Lithuania Church 'Explodes With Gratitude'
Festival of Hope Impacts Church in Multitude of Ways
November 10, 2011 - Seeing God do a mighty work in the country of Lithuania, the Festival has delivered in a variety of ways, strengthening the church and increasing the evangelical reach.
"The impact has been great. The church has been encouraged tremendously."
— Festival Director Viktor Hamm
By Trevor Freeze
It was the morning after one of the most significant weekends in the history of the church in Lithuania.
In the previous two days, more than 28,000 people had flooded into Siemens Arena in the capital city Vilnius, including one bus making a 14-plus-hour pilgrimage from Germany.
They had witnessed hundreds pouring out of their seats, packing the stage area and overflowing into all four aisles in response to the Gospel invitation by Franklin Graham.
In a country of 3 million people with only 3,000 Christians, nearly half that amount (over 1,400) made first-time decisions to accept Christ as their Savior.
"When you walk into a venue and you see it packed out, your heart explodes with gratitude to the Lord," Festival Director Viktor Hamm said. "The impact has been great. The church has been encouraged tremendously."
But the day after such a powerful movement of God brought mixed emotions to some of the Festival's biggest supporters. For some, it was almost hard to believe God had moved in a country like Lithuania, suppressed under Soviet control until about 20 years ago.
For others, the day after brought a sense of urgency.
"I talked to some of the leaders who said they woke up Monday morning and thought 'What now?' " Hamm said.
Figuring out the next step can be overwhelming for many churches. According to Hamm, quoting Billy Graham, the lasting impact of a Crusade — or Festival in this case — is usually seen three to five years after the event.
But after an emotional weekend and such a large percentage of new believers, the "What now," feeling is hard to ignore. So many commitments made, and so little time to start discipleship.
"The emphasis is on follow-up," Hamm said. "The classes have begun. It will take time. It's our prayer that the churches will continue to do what they're trained to do."
Hamm is encouraged that two-thirds of the Christians involved in the Festival have completed the Christian Life & Witness Classes, held at 60 different training centers across Lithuania.
"Everyone who attended the Festival of Hope in Lithuania was a crown jewel," Hamm said. "This is God's doing. Our committee worked very hard, long hours, and God was pleased to honor that."
The bring-a-friend committee, for instance, went directly to the streets of Lithuania to sign up people on Festival bus tours, and that committee alone filled up 10 buses.
"When you think there's about 3,000 evangelicals and they had group-booked over 9,000 seats," Hamm said. "It means every evangelical has brought at least two friends."
Several trickle-down benefits of the Festival have already begun to manifest.
The most obvious by-product was the churches coming together and uniting in an environment where many churches are small and normally operate on their own.
"After the Festival they tasted how good fellowship can be," Hamm said.
A second positive is the media coverage the Festival provided through mainstream news outlets.
"Society at large started paying attention to the evangelical movement in the country," Hamm said. "The fact that the Catholic radio station carried the Festival live both Saturday and Sunday was historic."
There is also a passion to reach the youth in Lithuania as over half of those coming forward to the Gospel were age 25 and under. Hamm said there's a possibility of having a future youth-centered evangelical event for the Baltic countries in eastern Europe.
"Europe is very small. Whatever happens in one part of Europe is talked about in another part the next day," he said. "There's great interest in doing something special for the young people, which is being considered."
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