It’s hard to put into words the significance of what happened in Portugal at 18:30 hours on Dec. 6.
As Billy Graham preached on RTP-2, Portugal’s nationwide arts/culture government channel, walls keeping the Gospel from moving forth in this country were starting to come down, one living room at a time.
And at the same time, it was a historical marker for the Billy Graham Evangelical Association’s International Ministry.
“This is the start of our first significant outreach in western Europe,” said Bill Conard, BGEA’s Vice President of International Ministries.
More than 37 years have passed since a massive evangelical effort that would have brought a Billy Graham Crusade to Portugal was shut down by a 1974 revolution.
And now, after three years of planning to bring Billy Graham into living rooms and churches across Portugal through a media outreach known as My Hope, national coordinator Paulo Pascoal sat nervously on a kitchen chair, his living room full of unsaved in-laws.
At 18:30, would My Hope actually show up on his modest living room flat screen?
“I didn’t sleep well last night,” an anxious Pascoal said. “To be honest, the first emotion came when I saw the program come on the TV. I said, ‘Wow, it’s really happening.'”
The 11th-Hour Struggle
To say that My Hope came down to the last minute may be as understated as calling the coconut cake here a pretty good dessert.
“It’s typical in our culture to procrastinate,” said Pascoal, born and raised in Lisbon. But still, to not get an agreement until 2 p.m. on Dec. 2 to bring My Hope to broadcast airwaves was pushing it, even for a country this laid-back.
In the meantime, an inclusive media campaign was launched, including an exhaustive newspaper and Internet advertising effort and back-up plans to broadcast My Hope on streaming video, free cable-TV pay-per-view and 10,000 DVDs, distributed to each Matthew host through the churches.
“This is the most focused, intensive outreach My Hope project to date,” said Conard of the organization’s 56th My Hope country. “And most of that has been in the last week, because of the uncertainty and how God has used it.”
What normally is an organized, three-night program at one specific time has turned into a weeklong campaign through a multitude of platforms and a variety of time slots.
On Dec. 6, 7 and 9, My Hope will be shown live at 18:30 on RTV, but since many Matthews and churches had been planning on Dec. 8-10 at the official dates, streaming Internet, pay-per-view and DVD showings will be heavily utilized on those days. TBN Europe will also be broadcasting the program.
“This is not just three nights,” said Pablo Sanchez, the country director. “It’s a different kind of project.”
But for BGEA it carries great significance. On Dec. 15-17, My Hope will launch in Spain and it may open the door to spreading the Gospel to other western Europe countries.
“In a certain sense, this is an experiment, a test,” Conard said. “The real question has been will the Portuguese open their homes? Will Europeans open their homes?”
An Internet Crusade
Besides the streaming video component, the Internet is playing a critical role in the My Hope Portugal project.
Shortly after the Dec. 6 broadcast, hundreds had logged onto pazcomdeus.net and during one 20-minute stretch, 25 decisions for Christ had been registered.
Over 100 churches in Portugal have committed to joining the pazcomdeus.net follow-up and counseling effort.
“I’m sure this is not just going to be a week,” Pascoal said. “It’s going to be a movement.”
‘Exactly the Opportunity’
The family had gathered for a meal of bread, cheese, meat, coconut cake and a holiday dessert called “Cake of the Kings.”
But as the clock ticked within 15 minutes of 18:30, Pascoal’s wife’s family had found their seats on two green leather sofas and some kitchen chairs.
A mix of local testimony and music videos were aired with preaching from Mr. Graham, who talked about the tragedies in the 1999 Columbine shootings and stressed God’s incredible love for all people.
“I want to tell you God loves you,” Mr. Graham said. “He loves you so much, He sent his Son to die on the cross for your sins.”
A post-My Hope discussion broke out in the Pascoal home and after some My Hope literature was handed out, one of the family members asked if she could talk more about the Gospel portion of the program soon.
Even for Pascoal, in charge of the program, sharing the Gospel to a room full of unsaved family members was an enormous step.
“We did it,” he said. “They know how we live, but we’ve never had a chance to explain the Gospel in a way they would understand. Today was exactly the opportunity we have been waiting for.
“We’ve been praying for them for a long time,” Pascoal continued. “My wife has been waking up at 6 a.m. for about a year now praying for them. But it’s hard for them to think of moving from a traditional religion. Now, it’s God’s business.”
One report from the first night was a church hosting several smaller Matthew outreaches together and with a crowd of several dozen, saw seven people receive Christ as their Savior.
Shortly after Pascoal’s family left, he heard the report of a woman who invited a friend to come over to watch the program, and while he declined the invitation, she prayed for him during the program. He ended up watching My Hope at his home, made a decision to receive Christ and called the woman to tell her.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm and expectation,” Pascoal said. “The first thing is to praise God that the program was even on. That’s the first miracle.”
Pray for My Hope Portugal
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