More than a year’s worth of preparation by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in cooperation with more than 300 churches came to fruition over the past weekend in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. The East Coast Festival 2004 with Franklin Graham saw a total attendance of just over 30,000 in the Halifax Metro Center Oct. 15-17, while nearly 3,000 more watched via live satellite TV in Sydney on remote Cape Breton Island.
Over 300 churches from 30 different denominations worked together to prepare for the Festival, coming together with a unity that impressed many of the church and community leaders involved.
James Mallon, minister of St. Mary’s Basilica in Halifax and Vice Chair on the Executive Committee, spoke of that unity as a gift from God. “One of the gifts is the brotherhood and sisterhood with other believers from other churches,” said Mallon. “That is something I will never forgot and never lose.”
As Franklin Graham spoke each evening, many local leaders gathered to pray for the Festival and the spiritual decisions that happened on the arena floor. And hundreds came forward each night to pray with trained counselors and receive Christ.
One couple, which had been separated for a year and a half, was reunited on the floor of the arena, along with their two children. The family came together in a huddle—an answer to the wife’s 10 years of faithful prayer that God would bring her husband into a right relationship with Him.
“I feel God was saying, ‘Wake up, Halifax,’” said Festival Executive Chair Bruce Havill. “‘I have blown over your city with two great winds in the physical realm, but I am coming with another kind of wind, and that’s the wind of My Spirit.’”
The festival featured performances by international award-winning Christian artists Rachael Lampa, Jars of Clay, Tree63 and Nicole C. Mullen. Local artists performing included Ninth Hour of PEI, the Lapointes, and Thirstforyou of New Brunswick. Eric Whyte, The Contact, and the Nova Scotia Mass Choir, ‘All of Nova Scotia’.
On Sunday night, as Graham shared the story of Nicodemus from the book of John, he told the stadium crowds, “Whatever it is that brought you here, God loves you and God will forgive you.
“Is your life such a mess that you don’t know where to go or who to turn to? Tonight, you come to Christ ... just like Nicodemus,” he added.
In sharing his own testimony and how Jesus transformed his heart as a young man, Graham told the crowds, “God forgave me, not because of any great thing I had done or because of who my parents are; not because I was raised in the church; not because I was religious.”
Graham’s life, which he had lived wildly and rebelliously up until the age of 22, changed one night in a hotel in Jerusalem as he read the story of Nicodemus from the book of John.
Graham added, “God cleansed me—that night I received the new birth, and my life was changed.”
And by the close of the Festival, more than 2,300 lives had been transformed, as men and women, boys and girls accepted Graham’s invitation and committed their lives to Jesus Christ.