Two 20-something friends, Alvuro and Franklin, had heard about this Festival de Esperanza coming to town.
They had received plenty of invites from other friends. They knew it was this weekend at the soccer stadium in La Paz. Three nights. A lot of bands. A lot of fun. Franklin Graham preaching.
But neither really wanted to go.
“They couldn’t decide whether to come or not,” said Festival counselor Juan Carlos Duarte. “But something moved them to come.”
Maybe not so coincidentally, a team of prayer warriors have been lifting up the Festival de Esperanza (Festival of Hope) all week. Even on Friday morning, many were praying specifically for those who were on the fence, that the Holy Spirit would pierce their hearts.
Alvuro, 25, and Franklin, 26, were pierced not once Friday, but twice.
“They couldn’t explain it,” Duarte said. “But there was something in their hearts that moved them to come tonight and again to come forward.”
What they heard when they came to Rafael Mendoza Castellón Stadium on Friday was entertaining and uplifting music, most notably the popular Christian/Latin pop crossover duo Tercer Cielo, whose love ballads have been played at many Bolivian weddings.
They also heard a crystal clear Gospel message from Franklin Graham, who preached out of Mark 10:46-52, about the blind man Bartimaeus who called out to Jesus as he passed and was healed because he cried out Jesus’ name in faith.
Alvuro and Franklin had a similar experience as they made their way to the front — along with a throng of more than 1,000 other Bolivians — as Franklin Graham gave a clear invitation to receive Christ.
Duarte could see in their eyes, they were ready for a life-changing relationship.
“They both were crying,” Duarte said. “They were both happy they came and they gave their life to Christ.”
Duarte, 42, who lives in La Paz, had no doubt he was witnessing two souls on fire for Christ, even as temperatures had dropped into the mid-40s.
“They said their lives were messy and were destroyed,” Duarte said. “Seeing the tears made me think there was real repentance.”
Duarte, himself, was moved by the crowd’s response to Franklin’s message: “Tonight, are you willing to cry for mercy? Jesus stopped for Bartimaeus and He’ll stop for you.”
Bolivians started moving down the aisles about halfway through Franklin Graham’s message and many had already made it to the infield by the time the invitation was given. Two women, dressed in traditional Bolivian clothing and hats, began running toward the front.
“Very special,” Duarte said of his Festival counseling experience. “It was memorable to walk down the stairs with them. I felt like I was going on the journey with them to meet God. Very special.”
The Festival de Esperanza is the 14th Franklin Graham Festival in South America and the second one in Bolivia (Santa Cruz, 1999). With more than 800 churches involved, expectations for God to do great things continue throughout the weekend, with festivities beginning at 4 p.m. local time both Saturday and Sunday.
More Festival Information:
In Spanish, follow the Festival de Esperanza Bolivia Facebook page.