All Hands on Deck for Lithuania Festival
Small Evangelical Community Showing 'Exemplary' Eagerness
October 18, 2011 - With only 3,000 believers in a country of 3 million people, Lithuania Festival of Hope director Viktor Hamm is encouraging every Christian in the country to get involved in the Oct. 29-30 Festival in Vilnius. "Every individual counts," he said.
For us to be able to have an opportunity to preach an evangelistic crusade and to be able to stand with the churches there and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it’s an exciting opportunity." — Franklin Graham
By Trevor Freeze
For Viktor Hamm, the math may be a little fuzzy, but it works.
When it comes to getting the word out about the Oct. 29-30 Lithuania Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham, the equation is simple.
“Every church counts,” said Hamm, the Festival director. “Every group counts. Every individual counts."
Because in this former Soviet-ruled country of approximately 3 million people, only a reported 3,000 make up the evangelical church presence.
“And if you consider every group and every denomination and every Bible study group, you come to 249 in the country,” Hamm said. “If you divide 249 into 3,000, the average church is pretty small.”
But the enthusiasm surrounding this countrywide evangelism effort is anything but tiny. In fact, there is a groundswell of excitement in pockets all over Lithuania, which — with the world's highest suicide rate — seems to be crying out for hope.
“We’ve crisscrossed the country in every possible way, trying to talk to as many pastors in person and to as many believers in person as possible,” Hamm said. “The eagerness that we see in the hearts of believers is exemplary to the rest of Europe.”
Believers are uniting in spirit nightly in a unique prayer event for the Festival, which will be held at the 10,000-seat Siemens Arena in the capital city of Vilnius.
“Whether they are on a bus or in different places, we’ve asked them to stop at 10 o’clock in the evening to pray for the Festival,” Hamm said.
And because the Lithuania Festival of Hope is covering every corner of this country the size of West Virginia, a bus tour campaign is being used to engage churches that have travel obstacles.
The idea is for local congregations to rent or charter a bus and fill it with half believers and half nonbelievers for one or both nights of the Festival, as well as Kidzfest on the morning of Oct. 29.
According to Hamm, more than 7,000 reservations for bus riders have already been made.
“We have 2,000 kids who have already booked seats for the venue,” he said. “An Operation Christmas Child distribution will also be a part of the Festival. We’re connecting all of those efforts together.”
The Lithuania Festival of Hope is the third and final piece of a commitment of Baltic State churches to bring the Gospel to their region.
More than 3,000 decisions were made for Christ in Latvia from Nov 5-7, 2010, and more than 1,400 decisions were made on May 29-31, 2009, in Estonia.
“A number of years ago, leaders from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia came together with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association leadership, and we spent a few days praying, talking and dreaming,” Hamm said. “When we came out of that meeting, it was all clear for everybody that God wants BGEA to partner with the churches in those countries to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus to those countries.”
The two-night Lithuania program will be heavily influenced by the area’s diverse and high-end musical scene.
The Newsboys will be playing both nights, but most of the collection of artists will mirror the region’s culture, including: the Three Latvia Tenors; a Lithuania boys choir; the largest Lithuania church choir ever assembled (400 voices); and a presidential orchestra playing “How Great Thou Art” to open the Festival.
“There will be a Poland band, as 6 percent of Lithuanians are Polish,” Hamm said. “And a band from Belarus, as 4 percent speak Russian. There’s also a soloist from Ukraine who sings with the Vienna Opera.”
Dennis Agajanian, Huntley Brown, John and Annie Barbour from the Tommy Coomes Band and Monte Gaylor will also be performing.
And Franklin Graham will present a powerful Gospel message.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited about it," Franklin Graham said. "For us to be able to have an opportunity to preach an evangelistic crusade and to be able to stand with the churches there and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it’s an exciting opportunity.”