How Festival Changed Small Bolivia Town
10 Busloads Travel 9 Hours Each Night to Hear Franklin Graham Preach Gospel
March 9, 2013 - One 27-year-old woman, still dealing with domestic abuse at home, found freedom this weekend when she traveled nine hours to the Festival of Hope and saw many of her friends come to Christ.
"I was with one of my friends ... who said, ‘This is so unique. I never thought there was a different life than the one I have now.' "
By Kristy Etheridge
When Fernando Larrea heard Franklin Graham was holding a Festival in Bolivia, he knew exactly what he needed to do: shout it from the mountaintops.
As general manager of a Bolivian radio station, he was in the perfect position to do just that.
“We wanted people to get to hear Franklin Graham,” said Larrea, who manages JHV Radio in the community of Oruro, about 140 miles south of La Paz. “We wanted them to hear the Gospel.”
So, Larrea spread the word, broadcasting details of the March 8-10 Festival de Esperanza (Festival of Hope) over the airwaves of Oruro. He invited all of JHV’s listeners to come to La Paz and hear a message of forgiveness, love and salvation and even arranged nine-hour round-trip bus rides.
Among the people who heard the invitation was a young woman named Ana,* who decided to do everything in her power to make it to the Festival.
“I wanted to see the concert, but most of all I wanted to see Franklin,” said the 27-year-old.
As excited as she was to attend the Festival, she knew she faced some obstacles on the road to La Paz.
First, she had to figure out how to get to the venue. Rafael Mendoza Castellón Stadium is a four-hour drive from her home in Oruro. Then, there was the issue of money. Food and lodging would be expensive —maybe too expensive. But perhaps the biggest challenge of all was right under Ana’s roof.
As a single woman, cultural expectations dictate that Ana must live with her parents and obey them at all times. She needed to ask their permission to make the journey to the Festival, and she was almost certain the answer would be a resounding "no.”
But God is full of surprises. To Ana’s delight and amazement, her parents said “yes.”
“It’s kind of a miracle my parents gave me permission to come, because my parents aren’t Christians,” said Ana, who is the only Christian in her family of 10.
Each day, Ana prays for her family to come to know Christ, even as she carries a heavy burden.
“I come from a family with a lot of domestic violence,” she said, explaining that she continually experiences emotional and physical abuse behind closed doors. Hard to believe the bright, brown eyes smiling beneath a worn baseball cap have seen so much pain.
Ana is not alone. The Festival’s committee chairman, Pastor Johnny Dueri, says domestic violence is a major problem in Bolivia.
Even though Ana had her hands full in her turbulent household, she refused to let anything stand in the way of inviting others to the Festival. She asked five friends to join her in La Paz. None had ever heard about Jesus. On Friday night, during Franklin Graham’s message, that changed.
“They were overwhelmed by the Gospel,” said Ana, who was filled with joy when her friends decided that night to follow Christ.
“I was with one of my friends who is a sergeant in the police. He said, ‘This is so unique. I never thought there was a different life than the one I have now.’ He said he’s going to be committed, and he’s going to introduce his wife to Jesus,” said Ana.
As for the determined radio broadcaster from Oruro, his on-air announcements about the Festival worked. The small community had its own section in the stadium. Larrea even helped make transportation arrangements for anyone who wanted to come. He averaged 10 busloads of people per night.
For the people of Oruro, it wasn’t an easy journey. The trips were exhausting. But when asked whether it was worth it, Ana didn’t hesitate to answer.
“Definitely, it was worth the time and the long trip.”
*Name has been changed in order to protect the identity of the person.
More Festival Information:
In Spanish, follow the Festival de Esperanza Bolivia Facebook page.