Planting for a Harvest of Souls

By Kristen M. Burke   •   June 7, 2005

In the coming months, Franklin Graham will hold three Festivals in cooperation with hundreds of local churches. In Chisinau, Moldova; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Shreveport, La., Christians from various denominations are uniting to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and they already are seeing God move in their communities.

Chisinau, Moldova, July 8-10
Preparations for the Franklin Graham Festival of Hope, at Republican Stadium in Chisinau, began nearly a year ago. The Festival is the culmination of 15 years of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association ministry in Moldova through Schools of Evangelism, Associate Evangelist Festivals, The Hour of Decision radio program and other ministries.

Since declaring independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Moldova has experienced a bleak political, social and economic situation. A country of 4.6 million people, it is the only European country with an elected Communist government. Agriculture and wine production keep the economy afloat, but an estimated one-third of all workers have left the country in search of employment. The problem of human trafficking has reached catastrophic proportions.

Yet, in spite of the problems facing their country, Moldovans are hard-working and gracious people. Their openness to the Gospel encouraged church leaders to use opportunities such as the Festival to reach Moldova. The Reverend Viktor Hamm, Festival Director, says, “There is a new movement of the Spirit of God in the country, something I have not seen before.”

More than 700 churches from various evangelical denominations have come together in an unprecedented demonstration of unity. More than 26,000 Christians have attended the Christian Life and Witness Classes in churches throughout Moldova. Prayer is the focal point of preparations as hundreds of prayer groups intercede for the Festival. Operation Andrew is in full swing, and people are turning to Christ before the Festival–some 300 youth responded to the Gospel at a recent rally.

The Chairman of the Council of Reference, the Reverend Valeriu Ghiletchi, stated, “We have been spreading the seeds of the Gospel. Now it’s time to reap. We expect great things from God!”

Corpus Christi, Texas, Aug. 19-21
The name Corpus Christi means “body of Christ,” but historically the Church in this city has not been unified. However, the South Texas Festival 2005 With Franklin Graham has already brought together 135 churches from across the denominational spectrum to reach their community for Christ.

More than 3,500 people have taken the Christian Life and Witness Classes, including Saul Luna, an athletics trainer at a local high school. As Luna took the class, he thought of an athlete whom he’d felt led to tell about Christ. Any time Luna mentioned God, the athlete didn’t seem interested.

During the class, the instructor asked participants to take home the “Steps to Peace With God” tract and go through it with a non-Christian. After going over the tract, participants were to ask the non-Christian, “Do you have any rational reason not to accept Jesus Christ right now?”

Luna decided to go through the tract with the athlete. The next day the athlete agreed to listen to Luna read through the tract. But when they were halfway through, another student came in needing Luna’s help. Before Luna could return, yet another student came in, and Luna didn’t finish the tract. However, the athlete took the tract home.

The following day Luna asked him if he’d finished reading the tract. He had, so Luna asked, “Then do you have any rational reason not to accept Christ right now?”

“No,” the athlete said. “In fact, I prayed the prayer to receive Christ last night.” In the coming days, Luna saw changes in the athlete’s life. He was kinder to people, and he seemed to lose his tough exterior.

“People are definitely willing to receive Christ,” Luna said. “We just have to give them the opportunity.”

As the South Texas Festival approaches, Christians across the Corpus Christi area are praying that the Festival will give many more willing people that opportunity.

Shreveport/Bossier City, La., Nov. 11-13
You wouldn’t normally expect Kelvin Cochran to be excited about starting a fire. As fire chief of the City of Shreveport Fire Department, he’s more likely to be putting out fires. But as executive chair of the Ark-La-Tex Festival 2005 With Franklin Graham, he’s been talking about starting a big fire: “We are trying to set our community on fire for the Lord … [and] have a spiritual conflagration.”

In the past 10 to 12 years, racial tensions have flared in Shreveport, especially after seven separate incidents in which police officers shot black suspects. After each incident, church leaders called for reconciliation and unity. But the efforts usually were unsuccessful, Cochran said, because they were labeled by race or denomination. However, Cochran believes that the Festival is providing a positive event to bring the Church together. “It is a proactive way to win souls for Christ using the entire Body of Christ,” he said. “The process of preparation for the Festival in and of itself is an effort to take away racial and denominational barriers and to build relationships together as the Body of Christ.”

Is there evidence of change? Absolutely, Cochran said.

“Every time we have an event in preparation for the Festival, all denominations and races come together. No one is thinking about any of the things that divide us.”

Already, some 130 churches are working together on the preparations for the Festival, which will be held at the CenturyTel Center.

“When the Festival happens in November, not only will we have a tremendous harvest of souls, but the process that leads up to the Festival will establish relationships that will last for generations and generations to come,” Cochran said. “Our relationships will be so strong that the next crisis will not separate us.”

Viktor Hamm, Moldova Festival director, contributed to this report.

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