For months, believers all around the Eastern European nation of Georgia have been praying at 10 p.m. every night for changed hearts and lives at this weekend’s Festival of Hope (Imedis Festivali) in Tbilisi.
Now, on the eve of the Festival, there’s a change of venue.
A fire at the Sports Palace in downtown Tbilisi around 3 a.m. Tuesday morning left the venue unusable, and the three-day event will now be held in the courtyard at Evangelical Faith Church of Georgia.
Each night, the Festival of Hope will begin at 7 p.m., with a fourth event added at noon on Sunday.
“These kind of accidents happen,” Franklin Graham said during an interview session with local Tbilisi media members. “These challenges happen in life, but we believe God is in control and we’re going to continue to preach the Gospel.”
Home to the largest evangelical congregation in Georgia, the church is located at T. Eristavi Street 1, about 4 miles north of the Sports Palace and right next to the Didube stop on the Tbilisi Metro line.
Festival volunteers worked Thursday evening, setting up chairs at the brick courtyard flanked by pine trees.
Franklin Graham, along with his interpreter, will share about the hope of Christ from the top of eight cement stairs.
Nearly every Georgia evangelical church—150 across the country—has come together for the Festival of Hope.
“God loves Georgia,” Franklin Graham said. “And we still think this Festival will allow us to share about God’s love.”
This marks the second near-miss at the Sports Palace for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. In 1993, Franklin Graham’s father, Billy Graham, was preaching a five-day event in Essen, Germany, to be broadcast to more than 50 countries, including at the Sports Palace, but opposition in Tbilisi cancelled the event.
It’s also the second Franklin Graham Festivals this year to move venues. In early April, the first night of the Festival of Hope in El Paso, Texas, was moved after the University of Texas El Paso women’s basketball team reached the NIT championship game.
That event was scheduled for the Don Haskins Center on both April 5 and 6, but Franklin Graham agreed to move the Festival of Hope outdoors on April 5 to the nearby UTEP football practice field, aptly named Glory Field.
For more info on the Festival of Hope coming to Tbilisi in many languages, click here.
The Evangelical Faith Church of Georgia is now hosting the Festival of Hope, with an additional fourth meeting added at noon on Sunday.