Political parties, movements, organizations, companies, pop culture–all are claiming to give hope to the people of a nation that has gone from one revolution to another. A popular hit There Is Hope by the secular band Mad Heads receives plenty of airtime. After the high of the Orange Revolution, followed by recent political clashes, a long-term sense of hopelessness has set in.
Ukrainian Christians are seizing the opportunity to tell their country about a sure and lasting hope in Jesus Christ. Church leaders of various denominations have joined hands in inviting Franklin Graham to come to Ukraine for a Festival of Hope July 6-8. Kiev is the cradle of Christianity in this region of the world. Even before Christianity became the official religion of the Kievan Rus (the predecessor to modern Ukraine and Russia) in A.D. 988, it is believed that the Apostle Andrew brought the Gospel to the hills of Kiev. A statue of the apostle overlooks the mighty Dnieper River.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has been ministering in Ukraine for a number of years through Schools of Evangelism, Congresses of Evangelism, feature films dubbed into Ukrainian, children’s rallies and numerous evangelistic festivals with Associate Evangelist Viktor Hamm.
More than 4,000 Christians gathered in Kiev April 1, 2006, for a Festival announcement rally. Since the number of evangelical churches in the city of Kiev is rather small, the Festival leadership has worked to make the Festival a nationwide outreach.
In a statement to the Ukrainian Christians, Franklin Graham noted the long history of the Gospel in this land as believers have passed the Good News down through the generations. “Now it is our responsibility to pass the Gospel on to the generations that follow ours,” Franklin said. “An awesome responsibility and honor has been bestowed upon us by the Lord as we minister together in Ukraine.”
Festival leaders launched an extensive mobilization effort, forming some 46 regional committees and holding more than 190 informational sessions throughout the country. Nightly, at 10 p.m., Christians throughout Ukraine are praying for the Festival. April 22 (ironically, the birthday of communist leader Vladimir Lenin) was a national day of prayer and fasting for the Festival. As part of Operation Andrew, prayer cards and posters were distributed to churches throughout the country. Through this effort, Christians pray daily for specific friends who don’t know Jesus and then invite them to the Festival.
More than 45,000 attended Prepare the Way Rallies, with hundreds committing their lives to Jesus Christ. The Reverend Vasily F. Raichinets, President of the Union of Independent Churches of Christians of Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals) of Ukraine, said, “Even if the Festival would not take place, the results have been already obvious. Churches have come together.”
An expanded one-time Ukrainian issue of Decision was published, as was a Russian version of “The Billy Graham Story.” A month prior to the Festival an advertising campaign will invite people to the meetings “… because there is hope.”
The Festival produced a special lesson on evangelism for Sunday schools, and more than 5,000 children have submitted drawings in a Sunday school competition for the best drawing of evangelism.
Some 1,000 Christian women attended a conference this past spring at which they were encouraged to be involved in the Festival. Participants received a specially prepared packet of forget-me-not flower seeds to remind them to pray for their unbelieving friends and to invite them to the Festival.
Operation One Plus challenged Christian youth to reach their friends with the Gospel. To draw attention to the Festival, hundreds of young people are climbing the two highest mountains of Ukraine to raise a “flag of hope.” Throughout the regions, youth are organizing car rallies that will stop in villages and towns to inform people of the Festival.
One hundred eighty master trainers have been trained to take the Christian Life and Witness classes to churches throughout Ukraine. In the Rovno region alone, more than 3,000 attended the first two classes. Regional coordinator Alexander Gavriliuk reported, “Results are beyond any expectations. These classes will transform our churches.”
Those who respond to the Gospel will receive a Ukrainian or Russian version of the “All for Jesus” book by Franklin Graham and Ross Rhoads. Children will be invited to join a correspondence Bible study course administered by Child Evangelism Fellowship. Adult inquirers will be invited to attend a 12-week New Beginning Bible study class.
Buses and trains are being organized to bring people to the Festival. Zakarpatye region churches are booking 30 buses and a train daily. The trip by train will take 17 hours one way. Each bus and train will have counselors on board. Hundreds of young people are planning to come from the neighboring Republic of Belarus.
The Festival meetings at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium will include music from local artists as well as testimonies by star athletes. Some 7,500 people from across the country have signed up to sing in the mass choir. Due to lodging limitations, only half of those will be invited to come. Out-of-town choir members will be housed with Kiev Christians.
A live satellite feed will be provided to some 70 venues in remote regions of Ukraine. Each venue will have a live pre-program, as well as counselors and a local evangelist to help those who respond to the invitation to receive Christ.
Dr. Grigory I. Komendant, of the Festival Council of Reference, said, “This Festival encourages us to lift up our eyes and see the fields that are ready for harvest.”