In Rome Saturday night, people gathered in circles on the floor of the Palazzo dello Sport—Roma, praying out loud for a move of God.
Many were from churches all around Italy, volunteering at the two-day Noi Festival with Franklin Graham.
Later, God answered that prayer, as Italians streamed down to the front of the stage from all over the arena in response to Franklin Graham’s invitation to receive Jesus Christ by faith.
More than 500 people made that decision at the historic outreach, the first of its kind in Rome. More than 150 evangelical churches came together to partner with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in sharing the Gospel in Italy’s capital city.
Doris was one of those who came forward.
She had listened carefully, as the evangelist shared from Mark 10 the story of Bartimaeus—a blind beggar who called out for Jesus to heal him. “For the first time in his life, he had a window of hope,” said Franklin Graham.
Doris, 30, responded to the invitation and prayed for God to forgive her sins and for Jesus Christ to be her Lord and Savior.
“The message struck my heart,” Doris said. “I know that Christ will accept me. I want to forget my past. He will forgive me, forgive my sins, and bless me.
“I feel like crying.”
‘A Big Deal for Italy’s Christians’
The event has been highly anticipated among believers in Italy. Over 150 buses brought people from churches around the nation, some driving as many as six hours to attend.
Marti Pasquale understands the excitement. Originally from America, the 42-year-old has lived half her life as a missionary in Monte Porzio Catone, just outside the city. In 21 years, only two people in her town have become born-again believers.
While Italians are open to talking about faith and religion, she says, it still takes time for them to consider such an important change. “People here are very relational, and building relationships is important to establish trust.”
Her daughter, Lylia, jumped up on her seat, clapping and singing during Kari Jobe’s worship set. The 7-year-old doesn’t know any other evangelical Christian at her school of around 400 kids, explained her mom, who was excited to bring her along: “I want her to see that her faith is part of something bigger.”
Pasquale isn’t shy, inviting 50 families from her condo building, and others from the gym and her daughter’s school.
“The Noi Festival is a big deal for Italy’s Christians,” she explained. “To be able to invite people to an event that’s cool and done well—it’s a historic thing.”
“Franklin Graham is clear [about the Gospel] and very direct,” That’s important, she said, since Italians can be very direct as well.
“No one can take your sins,” Franklin Graham told the crowd of more than 10,000 people and an additional 27,000 others watching around the world online. “You cannot save yourself. You cannot buy forgiveness. But there’s Jesus. There’s Jesus,” he said.
‘Hard Spiritual Soil’
As the area in front of the stage filled with people wanting to start a new relationship with Christ, it was a much-needed reminder to youth pastor Max Schaafsma that sharing the Good News matters.
“Italy is such a cold, hard spiritual soil,” he said, explaining so many are atheists or just indifferent to faith.
“With the youth, I’m going to pour into them, share the Gospel with them, invite them to church—knowing it could be next week or in 10 years that they make a commitment to Christ.
“You just gotta keep persevering, reminding them, keep sharing [Jesus] with them because eventually something will come up and you’ve got to be ready.”
Want to know more about surrendering your life to Christ? Pray now.