Enough was enough. Andre Palacios finally had to say something to his mother.
The 14-year old was at Friday night’s Festival de Esperanza prayer and dedication service and every time he looked over, she was messing with her phone.
“The worship was going on,” Andre said. “And I finally said ‘Mom, quit texting. This is the dedication service.’ “
That’s what Vindy Madrid gets. For years, she’s been praying for her boys, Andre and younger brother Emanuel, 10, teaching them to live for the Lord. She’s told them countless times: “Remember, you are the light.”
And that light was shining extra bright during Saturday morning’s Festikids, the kickoff to the historical Festival de Esperanza con Franklin Graham.
Her two sons were all over the field and stadium, exciting people as part of the clown brigade, leading up to the closing invitation where hundreds came forward to receive Christ.
Madrid herself played a vital role in this Festival, as one of the original members of the women’s committee. Her zeal for this event spilled over to her two sons – and Andre in particular has run with the passion.
“I’ve been running around, burning so many calories,” he said. “Getting as many people excited as I can.”
If Andre is a picture of the youth of America, this country is in good hands.
A Follower of Christ since age 8, he has a particular burden to reach the lost and he’s been on a personal crusade to reach his community. And his energy is contagious.
“That’s his priority,” his mother said.
Last Sunday after church, Andre and some family and friends dressed up in their clown suits and went to a local supermarket and passed out invitations to Festikids.
Then they headed to the park, crashing birthday parties as clowns, then telling folks about Festikids and the Festival de Esperanza this weekend.
“I’ve got a lot of friends who aren’t Christians,” Andre said. “I felt like God was calling me here. Whatever they need, I’m here to help. I’m just part of God’s mission.”
For Andre, that mission has sent him to Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and Stanford University as part of a Johns Hopkins summer college prep scholarship program. He’s also ran two Los Angeles marathons, in his spare time when he’s not helping lead worship at his team’s youth group.
But nothing has been more important to Andre than getting people to this Spanish-speaking Festival in the Los Angeles area, a first of its kind for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
“He invited a lot of people,” said Madrid, who will have six relatives coming to the Festival. “He kept asking me, ‘Did you invite him? Did you invite her?’ He kept reminding me to invite my friends.”
Which made it no surprise that Andre took an exception to his mother not focusing on the prayer and dedication ceremony. Even if she was trying to coordinate last-minute details for this weekend’s Festival.
“When he said ‘You’ve gotta quick texting,’ I said, ‘Are you serious or just kidding?’ ” Madrid said. “He said ‘I’m serious.’ “
For Andre, this is life and death.
“It’s a mission,” he said about sharing the Gospel of Jesus. “I think He challenges our confidence, our personalities to be like Him. I think He wants us to get to work.”
Gospel Told in Story Form
The Festikids event included a high-energy program full of music, dance, clowns, puppets and even a few superheroes.
“I’m diving in” and “Do you want a revolution” were just a few of the musical scores that connected with the crowd of mostly children at The Home Depot Center.
But after all the excitement finally wound down, and most of the children on the infield were moved to the shaded stadium seats, a 25-minute Gospel story was acted out on stage and subtitled in Spanish on two big screens beside the stage.
Using key musical scores to emphasize the impact of Jesus, this story carried a theme of Adam in the Garden of Eden, with the serpent depicted by an evil-looking clown in a black pinstriped tuxedo jacket and a red bow tie.
Ultimately it was Jesus who conquered the sin that separates us from Him and causes us to do things like disobey and talk back to our parents. “He died on the cross and rose three days later,” a voice beamed over the Rocky theme music.
Festival Director Galo Vasquez shared an invitation to receive Jesus Christ as personal Savior in two languages and hundreds of children came forward, some with their parents, and met with counselors in clearly marked English and Spanish sections.
“He wants to come into your life and rescue you from the enemy,” Vasquez said.
Sharing Christ “Is Everything”
Lorena, 27, sat with seven kids surrounding her at the front of the Home Depot Center. They were hanging on her every word, as she explained the Gospel message to them.
“You try to do your best to help them understand,” she said. “These kids, a lot of them have had a rough life.”
Lorena’s heart has been broken for the children of Los Angles for some time. She accepted Christ at age 14 in her home country of Colombia, but her fervor to share Christ has grown since she moved to Los Angeles area nine years ago.
“For me, it’s everything,” she said. “All I want to do is get people to know God. And to preach the Gospel.”
But she knows that Festikids and the rest of this Festival de Esperanza will not fully take root if it’s not coated in prayer.
“If we don’t pray nothing will happen,” she said. “This has been a spiritual war. I’ve been praying a lot.”