Salvation in the Sand? Praying for God to Move on Rio’s Copacabana Beach

By   •   June 3, 2022

More than 4,000 churches are partnering with the BGEA for today's Esperança Rio, a one-day event on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. Franklin Graham will share the love of Christ to thousands.

Copacabana Beach, a 2.5-mile stretch of sand in Rio de Janeiro, hosts some of the biggest parties on earth.

But today (June 11), Brazil’s famous coastline is hosting a different type of party: a festival all about the Gospel of Jesus Christ called Esperança Rio.

“I’m going to be preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ on Saturday night. There’s a real hunger in this city,” Franklin Graham said from Copacabana Beach. “We have over 4,000 churches that have been participating. It’s incredible.”

On top of 4,000-plus churches that are involved, more than 30,000 believers have attended pre-event trainings on sharing their faith.

“We have seen this festival being a uniting factor for churches,” said Chris Swanson, vice president of Hispanic Initiatives for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). “The Gospel is always going to unite.

Franklin Graham preaching in Fortaleza
Franklin Graham’s most recent evangelistic event in Brazil was seven years ago in the city of Fortaleza. Please pray as he returns to share the Gospel on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach.

They’ve been setting the beach stage for today—when Franklin Graham and a host of talented musicians from Brazil and North America will share messages of God’s love.

“I don’t know what God is getting ready to do, but it’s going to be something and it’s going to be on this beach Saturday night,” Franklin Graham said. “We’re thankful for the church and the pastors and their support.

“And thank you for your support and your prayers. We couldn’t do this without you.”

How You Can Pray for Esperança Rio

  • For clear weather during the outdoor evangelistic event.
  • For nonbelievers to be drawn to hear the music and messages.
  • For the audio and visual technology to allow the Gospel message to go forth clearly.
  • For safety as thousands make their way to Copacabana Beach.
  • For effective follow-up among the churches committed to disciple new believers.

The Unique Transportation Challenge

The party is ready. The invites have been sent. But now we just have to help locals get to Copacabana Beach.

“[Rio de Janeiro] sits largely on a coastline, and so your access down to the beach is limited,” explained Swanson.

The city limits the number of buses brought into the beach area, so the Esperança Rio team came up with a unique transportation strategy. 

“Buses, trains and boats work together with the same transportation oversight [in Rio de Janeiro], and so people have what they call ‘Rio cards,'” said Swanson. With those cards, locals can use all three forms of transit to get around the city—including the beach.

“We’ve had 60,000 of those cards produced, and they have a unique Esperança Rio logo on the front. Those cards are only activated on June 11, the day of the event,” Swanson explained.

Rio cards
These “Rio cards” will allow locals to use any form of public transportation to get to Esperança Rio. You can help pre-load the cards to cover the round-trip cost.

Each of those cards is pre-loaded with 50 percent of the transportation cost and distributed to local churches. The idea is for believers to get a Rio card and bring an unsaved friend. So their friends’ transportation cost is completely covered.

“The churches have some skin in the game, because they have to put the other 50 percent on the card,” said Swanson.

As believers in Brazil rally around the Gospel, you can get involved, too.

You can preload a Rio card to cover one person’s round-trip fare. BGEA also reserved a fleet of buses to give those in harder to reach places a ride to hear the Good News.

The average round-trip transportation cost comes to $7 per person.

By giving someone a ride to Rio, you’re not just meeting a physical need. You’re fighting a spiritual battle.

Brazil is a very spiritual country, … for good or for evil. It’s very real. It’s very palpable, and it’s something that we’re very clear about as a festival team,” said Swanson.

The Bible warns us that Satan is clever, and he could use something as simple as transportation to prevent people from hearing the Good News. Your gift might be all the encouragement a nonbeliever needs to get on a bus, train or boat—and ultimately hear about a Savior who knows and loves them.

We are in a spiritual war here, [and] the battle is not against flesh and blood,” said Swanson. 

soccer Brazil favela
Today, a creative transportation effort will help kids from the slums of Rio de Janeiro (called “favelas”) hear Franklin Graham share the Gospel.