The God Who Listens

By Bob Paulson   •   January 2, 2009

Each morning, Serina Wu, a housewife and mother of two, rises at 3 a.m. She washes her face to clear the cobwebs from her mind. Then she sits and quietly begins to pray–for family, for friends, for the nations of the world, and for people to find salvation through Jesus Christ.

She prays and reads her Bible until 6 a.m., then she helps her husband and children get ready for work and school. Around 9, she starts praying again–often talking to God until 4 p.m.

She prays, knowing how Jesus changed her life seven years ago. She prays, having experienced the disappointment of family members who did not understand her conversion from Buddhism to Jesus Christ. And since the Taipei Franklin Graham Festival, she prays with joy at the memory of seeing thousands commit their lives to Christ.

When Serina saw the people coming to the platform at Liberty Square, she said: “God, You are the God who listens. You have answered our prayers.”

Prayer for the Festival started a year before the event when Taipei’s city-wide prayer network incorporated the meetings into its ministry. For six months, organizers mobilized pastors to pray. Then, during the final six months of preparation, they mobilized individual Christians. They sent text messages, e-mail, letters and other printed materials with prayer requests. They held a 12-hour, city-wide prayer meeting. Starting in July, intercessors met weekly for early-morning prayer walks around the square. Some even fasted and prayed for 40 days.

On a muggy evening the day before the Festival began, volunteers gathered at Liberty Square to pray again. The square resounded with the sounds of worship, followed by the murmurs and soft sobs of hundreds kneeling on the stone pavement to dedicate themselves afresh to God.

They seemed like a mighty army, these prayer warriors, but they faced a battle only God could win–drawing people from spiritual death to new life in Christ.

The Right Time
By most estimates, Christians make up about 3 percent of Taiwan’s population, although some say that in Taipei the number may now be nearing 9 or 10 percent. When long-time missionary Doris Brougham arrived in 1948, only one-tenth of 1 percent were Christians.

Brougham calls herself “a simple girl from Seattle,” but Christian leaders say that this 82-year-old played a key role in bringing the Festival to Taipei. The founder of Overseas Radio & Television, Brougham is known throughout Asia for her trumpet playing and for her organization’s Studio Classroom, which teaches English on radio and television as well as in classrooms. She was the one who called Taipei pastors together in 2007 to see if they felt the time was right for a Franklin Graham Festival. The pastors agreed that it was.

Pastor I Lifan of Rei-An Street Church says the time was right for three reasons: pastors and others have united in prayer over the past few years; many people around the world are praying for China and specifically for Taiwan; and people seem more open to hearing the Gospel than they have been in the past.

Bringing Friends to Jesus
As more and more churches came on board for the Festival, thousands of Christians participated in Operation Andrew, named after the Apostle Andrew, who often brought people to meet Jesus. In Operation Andrew, Christians write down the names of people who don’t know Christ, pray for them, talk to them about Jesus and invite them to the Festival.

Chang Lo Mei Feng, 81, was the first person to come to Christ through the Operation Andrew effort at Mei-Ren Baptist Church. On April 30, two days after she prayed to receive Christ with relatives at a coffee shop, several church members came to her apartment and together they filled nine garbage bags with idols to be discarded. On the wall they hung a cross and a plaque that reads “Christ is the Head of This House.” Chang continues to pray for her older sister who does not know Christ.

A Sea of FacesLiberty Square is not really a square, although part of it, sandwiched between Taipei’s National Theatre and National Concert Hall, actually is shaped like one. But that is only part of a plaza that also includes a huge, ornate gate at one end and a memorial to former president Chiang Kai-Shek at the other. During the Festival, and especially on Saturday evening, the 29,000-square-meter expanse became a sea of faces. People near the front sat on chairs. Those in the middle sat on thousands of chair-height plastic stools. In the back, people squatted on bucket-sized stools, while hundreds more stood along garden areas along either side. Some even sat on the ground outside the gate in front of a large screen–one of several erected on the grounds for the Festival.

As people began to arrive on Saturday, it was clear that Christians were following through with Operation Andrew. When someone asked two 20-year-old accounting students what they hoped would happen at the Festival, one gestured to the other and said, “My goal is to bring my best friend here and see him make the wonderful decision for the Lord.”

That evening, after two hours of music by both local and U.S. artists, Franklin Graham strode to the podium. His greeting to the crowd underscored the urgency of the Gospel: “Good evening. Tonight I’m going to give you an opportunity to do something that maybe you’ve never done. Tonight I’m going to give you an opportunity to meet the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son. I want you to listen very carefully.”

Franklin told the story of the prodigal son from Luke 15, in which a young man asked for his inheritance, spent it all in wild living and then repented and returned home, where his father welcomed him.

“This is a picture of you and your Father in heaven,” Franklin said. “If you come to Christ tonight, you’ve got to be willing to confess your sin. That means to admit to God that you’re a sinner. You’ve got to be willing to repent. That means you leave your sin. If you come to Christ tonight, you’ve got to be willing to turn from your sins. That’s what this young boy did.”

When Franklin invited unbelievers to come forward and receive Christ, immediately the aisles filled with people. In section B2, two young men stood up, and the people around them broke into applause.

Those coming forward gathered not only in front of the platform but also in front of each large screen in the plaza. The sound of conversation filled the square as people walked forward, but the chatter stopped as thousands repeated a prayer of repentance. They prayed phrase-by-phrase–first Franklin, then the interpreter, then those who had come forward.

Among those who received Christ were many who had been brought by “Andrews.” One young man from Neihu, a district in eastern Taipei, led his friends in a closing prayer after they had been counseled. He reinforced what they had just done, praying, “From this day onward, I receive Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. I will no longer live in darkness. Today I will be a new person in Christ Jesus.”

They prayed to the God who listens–and answers.

For additional articles, photos and videos of the Taipei Festival, go to billygraham.org/taipei.

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