Packing Lithuania with Hope
Over 1,000 Decisions Made for Christ Saturday
October 29, 2011 - About the only thing harder than scoring a good seat on Saturday night at Siemens Arena was finding room up front during the Festival of Hope invitation.
“Jesus Christ isn’t dead. He’s not hanging on a cross. He’s here tonight. And He's ready to forgive you."
— Franklin Graham
By Trevor Freeze
On any given Sunday, it’s been said you could line up everyone in all the Lithuania churches and you might reach a total of 3,000.
On Saturday, six times that amount (18,500) came to hear a presentation of the Gospel over two events at the Lithuania Festival of Hope and over 1,000 made decisions for Christ.
In fact, during Saturday evening’s invitation, the floor was so packed that after people squeezed in tighter up front, an overflow crowd flowed into all four aisles; the outside two completely packed.
Festival expectations with such a small church base varied, but with 249 church groups involved, this quote from one of the Emerging Evangelists out of the U.K. suddenly doesn’t seem so outlandish: “Potentially if the event goes well, the Lithuanian church could be doubled in number.”
The church doubling in size? With Sunday’s Festival still remaining and all the seeds planted, only God knows the true outcome.
But after Saturday, it’s clear, the Holy Spirit is moving in Lithuania.
A Musical Extravaganza
Lithuania is a country of sophisticated musical taste and high performance standards. So the Festival of Hope committee decided a wide variety of high-level eastern European music along with a big international Christian band would best hit the highest notes.
The Newsboys played four songs and completely engaged most of the capacity 11,500 in attendance Saturday night with a crowd-swaying rendition of an old favorite, “He Reigns.”
Leading up to the Newsboys was a myriad of musical styles in a variety of languages.
A 400-member robe-clad choir set the tone for the evening, singing many hymns, including the final “Just As I Am, ” an invitation standard for Billy Graham Crusades of years past.
Guitar master Dennis Agajanian and violinist Monte Gaylor started off the evening instrumentally and later returned to play an old favorite, “Ain’t No Grave.” John and Anne Barbour of the Tommy Coomes Band, who sang one of their songs in Lithuanian, came up next.
The Poland female duo Exodus15 (Lithania is 6 percent Polish) and Latvian worship band Vestnieciba (singing “How Great is our God”) followed.
Accomplished Ukranian soloist Eugenij Udovin next took the stage (he later sang while Russian artist Dailininke Marina Sosnina simultaneously crafted a murial of Jesus on the big screens).
Lithuania’s award-winning opera singer Vaidas Vyšniauskas next performed “How Great Thou Art”; the Lithuanian Military Orchestra played “Majesty”; and Jurgita Lopetaite followed with “Amazing Grace.”
After the Newsboys and a handful of other artists sang, Franklin Graham finished off the night with a powerful Gospel message that brought forward hundreds.
“Jesus Christ isn’t dead,” Franklin Graham said. “He’s not hanging on a cross. He’s here tonight. And He’s ready to forgive you. Will you trust Him tonight?
Two years ago, Mantas, 20, trusted Christ as his Savior and Saturday he led an 18-year-old to a first-time decision.
But in between — “It’s a long story,” Mantas said in his best broken English — is a story about how God can use just about anything, in this case the Internet, for His glory.
Peacewithgod.net is an Internet evangelism tool launched by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. But before peacewithgod.net, there was Google and Yahoo helping lead others to Christ.
Mantas, from the small town of Švencionys, had been wondering about miracles and decided to see what an Internet search would tell him. He ended up at the Life and Peace church web site, an evangelical church in Mažeikiai and after listening to some sermons accepted Christ.
When he moved southwest to attend Vilnius Educational University, he hopped on the Internet again to get involved in an Evangelical church and Bible study group (without an invite to either) and was baptized this past June.
“He is a person who is so much into God,” said supervisor Kristina. “He’s always available. An available heart and hand and foot.”
So when the 18-year-old came forward, looking lost, looking for someone to talk to, Mantas made eye-contact and began connecting with the teenager. After several times making sure he understood, Mantas led the 18-year-old in a prayer.
“He said, 'I understand everything I believed in was a lie,'” Mantas said. “I believe in the living God, not religion.
With 3,000 kids registered through a bus program, the upper deck had been closed off for Saturday morning's Kidzfest. But when the busses started rolling in one after the others, and kids started showing up with their parents, the lower bowl at Seimens Arena could not hold the crowd.
Many curtains had to be pulled back in the upper deck after 7,000 young people and their parents filled two-thirds of the areana, comprised of 67 differint groups, including schools, day care centers and orphanages.
The program included kids worship music, several children's choirs, multiple mimes, and the "Puzzle," a Gospel drama presentation.
During one scene of the "Puzzle," a girl questions a come-to-life flashlight, explaining "I've broken so many rules, God can't stand me."
The flashlight replied, "God still loves you. To become a friend of Jesus, you must deal with the issues of your heart."
Saturday morning marked the first chance for many counselors to share their faith and there was plenty of opportunity as several hundred came forward and prayed to receive Christ.
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