The motto of Warsaw, Poland, is “Contemnit procellas” or “It defies the storms”—a fitting statement considering the city’s war history.
“This is a battleground,” Franklin Graham had said earlier in the day.
But he wasn’t just talking about Warsaw’s war-torn past. He was referring to the spiritual fight the ministry had come to win with the Festival of Hope, June 14-15 in Warsaw.
And because of God’s work, it was in fact a victory.
The two-night event ended with thousands of responses to the invitation to accept Christ. More than 30,000 people heard the Gospel preached by Franklin Graham at Pepsi Arena. And even more outside of Warsaw watched the event online thanks to BGEA live streaming the event at BillyGraham.org/Live.
Looking out into the crowd, you couldn’t help but be moved by the mix of people of all ages and backgrounds.
“Altogether, we can change the world,” Newsboys lead singer Michael Tait said from the stage Sunday night.
Where each person came from or how they got there didn’t matter. The crowd simply wanted to hear about the “hope” the Festival’s name promised to offer. And they did.
“God loves you. And God wants to give you everlasting life, but that only comes through faith in Jesus Christ,” Franklin Graham told the crowd. “Will you accept His love?”
Sunday’s message at the Festival of Hope in Warsaw came from Mark 8:34-38, a familiar yet compelling Scripture that asks, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?”
Franklin Graham repeated the question throughout the night, and it hit home for many listening.
“You could have all the iPhones in the world … control all of the armies of the earth. You could put all the euros and stack them in this arena,” he said. “Your soul is still more valuable.”
On a Mission
Philip, a local youth leader whose parents are from Poland and Zimbabwe, had dual roles in the Festival as a counselor and a member of the Festival choir.
Sunday, a young woman around Philip’s age stood before him curious about his faith and the Jesus Franklin Graham spoke of. She was invited to the Festival by a friend who walked forward during the invitation Saturday night.
Encounters like that left Philip invigorated about the evangelistic missions covering Warsaw.
“It’s what’s in here!” he said, tapping his Bible with his index finger. “We should share our faith. It’s one of the most important duties we have, and I wanted to share.”
The final day of the Festival of Hope coincided with the March for Jesus, an annual walk organized by local pastors and evangelical groups that took place earlier Sunday in Warsaw.
Because Festival of Hope organizers helped promote the march and March for Jesus organizers did the same for Franklin Graham’s visit, volunteers between the two events also crossed.
Festival counselor Mariusz said he was pleased with the March for Jesus turnout, but also glad the Festival of Hope could add to the message organizers wanted to deliver.
“Many people can make an excuse to not go to the march,” Mariusz explained. But because of the entertainment and Gospel message the Franklin Graham Festival offered, “it was a great chance to invite someone.”
Mariusz admitted he was “shocked” to see so many people at the Franklin Graham Festival. Poland has never had an evangelistic event like it before.
“I thought I would see an empty stadium and grass,” he said. “But I’m really happy and excited I wasn’t ashamed to come here. To walk the march and come here to talk to people.”
The weekend Festival of Hope (Festiwal Nadziei in Polish) kicked off with performances by popular Polish choir TGD, the Tommy Coomes Band and Dennis Agajanian.
Michael W. Smith, who performed a concert at the end of Saturday’s event, extended his trip a day to sing on Sunday. Newsboys closed out the Festival with an energetic performance that had the crowd jumping.
While on stage, Tait noted the Polish heritage of his band mate.
“Mr. Jeff Frankenstein is home!” he joked, laying his hand on the keyboardist’s shoulder.
Before exiting the stage, Tait left attendees with an encouraging message that coincided with a popular Newsboys song.
“For all the new believers out there who gave their life to Christ in Poland, this is what I want you to do,” he said. “I want you to live your life with abandon.”
And just as Warsaw has again and again made old things new after destruction, thousands accepted that call to live a new life in Christ, wiped clean of past sins.