Despite difficulties before the event and several nights of chilly winds and unseasonably cool temperatures during, 51,050 people attended the "Festival of Hope" with Franklin Graham at the Monumental Plaza de Toros June 10-12. Drawing participants from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, this event was one of the largest evangelical events in the history of the city. By the final night of the Festival, 3,477 people had responded to an invitation to put their faith in Jesus Christ.
The three-day Festival, organized by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) in cooperation with 250 local churches, was Franklin Graham’s 102nd Festival, and, as the BGEA reported, the most challenging.
"As the most crossed border in the world, Tijuana has had a long history of drugs, prostitution, and illegal smuggling, but what we experienced this weekend was a spiritual battle like I've never seen at one of our Festivals," said Graham who led the event.
One of the many difficulties was a "speaking visa" that was required by the Mexican government for Graham to address a crowd from the platform. Despite the facts that Graham spoke in Veracruz, Mexico last year and the paper work had been filed for months, the speaking visa was not granted until hours before the event began. The government also made a last minute requirement that each guest and musician on stage acquire such a visa.
Norm Mydske, who has directed more than 35 Crusades for the BGEA,echoed Graham's sentiments. "I've been working for the BGEA for 34 years and I've never seen a situation where a Christian was threatened with arrest for speaking in Latin America," said Mydske.
However, despite the difficulties, the Festival went on as planned, and the crowds were able to hear Graham’s message of hope and forgiveness, along with lively Latin music by local and international artists including Spaniard Marcos Vidal, Puerto Rico Patty Cabrera, guitarist Dennis Agajanian with the Gutierrez brothers, and the California-based Tommy Coomes Band.
As is the case with every evangelistic Festival conducted by Franklin Graham, the “Festival of Hope” was the result of a cooperative effort involving Graham, his team, and many local Christians and churches. Since his first evangelistic event in 1989, Graham has been invited by clergy and laity who have banded together because of the common desire to reach their community with the Christian message. According to the BGEA, “The primary objective of any Franklin Graham Festival is to bring uncommitted individuals into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and firmly establish them in a local church.”
Two more Franklin Graham Festivals are scheduled for this year—The East Coast Festival in Halifax, Canada (Oct. 15-17); and “Festival de Esperanza” in Temuco, Chile (Nov. 11-13). His previous two festivals, the Thekwini Festival in Durban, South Africa and the Kern County Festival in Bakersfield, California saw attendances of over 47,000 and 59,000, respectively.