After seven months of preparation, the “Festival of Hope” sponsored by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, took place Nov. 20-22 in the city of Rosario, Argentina. The event brought God’s miracles into reality.
Pastor Carlos Camano recalled the moment when he first arrived at the church mobilization meeting in preparation for the “Festival of Hope.” He wasn’t interested at all in holding festival but when he was praying for Operation Andrew, a program that encourages Christians to pray for their unsaved family and friends, he felt God was telling him that what they are doing is His will.
Pastor Camano’s church began participating in the Festival with Operation Andrew. His children congregation participated in Operation Andy which helped the church attendance to grow from 25 to more than 100. For Operation Andy, the children were encouraged to write the names of their unsaved friends on cards and posted them on a blackboard at the church.
"All the children started to pray for those cards," explained Pastor Camano. "Saturday by Saturday, the children from the neighborhood started to come to the church. We didn't invite them. I think they came because the Lord was touching their hearts through the prayers of the children."
"The important thing is that the children come to the church and hear the word of the Lord, and then they go back to their homes and talk to their parents about Jesus," said Pastor Camano. "Through the children, we're expecting more people to come to our church."
In total, 50,000 Operation Andrew cards were collected by the Festival office, representing prayers for 140,000 people in Rosario. "This is something quite meaningful," said Pastor Aldo Martín, General Coordinator for the Festival. "It brings a big blessing for the city, but it also brings a big blessing for the Church."
Pastor Anibal Ghíone added, "Argentina has been living through a very hard financial moment. It's one of the most doubting countries. At the same time as the economic crisis, the Church stood up and started to pray, to fast, and that is why Argentina today is strong -- because the Church is praying for this country."
Franklin Graham shared the message of God's love through the story of the sinful woman who washed Jesus' feet in Luke 7, "God loves you. God wants to set you free from your sin and your guilt. ... She came to Christ with a broken heart. Will you come to Christ tonight with a broken heart?"
During the three-day event, more than 103,000 people heard the message of hope through faith in Jesus Christ, and 15,242 prayed to commit their lives to Christ. Nearly 84 percent of those were under the age of 18.
In addition to prayer, many churches participated in Operation Christmas Child, the world’s largest children’s Christmas project. This year was the first time for Rosario to participate in this project. For this festival, 135 churches distributed 22,000 shoeboxes filled with Christmas gifts to the children in some of poorest communities in Rosario such as Jesus Es El Camino.
Pastor Hector Tuttolomondo, coordinator of the Operation Christmas Child, said, "Bringing the shoe boxes here was a wonderful way to show the children God's love, and they could participate in the Festival this way."
The distribution at Jesus Es El Camino was "amazing," according to Pastor Camano. "They were so surprised when they saw the boxes full of things!" said Camano. "It's not how much it cost. It was that they wanted those things. They liked those gifts."
"The parents of those children came to our church to thank us for the gifts," he added, "even parents that don't believe in Jesus."
Many of the participants of the festival, especially the children and the teenagers accepted Christ and expressed their heart of gratitude toward Franklin Graham.
A 16-year-old girl named Luz confessed "I was laughing during the program, but then I felt that I should stop laughing and accept Christ into my heart once now and forever." She put her faith in Christ.
Emmanuel, 18, with the hope he gained, also confessed, "The Festival has awakened the members of the churches. There are a lot of people working together, and that's important for the future."
On the last night of the Festival, a nine-year-old girl wrote a thank you note for Franklin Graham and for the gifts she received. She wrote, "You have all blessed me so much. I have given my life to Christ."
Through “Festival of Hope,” Kingdom of God will continue to expand leading everyone to become the witness of Christ.