When Kohei Hara was a college freshman in Tokyo, he struggled to find genuine friendship. “Even though there were a lot of students on campus,” he recalls, “I felt really lonely and I was seeking something.” But his quest did not naturally lead him to God.
Like many Japanese youth, he grew up without a strong belief system. “I was more of an atheist, but would go to the Buddhist temple for funerals and on special occasions. It wasn’t a real center in my life.”
Not long after arriving on campus, Hara was invited to a fellowship by a Christian student. “Even though I went to the Christian fellowship, I was afraid of religion because cults were beginning to emerge, like the one that caused the Tokyo subway poisoning the following year,” says Hara. “I was a little afraid of accepting Christ, of being a Christian.”
For the next six months, Hara gradually studied the Bible and learned about Christianity. Then, in January 1994, Billy Graham came to town. One of Hara’s friends was training to be a counselor at the Crusade, so he practiced sharing the Gospel with Hara. “He was full of training and knew how to use the material and I said yes to receive Christ on January 13.”
The next day, his friend took him to the Crusade at the Tokyo Dome. “I listened to the message from Dr. Billy Graham and I confirmed my faith and went forward at the altar call,” says Hara. “I read the devotional booklet and the follow up materials. I learned how to get into a church and got baptized.
“Because I accepted Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade,” he adds with great excitement, “I am so happy that the BGEA and Franklin Graham are coming to Osaka!”
As part of his work with Campus Crusade for Christ, Hara is mobilizing students to attend the Festival. “We want to spread this spiritual movement all over Osaka and the Kansai region. We want to impact the whole nation for Christ.”
Leaders Look for Revival
Hara is not alone in his excitement. Festival Director Chad Hammond says that the entire leadership team is “very excited” about what God will do at this Franklin Graham Festival. “We believe God can impact Kansai in a way that, 30 years from today, people will look back on this Festival the same way they looked back at the Billy Graham Crusade 30 years ago. They will realize that Franklin Graham, when he came to Kansai, began a revival.”
Osaka attorney Akihiro Mochida would agree. “During the Japanese Edo period, our country was closed to the outside world. But an American, Commodore Matthew Perry, came to Japan to open the country to the West. That is one of the historical moments in Japan. This Festival will be a second historical moment that will open this nation to the Gospel, and Franklin Graham will be a second Admiral Perry.”
Mochida prays that “many will be saved—but even if one person accepts Christ—it will be worth it. I pray for spiritual revival in the Kansai area.”
Festival Executive Chairman Yoshikazu Takada says, “Excitement is beginning to grow. I believe God’s Holy Spirit is moving among many churches. So many people are dealing with disappointment nowadays. I believe this is God’s time to give people hope in Christ.”
Even people half way around the world are praying for this Festival and for the church in Japan. “Although I am not living in Japan now, I’m very excited to hear about Franklin Graham Festival,” says Hotaru Hayashi, who is a student at Portland Bible College in Oregon.
“My mother church is in Osaka—Toyonaka Hozumi Church. After I heard the problems which Japanese churches and pastors and Christians have, and when I heard that the great preacher Franklin Graham will come to Japan, my heart burned for Jesus and I decided to fast and pray for my nation.”
Along with his friends at Portland Bible College, Hayashi has been fasting and praying every lunch time until the Festival ends. They also made a video to call the world to fast and pray for Japan and the upcoming Festival. You can view the video here »
Claudia Martinez from Peru says, “Just yesterday, I was getting ready to mail something for my Japanese friend who lives in Osaka and thought about her family’s salvation. I was praying that they know Christ as their Lord and Savior.”
She says she felt “frustrated because I neither speak Japanese nor am I there to share about Christ. My friend and her family were very kind to me. They invited me to visit their country and paid my way in 2003. They know I’m Christian.”
Claudia is among those around the world praying for this Festival. “I hope my friend and her family will hear the Gospel there,” she adds.
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