Coming Together in Australia
March 1, 2005 - Franklin Graham goes Down Under this month for two Festivals in Australia. The first, Festival Tasmania, will take place March 11-13, at the Derwent Entertainment Centre, in Hobart, Tasmania. The following week, Franklin heads to Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city, for Festival Victoria, March 18-20 at Telstra Dome. Christians from many denominations are coming together for the Festivals, uniting in the prayer that God will draw many people to Himself.
by Bob Paulson
"For our community this is a massive step of unity and working together," says Matt Carswell, coordinator of Festival Tasmania. Carswell notes that more than 1,300 people attended the first round of the Festival's Christian Life and Witness Classes, in Hobart. These classes help Christians to live victoriously and to tell others of their faith in Jesus Christ. Festival preparations also included an event called "Church Together," in which participating churches canceled their own evening services in order to meet at a single location for worship and prayer.
"Festival Tasmania is providing not only a great means for Tasmanians to hear [the] Good News, but also for Christians to be empowered and trained to share the Good News with their friends and colleagues," said the Right Reverend John Harrower, bishop of Tasmania.
The week following Festival Tasmania, Franklin Graham crosses the Bass Strait to Australia's mainland and the city of Melbourne, Victoria, to hold Festival Victoria.
Some 750 churches are participating in that Festival. "Festival Victoria is uniting the Church across every denomination," said Tina Waldrom, of CityLife Church. "Prayer is a priority, and we are mobilizing the Church to pray—first for the event itself and then for unbelievers to come to know Christ. We recognize that without prayer, we really are not going to see the great results that we want to see happen."
The week prior to Festival Victoria, Christians will take prayer to the streets of Melbourne on a "prayer bus." According to Festival coordinator Paul Molyneux, each day a dozen or so people will ride the bus to three different locations, where they will meet with scores of other Christians to pray for the Festival. The prayer bus effort is being organized by Youth For Christ and local Christian radio station Light FM 89.9.
In addition to presenting the Gospel through Franklin Graham's preaching, the Festival will put Christ's love into action by running, in conjunction with The Salvation Army, a 24-hour-a-day café with free food during the days of the Festival. The café, which will seat up to 150 needy people, will play video excerpts from the Festival meetings for patrons.
As in Hobart, Christians in Victoria have been energized by the Festival's Christian Life and Witness Classes. In Warragul, a community of 10,000 located some 65 miles southeast of Melbourne, pastors Trevor Heiniger and Steve Messer report a growing sense of unity among churches. "When we look at what God has done among the churches in Warragul, from a history of independence to the unity and cooperation we have today, it is truly remarkable," they wrote in a recent report. "As the fellowship has grown among the ministers, we have seen the churches come together to pray. ... And now the coming together of all the local denominations to share in the Franklin Graham Festival is both a culmination and a starting point for which we thank God."
Christians anticipate powerful results from Festival Victoria. "We haven't done anything like this in Melbourne on a large scale for at least 30 or 40 years, and I think the wider community is probably ready to stop and take notice," said the Right Reverend Stephen Hale, Anglican bishop for the Eastern Region, Diocese of Melbourne. "I am looking forward to the chance for churches in Melbourne to put evangelism into key focus.
Please pray that God will draw thousands of people to saving faith during Festival Tasmania and Festival Victoria, and pray also that churches will continue to work together to win their communities to Christ.