In the early months of 1981, the team preparing for the Billy Graham Crusade in Mexico City had a very difficult time finding a venue for the event. Taking a step of faith, Billy Graham boarded the flight even though his team was still unable to secure a space. The team continued to pray unceasingly and just before the plane landed, they received the answer to their prayers.
The Arena Mexico was a venue famous for “Lucha Libre” wrestling. With only 16,500 seats and little additional space, it was not the ideal venue for a Crusade. But God had a plan.
The venue was filled to capacity on each of the five days of the event, and the thousands of people who weren’t able to get in improvised worship and prayer meetings in the streets near the arena.
When Billy Graham invited the crowd to make a personal decision to place their trust in Jesus, there was no room for an altar call. Instead, he asked those who were ready to stand quietly and remain in their places. Thousands stood and trained counselors made their way to them for a time of prayer and follow up.
“The city had never had a similar exposure to the Gospel,” noted a newspaper statement at the time.
Over four decades later, Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham, is bringing a new evangelistic event to Mexico City—the city with the largest number of Spanish speakers in the world.
After almost four years in the making, Festival Esperanza CDMX will take place in a different arena on February 11 and 12.
The event, to be held at Arena CDMX, will feature local and international worship leaders such as Marcos Witt, Miel San Marcos, Nadia, Michael W. Smith, and Dennis Agajanian.
Setting the Stage
Festival Esperanza CDMX will be the culmination of a major effort that began in 2019 but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even during the pandemic, we still went, church by church, and knocked at the door of the pastors’ homes,” shared Chris Swanson, director of the Festival. “We prayed with them, we encouraged them, and they told us that no one else had reached out to them to offer them prayer and encouragement during the pandemic.”
Now that the COVID restrictions have eased, particularly during the last year, several events have been organized throughout the city in preparation for the Festival.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) has been working hand in hand with local churches to offer an evangelism course called Christian Life and Witness. To date, more than 24,000 people have been equipped to share their faith in Mexico City, and thousands more will receive the training in coming weeks.
The “Generación de Esperanza” movement (Generation of Hope) has brought together more than 5,000 young people at different events where they have been encouraged to share their faith. The last of these events will take place on Jan. 21, where youth will be encouraged to go out, share the Gospel, and hand out invitations to the Festival.
Four Festikids events have also taken place, in which more than 7,000 children have heard the Gospel message and over 1,900 of them have prayed to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
In addition, participating churches formed a prayer network and have been praying for almost two years. More than 5,000 believers have committed to lift up the Festival without ceasing, taking turns so that someone is praying at all times.
A Plentiful Harvest
BGEA goes to different cities around the world, working in partnership with local evangelical churches. On this occasion, more than 2,000 churches from different denominations have joined forces for the proclamation of the Gospel in their city.
“It is the thirst for the Word of God,” commented David Ruíz, BGEA’s associate evangelist and member of the event’s organizing committee. “Lots of people did not return to church after the pandemic, and many churches have faith that this event will be the means God uses to bring in a fresh harvest.”
According to Swanson, Mexico City is one of the areas of the country with the least evangelical representation, and it has one of the lowest numbers of evangelical churches per capita in the country.
“The need for the Gospel is probably greater in Mexico City than anywhere else in the country,” Swanson said. “We’ve also found that a large proportion of the churches in the city have very low numbers of congregants.
“Our prayer and goal is that we will see thousands join the kingdom of God by surrendering their lives to Christ. That is the only thing that makes this whole effort worthwhile,” he said. “It is also my hope that after this Festival, the evangelical church in Mexico will go through a revival process and truly be committed to the daily mission of sharing the Gospel.”
Please pray for God to soften hearts toward the Gospel ahead of this event, and for those who don’t yet know Jesus Christ to attend Festival Esperanza CDMX.