Victory in Venezuela
Thousands Turn to Christ Through TV Project
October 27, 2003
Some TV shows can make you laugh. Some can make you cry. Some can make you sit on the edge of your seat in suspense. Some can change your life. "Mi Esperanza" ("My Hope"), part of BGEA's World Television Project, has been changing lives throughout Latin America over the past year. In October 2003 the project came to the politically troubled country of Venezuela. The results were incredible.
Jefry Rap felt the presence of God October 1 as he prepared his house for the "Mi Esperanza" broadcast that evening. "I had in my heart and in my spirit great expectation of what God was going to do in the barrio where we are working," he said later.
But even he couldn't have guessed what God was about to do. A few days earlier, he had given invitations to 30 young men who are known as "Azotes de Barrio" ("whips of the town"). They are drug users and outlaws who carry guns or other weapons. Rap had not realized that many of these young men had conflicts among themselves, so at 7 p.m. he found himself with a houseful of young men staring at one another with expressions of hatred and vengeance.
"But in my heart was a special stirring," Rap said. "I felt that God was going to do something big in them."
The program began at 7:30, and Rap's guests watched quietly as Billy Graham explained the Gospel. At the invitation, Rap heard whispered voices as his guests repeated the prayer after Mr. Graham.
"At the end of the program I gave my testimony," Rap said. "I do not know how, but suddenly all these young men were asking each other for forgiveness. They hugged each other, and they were crying. They all invited Christ into their hearts and now are participating in my cell group."
Rap's story, though remarkable, is just one of thousands emerging from "Mi Esperanza." Some 130,000 homes across Venezuela held house parties October 1-3. Christian leaders were still collecting reports and statistics as this report was being posted online, but even among the initial 21 percent of churches reporting, some 40,000 people had accepted Christ for the first time, and more than 9,000 others had rededicated their lives to Christ.
Calling for Help
The "Mi Esperanza" broadcasts included a phone number that people could call to find out more or to pray with a phone worker. Each evening, the phone lines jammed with callers. In all, volunteers handled more than 12,000 calls, with more than 4,000 people putting their faith in Christ for the first time.
One phone worker took a call from a grandmother who prayed to receive Christ. Then the grandmother brought a teenage grandson to the phone, and he also received Christ. Next came an uncle, then another grandson, and finally the father of the boys. During that one 17-minute call, all five family members made commitments to Christ.
The phone center facility was also being used by other groups, whose phone operators were intrigued by the incredible response to "Mi Esperanza." Many asked for more information about Christ, and one asked to meet with a phone worker to find out more about the hope the volunteers were talking about.
Pastors reported that churches were filled the Sunday after the broadcasts. In Petare, Luis Rodriguez, pastor at Iglesia Aposento Alto, said that about 200 people usually attended Sunday services. The Sunday after the broadcasts, 700 new believers attended. The church had to rent a basketball court to accommodate everyone.
In Caracas, Cenfo Church went from 108 members to 200 members—and, according to Pastor Jair Rios, all of the new members are new believers!
Across Venezuela the story is the same—churches are packed with new Christians.
"I have always believed in Christ," said B. Darwin Hernandez, "but I didn't have a relationship with Him." Hernandez said his sister gave him a tract and invited him to watch the "Mi Esperanza" broadcast. He committed his life to Christ. "The day I watched the program," he said, "my heart felt like gelatin. Thanks to God, since I saw the program with Billy Graham my life has changed to the point that I even found a job. So many wonderful things are happening."
Another man said he had been planning with two others to commit a crime. But when he watched the broadcast, God convicted him of his sin. He attended church that weekend—though he arrived drunk and carrying a 9 mm gun. He made a public commitment to Christ that morning, and when he left he was carrying a Bible and wearing a big smile. The following Sunday he began attending a class for people who came to Christ through "Mi Esperanza."
Throughout Venezuela, thousands of people like these have turned to Christ through the faithfulness of Christians and the power of the Gospel as presented by "Mi Esperanza." And in turning to Christ, they have found true hope.
From Around Venezuela
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