Franklin Graham’s Estonia Festival Marks The Nation’s Largest Evangelistic Event
Historic Event Unites All Denominations for the First Time
TALLINN, Estonia — Although Estonia received its freedom from Communism in 1991, the effects of decades of atheistic rule and no religious freedom is very apparent. A recent Gallup poll listed Estonia as the least religious country in the world, and the average Sunday morning protestant church attendance for the entire country is only 12,000 people. Despite this reality, overflow crowds totaling 30,659 people gathered this weekend (May 29-31) in Saku Suurhall Arena for the Franklin Graham Festival of Hope. The Festival, held in the nation’s capital of Tallinn, marked the largest evangelistic event in the country’s history. “I was here 25 years ago with my father, but at that time he could not openly preach since Estonia was under Communist rule,” said Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. “It’s special to me to be invited back now to preach and to see thousands of people gather in freedom to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.” Buses and ferries brought people to the three-day Festival – some traveling from neighboring Finland and Latvia. Crowds heard Graham’s messages translated into Estonian, Russian and sign language. By the end of the weekend, 1,478 people responded to the invitation to follow Jesus Christ. In addition to the record attendance, the Festival was also historic in that it was the first time that all Evangelical Christian denominations united for a common purpose. The city of Tallinn has only 40 Evangelical churches yet, 348 churches from across the country worked for months to make the Festival possible. The Festival featured traditional and contemporary music by local and international artists including Grammy Award-winner Michael W. Smith, Americans John and Anne Barbour, who performed in English and Estonian, and award-winning guitarist Dennis Agajanian. On Saturday morning, 3,929 kids gathered in the arena for a children’s rally featuring a program of drama and music that teaches kids about God’s love. While in Estonia, Graham met and discussed spiritual matters with Estonia’s prime minister, Tallinn’s mayor and local and international church leaders from neighboring countries. Graham is also head of international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse which has worked in Estonia for years to aid the physical needs of the people. In conjunction with the Festival, Graham and teams from the organization’s project Operation Christmas Child handed out shoe box gifts to poor and sick children. A total of 387,829 gift-filled shoe boxes have been hand-delivered to needy children in Estonia. Franklin Graham now turns his attention to the upcoming Rock the River Tour, an evangelistic youth outreach that will travel up the Mississippi River stopping in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (July 18); St. Louis, Missouri (Aug. 2); Quad Cities, Illinois/Iowa (Aug. 8); and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota (Aug. 16). Visit www.DeMossNews.com/fgf for high-resolution photos of the Festival. For more information on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and its many ministries, visit www.billygraham.org.