He was there to sell hot corn on the cob—until a woman walking by his food cart felt God telling her to turn around and talk to him.
Maria Daconceicao Pereira Vianna wore a neon green vest under her poncho with the Portuguese word for “counselor” across her back. She served at Saturday’s Esperança Rio (Hope Rio), a Festival with Franklin Graham on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Throughout the event, vendors lined the boardwalk by the stage, selling bracelets, ponchos, cotton candy, pork rinds … and corn.
Following Franklin Graham’s message, Maria walked along the path and spotted a 20-year-old corn vendor watching the stage. She walked past him, but something told her to go back. She approached the young man and asked him what he thought about the message he’d just heard from Franklin Graham.
The young man said his parents are Christians but he was far from God and didn’t really have time for Him. Maria held an umbrella over his head while they chatted so he wouldn’t get wet making a few sales as they talked.
She told him the time is now, this is the moment to commit to God who offers a full life of meaning and purpose. Why wait?
There at his food stand, the young man decided she was right and asked Jesus to fill his life. He gladly gave Maria his contact information for follow up as he draws closer to God.
Planned or Unplanned, They Heard the Gospel
Walking through an audience of about 68,000 people Saturday night, there’s no way to calculate what the Festival meant to each one watching.
Like the mother and daughter who saw an ad for the event on the metro.
The couple on vacation from Montreal, Canada, who just graduated high school and took a stroll on the beach when they happened upon the Festival.
Or the young man in a sweatshirt with his hood up, smoking a cigarette and watching from the sidewalk with a distant look in his eyes.
One middle-aged man who lives in Copacabana saw the stage being constructed throughout the week. Curious, he made his way to the event Saturday and stood under a tree in the wide median across the street, taking in the worship music.
André Carvalho also stopped by after seeing ads all over town. The food delivery driver parked his red motorcycle and leaned against it to watch the Festival. Wearing a waterproof jacket and pants, he got teary eyed as raindrops slid off his bike. He said he could feel the Holy Spirit in that place and thought of his friends who need the hope of Jesus.
Close by, Rafael Leopoldo was selling fried cones with various fillings like dulce de leche, something he learned to make from YouTube. He heard about the Festival on the radio and said he’s familiar with the late Billy Graham. Rafael watches him on YouTube, too, always drawn to his messages of grace.
Once his food was sold out, Rafael pulled his cart away from the main drag and listened as Billy Graham’s son delivered the same Gospel during an unseasonably cold drizzle.
Unusual Weather, Unexpected Observers
Chilly and rainy isn’t how most people would describe Rio de Janeiro on the southern coast of Brazil. Even the famous Christ the Redeemer statue, a major tourist attraction overlooking Rio, was left in the fog over the weekend with zero view of the city below.
Yet the unusual weather didn’t deter the thousands who showed up for the Festival, and Christ was still revealed to hundreds who desperately need Him.
Jesus is more than a statue on a hill, Pastor Josué Valandro Junior said during an impassioned prayer from the Festival stage. The pastor said he didn’t want people leaving the event thinking, “That was great music” or “That was good preaching,” but understanding Jesus is alive and has the power to change lives.
“Whether the sun shines or the rain falls, we’re going to preach the Gospel today,” Franklin Graham said hours prior to the event.
And that’s exactly what he did as colorful umbrellas popped up above the crowd.
“Is your soul safe and secure? If you died tonight, would God accept you into His presence?” Franklin Graham asked.
The soft, light brown sand was wet, a brisk breeze blew across the ocean, puddles formed along the sidewalks and cold raindrops fell, but even so, people stayed put during the message. Much of the crowd stayed long after to hear more music, regardless of the rain.
As Franklin Graham predicted earlier in the day, those who weathered the rain really wanted and needed to be there.
Even unexpected observers like boardwalk vendors.