“See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it.” Those words of Jesus to a church in Asia 2,000 years ago (Revelation 3:8, NKJV) are a vivid description of what He has just done for churches in a different part of Asia in our day.
During the week before Thanksgiving, we saw God do a mighty work in the nation of Myanmar when more than 170,000 people overflowed a three-day Crusade in Yangon, that country’s largest city, to hear the Gospel. It was a historic moment for churches there—Myanmar is a country where Christians have long endured persecution and where evangelism has been severely limited for decades by military governments. But when God opens the door, no opposition can shut it.
Christians boldly showed up at the Crusade from all over the country, bringing nonbeliever friends and loved ones with them. One small church near Yangon went door to door in their community inviting people—they ended up needing a bus because 70 neighbors wanted to come. Churches across the nation chartered over 400 buses—we had a massive bus jam all three evenings! Many from outlying areas rode for hours to attend. One group, representing village churches in a nearly inaccessible corner of Myanmar, traveled for two weeks by foot, boat, and then bus to be there.
Each night after I preached the Gospel, I invited people to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. It takes courage to make a public commitment in a culture that has been hostile to Christianity, but more than 7,500 left their seats to come forward. The response was so great that on the first night we didn’t have nearly enough prayer counselors. I know of one counselor who talked and prayed with 15 different people.
Some who responded to the invitation said they had never been inside a church building or attended a Christian event before. One 33-year-old man, who earns his living pedaling a three-wheeled trishaw (a bicycle with a sidecar for passengers), came forward during the invitation on the first night. He had known nothing about the meeting—he was simply passing by on the street hoping to pick up a fare when he heard my voice over the PA system as I talked about God’s offer of forgiveness. He immediately slipped into the crowd to listen because, he told a prayer counselor, “I am a very sinful man.” The counselor explained who Jesus Christ is and what He did on the cross and then helped him understand repentance.
“When I prayed,” the man said afterward, “my sins were forgiven. I feel free, like a burden has been released from my shoulders.”
I believe God has been preparing for some time to open the door—and hearts—in Myanmar. It was three years ago, while I was preaching at a Crusade in Thailand, that God gave me a deep burden for the people in neighboring Myanmar. Going there to preach seemed impossible, yet Christians in Myanmar were praying fervently for God to act. Soon the military government began relinquishing bits of power to civilian leaders, restrictions on churches became less enforced, and church leaders took courage. They asked us to plan to come in 2016. People all over America and the world have prayed along with the believers in Myanmar, and God answered.
It was very moving, while I was there, to have church delegations arrive from as far away as Hanoi, Vietnam; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; and Singapore to ask us to come to their cities to preach the Gospel. They have such a heart for the lost. Will you pray with us about these opportunities, especially about the government permissions that may be necessary? God hears the faithful prayers of His people.
And God welcomes repentant sinners—anywhere, anytime. One night in Myanmar, I shared the parable Jesus told about the prodigal son who left his father’s home and wandered into a life of sin. When the wayward son finally faced the truth about himself and returned in an attitude of sincere repentance, his loving father celebrated his return and forgave him on the spot! This is a wonderful picture of our Heavenly Father loving and welcoming us when we turn to Him in repentance.
I am so thankful that thousands of men, women, and young people in Myanmar have responded to the invitation to “come home” and trust Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of their lives. I thank God for working, and I give Him the glory. We know there was great celebrating in Heaven over each one! Pray for them as they grow in faith.
We have an exciting schedule of evangelism beginning in the new year. The Bible says that “Jesus went about all the cities and villages … preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 9:35). Jesus didn’t just go to the biggest population centers. God has given me a burden to preach the Gospel in smaller cities in America. Next year, starting in the spring, I plan to go across two states, Tennessee and Texas, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom in cities that are not the largest ones. Then as God enables, I want to do the same in a number of additional states the following year.
I will also lead evangelistic Crusades outside the continental U.S. next year, first in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and then later in other cities such as Oslo, Norway, and Vancouver, Canada. And our BGEA associate evangelists, including my son Will Graham, are scheduled to lead Crusades during 2017 in two dozen cities in the U.S. and around the world. As God calls sinners to Himself, pray that many will respond with hearts of repentance.
I was on the way to Myanmar when I learned of the death of Cliff Barrows, my father’s closest associate through six decades of ministry. I’ve called him Uncle Cliff my whole life. He was program and music director for the Billy Graham Crusades from the first one in Michigan in 1947 to the last one in New York City in 2005. He was always my father’s wise adviser and confidant. He was known worldwide for the gifted way he assembled and led mass choirs (one friend called him a “choir wrangler”), but people around him knew a prayer warrior and a man deeply committed to studying God’s Word and living it out. He memorized more Scripture than almost any person I know. He is now home in Heaven and, for Uncle Cliff, the joyfulness and singing that exemplified his life on earth continue today with no interruption.
This Christmas season you may be praying for a friend or loved one who needs to come home to the Father. I urge you to keep praying. Just as He did for Myanmar, God may be at work preparing the way for a mighty moving of His Spirit at just the right time in answer to your faithful prayers. May Christmas for you this year be a time of joy, trust, and contentment in the Lord as you honor our Savior’s birth.
God wants everyone home—everyone who is willing to repent of sin and turn in faith to the Savior Jesus Christ. That message is so urgent, the stakes are so high, and there are so many people who have not yet grasped it. That is why we do what we do. As we head toward a busy 2017, we are grateful for friends like you who partner with us through giving and praying—an investment that matters for eternity.