Chennai Hope Festival Concludes with Great Harvest of Souls
India's Churches Prepare for Flood of New Believers
January 24, 2010 - "India is the greatest harvest field in the world," said one Chennai pastor earlier this week. "We pray that millions of souls will be added to the Kingdom." His prayer was answered during the Jan. 21-24 Chennai Hope Festival.
by Janet Chismar
The final night of the Chennai Hope Festival was packed beyond belief! Close to 85,000 people filled the aisles and spilled into overflow, while more than 1,600 people came forward at the invitation to accept Jesus.
Although the crowd has left and volunteers are tearing down chairs and sweeping up litter, the Festival really isn't over. In many ways, it has just begun. For one thing, an entire team is hard at work behind the scenes, connecting all those who came forward with a new church to call home. Continue to pray for each new believer and that all of India will come to know Christ.
See photos from each night here »
January 24 —A SEA OF COLOR
As I look around me on the final night of the Chennai Hope Festival, I am surrounded by a sea of colorful saris — purple, turquoise, gold, bright pink, royal blue and vivid red. Ladies are huddled in prayer, lifting up Franklin Graham and pleading that hundreds —even thousands — will be set free from the power and bondage of sin.
Franklin is preaching with power, telling the story of the Prodigal Son and how only Jesus Christ can fill the needs of the human heart and the emptiness of our souls. As the crowd responds and begins to pray and respond, I will sign off for now. We'll have photos and stories to share over the next several days.
January 23 —A FLOOD OF SOULS
What an astounding Saturday in Chennai! This morning, more than 10,000 children accepted Jesus as their Savior Tonight's attendance topped 35,000, with more than 1,100 people making decisions for Christ. We'll provide more details and a photo gallery soon. Praise God for this move of grace! And keep us in your prayers for the final night tomorrow. Wouldn't it be a miracle to double the figure? Not for the sake of numbers, but think of all the lost souls here, and now the new citizens of heaven!!
See Kids Fest photos »
January 22 —BOLD PREACHING
On the second evening of the Chennai Hope Festival, Franklin Graham spoke boldly about the need for salvation, telling the crowd of approximately 23,000 that only Jesus Christ can save their souls. He shared the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector from the gospel of Luke.
"Zacchaeus wanted to meet Jesus when He was passing through," said Franklin. "I think maybe Zacchaeus felt guilty. Maybe tonight you feel guilty. You wonder if there is any way you can be forgiven. Yes, tonight you can be forgiven."
Franklin went on to explain how God is not far away and that "He loves you so much He gave His only begotten Son to die for your sins. When He died, He took your sins to the grave. But on the third day God raised His son to life. He is not dead. He is not hanging on a cross. He is here tonight. Tonight you can be forgiven.
"Zacchaeus was smart," said Franklin. "He climbed up a tree in order to see Jesus. And Jesus stopped. He saw Zacchaeus and called him by name. The call was urgent: 'Come down out of that tree.'
"Tonight Jesus is calling you by name. It is urgent. He is passing through here. You may never have an opportunity like you do tonight. Zacchaeus responded immediately. Will you?"
Close to 900 people did just that, coming forward at Franklin's invitation.
Continue to pray for the next two nights, that thousands more will come to know Jesus Christ in Chennai, India and bring a great revival to this amazing nation.
January 22 —ON THE MOVE
Our team was up at 5:30 a.m. to cover the Women's Committee Two-Wheeler Rally, then we were off to an Operation Christmas Child (OCC) shoebox distribution at the BKN Opportunity School. It was such an interesting/moving morning.
See photos from the Women's Bike Rally»
India is the largest OCC receiving country. Some 770,000 shoe box gifts will be distributed in the 2009-2010 season. Since 1998, more than 6.6 million boxes have been given to the children of India. View photos from the Chennai distribution »
By the way, total attendance last night was 13,250. Almost 800 people made decisions for Christ. One thing that is different from other Festivals — people between the ages of 36 to 60 years of age comprised the largest group coming forward. It is never to late to meet Jesus.
January 21 — NIGHT ONE KICKS OFF
We are live at the Chennai Hope Festival, bringing you updates from halfway around the world. It is almost 6 p.m. in India. Thanks to the wonders of technology, I am sitting under the big tent in Chennai, listening to a local choir singing, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus!" I will step away now, to capture some images for you.
7 p.m. — As my photos upload, I'll fill you in on the scene here. The Tommy Coomes Band is on stage, showing India that praise is universal. Thousands under the tent are clapping to "He Reigns" — and now they are singing along to "Savior, He Can Move Mountains." Indeed, He can. The Lord has moved mountains to get this team here! We are praying for a great harvest. Please pray along with us.
7:30 p.m. — Franklin Graham has just begun to speak to the people of Chennai. He is telling the crowd the story of Nicodemus from John 3, explaining what it means to be born again and how no religion in the world can save a person. The crowd is listening attentively to the Tamil interpreter and Franklin (many know English here) explain that all the problems in the world ultimately are caused by sin.
"Jesus can give you a new heart tonight, but you have to be willing to turn from your sins," said Franklin. "Are you willing to repent tonight?"
As I sign off, hundreds of men and women are streaming forward. During the next few days, our team will provide snippets of color and stories of hope from each night.
January 20 — FRANKLIN GRAHAM ARRIVES
We spoke with Franklin early this morning not long after he arrived in Chennai. Read more here about his hopes for this Festival and what India means to him personally.
Local pastors gathered in the afternoon and as each spoke, they all agreed that the Chennai Hope Festival is unprecedented — in terms of teamwork between their congregations, and the training and followup provided by the BGEA.
"We are thankful that Franklin Graham meets social needs but also that he is taking the Gospel to the downtrodden," said Rev. D. Mohan, Festival Executive General Chairman. "India is the greatest harvest field in the world. We pray millions of souls will be added to the Kingdom this week."
"It is God's time for India," said Dr. Paul Dhinakaran, who leads Jesus Calls Ministries. "Franklin has sown to meet the needs of people around the world. We pray during this Festival he will reap all that he has sown."
January 19 — PLEASE PRAY FOR THE FESTIVAL
Associate Festival Director Derek Forbes has passed along some specific ways you can join us in prayer for this outreach:
- Arrangements at the venue: We are finishing work on the platform and the audio, lighting and LED set-up. Please pray that the work will be completed as planned and that we will be able to get all the equipment in place.
- Pray that we will have enough counselors to partner with people who come forward at the Festival and Kid's Fest.
- Pray specifically for Kid's Fest on Saturday the 23rd. There will be an English Fest in the morning and a Tamil Fest in the afternoon.
- The Women's Committee will be conducting a two-wheeler rally on the 22nd to promote the Festival. Please keep their safety in prayer.
- Pray for the final efforts to raise funds and the offering during each Festival night.
- Pray for the physical and spiritual health of the Festival Staff.
- Pray for good relationships with the local Police Department.
- Lift up the people of Chennai, that many will come to know Jesus Christ as their one true God.
- As Franklin Graham prepares to speak, ask God to guide his words and touch people's hearts.The people here fondly remember Mr. Graham and his Crusades in 1956 and 1977. So many stories to tell! Please check back often. I hope, in the mean time, you will pray for our team, for Franklin Graham as he prepares to speak, for the Christians here, and for the millions of lost souls in India who so need the Good News of Jesus Christ.
January 18 — "GIVE ME WORDS TO SPEAK"
How do I even begin to tell the story of the Chennai Hope Festival? For the last few days, I have seen firsthand how God is preparing India for a miracle. The sights, sounds and people of this nation have quickly found a home in my heart, igniting a passion that is somewhat hard to convey.
My words also have been hindered by the tragedy in Haiti, which struck the night before my flight to India. Should I write of the amazing experiences here while so many are grieving and my colleagues are burying bodies in Port-au-Prince?
Yet God seemed to nudge me this morning that the time is right to tell this story. Now more than ever, people need hope. We all need to hear of a miracle – and I believe I am seeing one unfold before my eyes.
I look forward to telling you about the vibrant churches and passionate believers I’ve met. They shared with me their challenges and their hopes – for their nation and for this weekend’s Festival with Franklin Graham.
Photo Gallery: A Sunday in Chennai »
Indeed, the very timing of this Festival is profound – both for me and for the BGEA. When news of Haiti's earthquake struck, my mind raced back to December 2004. I had just returned from a visit to Port-au-Prince when I heard about a massive tsunami washing over the nations of Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia and India. Soon, I found myself writing stories about a place called Chennai and villages just south of its border. And now I am there.
On my first full day in India, I stood on a beach where the tsunami hit and was struck by the irony. The connection is not mine alone. The BGEA is hard at work in Haiti today, but was just as involved in helping the people of India following the 2004 tsunami. Franklin Graham has led relief efforts in both nations.
You can view photos from the village BGEA built after that disaster by clicking here. I also take you to 1977, when Billy Graham reached out to India in the aftermath of another giant cyclone.