Sitting along the Rio Grande is the city of El Paso, Texas, one of the 20 biggest cities in the United States.
Across the border from El Paso is Juarez, Mexico, and up the road 40 miles you’ll find Las Cruces, N.M.
The region is home to more than 2.7 million people and has the distinction of being the largest bilingual workforce in the Western Hemisphere.
So when the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association accepted an invitation to host the Greater El Paso Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham, there were a few potential communication problems that needed to be quickly turned into no hay problema.
For starters, when Franklin Graham takes the stage at the University of Texas-El Paso’s Don Haskins Center, he will be joined by Galo Vasquez—BGEA’s Director of Latin America Ministries. Vasquez will translate Franklin Graham’s Gospel messages into Spanish, as he’s done in many Central and South American countries, including most recently in La Paz, Bolivia, in March 2013.
Nearly half of the churches involved in the April 5-6 Festival of Hope speak Spanish, including one-third which are fully Spanish-speaking congregations.
“It’s perhaps the first [traditional] Festival for Franklin in the U.S. where the message will be interpreted live from the platform,” Festival of Hope director Sam Hardy said.
The only other occasion happened in June of 2011 at the BGEA’s first Hispanic Festival inside U.S. borders—Festival de Esperanza in Los Angeles.
This Festival will weave both English and Spanish together as churches work past the language barrier to come together and spread the Good News in the Greater El Paso region.
“We’re doing every seminar, every publicity material in both English and Spanish,” Hardy said. “We had a prayer service of about 300 people that was fully bilingual. Every video was in English and Spanish. The music was one verse in English and one in Spanish. It was just a beautifully integrated prayer service.”
And the result of this dual-language Festival of Hope pre-planning has been nothing short of a work of God. Thus far, nearly 3,000 volunteers have been trained as counselors through the Christian Life & Witness course and FM419 youth classes.
Nearly one-third (177) of all churches located within a 100-mile radius of El Paso (on the U.S. side) have signed on for this evangelistic event to help reach unsaved friends and family around west Texas.
“It’s an extensive outreach,” Hardy said.
It’s also an extensive musical lineup. Saturday night will carry a youth focus and feature musical guests Thousand Foot Krutch, Flame and Funky.
Sunday will focus on the entire family and feature Daniel Calvetti, Michael W. Smith and a local Mariachi band. Both evenings will also feature the Tommy Coomes Band as well as Dennis Agajanian and the Gutierrez Brothers.
The BGEA has a long history communicating the Good News of Jesus in Latin American cultures. In 1958, Billy Graham’s Tour Caribbean included Puerto Rico, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico. In 1960, Mr. Graham traveled to South America for a chance to preach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Franklin Graham has preached the Gospel in nine South American countries, dating back to Brazil (Londrina) in 1991, as well as Mexico and six Central American countries.
Most recently, the BGEA’s Spanish-speaking ministry efforts include Mi Esparanza con Billy Graham, a video-based, in-home outreach, centered around Mr. Graham’s 95th birthday in November 2013. The BGEA’s Internet evangelism ministry also has launched a Spanish-speaking website, pazcondios.jesus.net.