.
But we have a problem – sin – and it separates us from God. Every one of us here is guilty. Not honoring your father and mother is a sin. Murder is a sin. Adultery is a sin. Some of you are guilty of sexual sin.
If we are guilty, how can we be saved?
God gave his only begotten son – whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life. God took your sins himself. He died and shed His blood on the cross – on the third day God raised his son to life.
Tonight you can be forgiven. This young man was running – what are you running from?
The boy asked for his inheritance now. I’d tell my son to get lost if he asked that! But this father divided his property between his two boys. The boy took his inheritance and he ran and spent it on riotous living.
He probably spent it on drinking and women. But the money ran out and his friends left him. When he ran out of food and began to starve, the boy returned to his father. He came to his senses.
How about you tonight? You can come to your father tonight.
The father saw the boy from a distance. He was watching the road and when he sees his son, he runs to his son and throws his arms around his son and he kisses him! They celebrate and that can happen tonight if you run to your father!
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:
Let the Children Come to Me
A Harvest of Souls
History in the Making
Seeds of Change
Conversations about God
An Interview with Franklin Graham