Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is expanding in help of the amazing power of prayer. The prayer efforts in support of the “Festival of Hope” – with Franklin Graham, Nov. 20-22, have surpassed what most expected.
"In the past, we have had tremendous prayer gatherings, tremendous unity of prayer, the young people surrounding the stadium in prayer, but never a movement like this one," explained veteran Resident Crusade Director Bill Kennedy.
The movement began to take shape earlier this year when flooding devastated the nearby city of Santa Fe in April and gained momentum in October with a citywide gathering in prayer with more than 20,000 Christians.
The flood damaged more than 28,000 homes turning the city into an uninhabitable land. “Congress on Evangelism” by BGEA was in plan to be held there but it had to be cancelled. Instead, BGEA joined to help the flood victims.
Together with Samaritan’s Purse, BGEA provided emergency food and water, blankets, and hygiene kits to the people until they could return to their homes.
During this 100-day effort, BGEA trainers taught "Christian Life and Witness" classes, and teams went out daily giving spiritual assistance. They led several people to Christ during the outreach, and others expressed a desire to learn more.
Pedro Slachta, a local pastor, reported that church attendance has increased significantly. People who were attacked by the natural disaster became more opened to world of spirituality. One Sunday morning, three families walked into his service and inquired about membership.
This combination of physical and spiritual relief has had quite an impact on those affected by the flooding. As Kennedy explains, prayer has been at the heart of it. "These tragic events brought about tremendous strength through prayer and unity in prayer," he said, "both for the restoration physically of the city and over the inhabitants who had been displaced."
Since the flood, BGEA women’s ministry has been also partaking in the “Festival Hope.” The festival took place in Rosario, the third largest city in Argentina, reaching out to every home at the personal level with a message of hope and an invitation to the Festival.
Every month, the churches would send a team of two women to go house-to-house, following a strategy based on Luke 10, which recounts when Jesus sent His disciples out ahead of Him in groups of two. These women go visit the families with several goals set in their hearts: to bless the family, to establish a relationship with the family, to pray with them and for them, to invite them to accept Jesus Christ, and to invite them to the "Festival of Hope."
Pastor Aldo Martín, General Coordinator for the Festival, said, "This has made such a significant impact that the Women's Committee has also taken on a commitment to have a visitation with each family on each block after the Festival, and we trust that each block will be visited twice during the first 30 days after the event."
Since the flood and Women’s Committee outreach, the importance of prayer has been more emphasized within the organization. On Oct 13, citywide prayer gathering for Rosario called “Embrace Rosario for Christ” was held, involving 22,000 people. Kennedy explained, "The prayer kept on building and brought about the idea that, just as the city of Santa Fe was surrounded by water, we should surround the city of Rosario in a prayer embrace."
"From the beginning of Festival planning, prayer was not only a principle. It became a true reality due to the difficulties and obstacles that had to be faced," said Kennedy.
As people are relying more on God through prayers, He is working through them responding their prayers. One family at the "Embrace Rosario" prayer event explained to the pastor, "I am not from your faith, but this is something that is touching my family. You are praying for my family where we live. I would like to join you"
Martín said, "What most impressed me with this prayer embrace is that the church left its buildings, and everyone was able to see the prayer and the love of all the Christians for the city. Not only that, there was a hum in the city, and the whole city was feeling this impact."