Spreading Hope: The Iceland Adventure

By   •   September 20, 2013

Quick question: What do you know about Iceland?

It’s icy, right? Or is it green?

Maybe you vaguely remember the history lesson — in the late 900s, Erik the Red was exiled from Iceland to a country he called Greenland, and he tried to convince other Vikings to come visit.  One of history’s first bait-and-switch marketing schemes.

So it turns out, Greenland’s actually icy. And Iceland’s actually green, or relatively speaking anyway.

But that’s not where the confusion stops.

In the year 1000, the government declared Iceland a Christian nation — mostly to fend off a civil war — and the pagans would be allowed to worship privately as a compromise.

And over a thousand years later, 90 percent of Iceland calls themselves Christians.

Yet, less than 4 percent understand the true Gospel message. That’s right, less than 13,000 people in the entire country, according to Operation World.

“The church (in Iceland) has a place in your life, but it’s not a primary place,” said Hans Mannegren, director of the Sept. 28 and 29 Festival of Hope (Hátíð Vonar). “You may go to church once or twice a year. Maybe for a funeral or a wedding, but it’s not of great importance.”

According to a 2011 Gallup poll, 60 percent of Icelanders considered religion to be unimportant in their daily lives, one of the highest rates of irreligion in the world.

So with only 3.8 percent of the Iceland population identifying themselves as evangelical Christians, the need to share the Good News of the Gospel is as pressing as ever.

“The challenges are not on the practical level, but on the spiritual level,” Mannegran said. “We have a combination of what we call the post-modern and the secular mind.”

Logistically speaking, Iceland is very easy to navigate. The country is about the size of Kentucky with a sparse population of only 320,000 — about the number of Lexington, Ky., residents.   

But the real challenge is not just finding people to invite to the Festival of Hope, but trying to figure out where they stand spiritually. Some 275,000 (or more than 85 percent) are affiliated with the State Church, which is nominally Lutheran, according to Wikipedia.

“It’s also perceived as everyone is on the same team,” Mannegren said. “The majority of the people have been baptized in the Lutheran church. A lot of people would perceive themselves as being Christian.”  

Dedicated believers have been in prayer for months and in some cases years, hoping for revival to sweep across this nation. A concentrated prayer effort started in the spring of 2008, shortly before the economic collapse, and a group of 15-30 people have been praying weekly — every Wednesday at noon — ever since for God to move mightily.

“It’s a small community that thinks evangelistically, but those who do are excited and they are the ones who have been praying,” Mannegren said. “It’s an amazing story how this came to be.”

Reykjavik (pronounced RAKE-ya-vick), the northernmost capital city in the world is home to about a third of the Iceland residents (two-thirds if you look at the greater Reykjavik region).  It’s already turning cold in Reykajavik, as highs are forecasted for the low-to-mid 40s.

The two-day event will be held at Laugardalshöll, an indoor sports and exhibition center used for concerts and events like team handball. The venue will be set up to accommodate about 3,000 people plus an overflow area.

Bobby Fisher defeated Russia’s Boris Spassky here in the World Chess Championship 1972, often dubbed as the “Match of the Century.”  The local committee, fervently praying these past couple months, is hoping this turns into the “Event of the Century.”

On Sept. 28 and 29, it will be Michael W. Smith headlining the Festival of Hope’s musical lineup, which also features local artists, setting the stage for a Gospel message of hope from Franklin Graham.

Mannegren is convinced the Festival of Hope will be a catalyst for the Christian community and confront and encourage those who have fear of sharing Christ with friends and neighbors.

“It’s scary to invite your friends to come,” he said. “You don’t know how they’re going to react. But it forces people to believe in God more than believing in methods.”  

Please pray for this outreach, which is taking place on the same weekend as Franklin Graham’s son, Will Graham, preaches the Gospel in Fukushima, Japan, an area which suffered another earthquake today (5.3 magnitude) and is still trying to recover psychologically from the radiation fallout from the 2011 tsunami.

“With dad being in Europe and I’m in Asia, that’s what the Gospel is about,” Will Graham said. “I guess In one sense we’re preaching to the uttermost parts of the world.”


But both still covet your prayers this weekend.

“This is about prayer,” Mannegren said. “We pray that God will open the minds of people. And that God will open the minds of Christians that they will invite their friends and neighbors.”

Franklin Graham agrees wholeheartedly about the importance of prayer.

“We need prayer,” he said. “We can not do a Festival without prayer. It takes people praying for the unsaved.”


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  1. Ruth says:

    How I pray for God to stir up hearts in Iceland to respond to HIS message. Put boldness in Franklin Graham and in true believers to invite those who don't know the Lord personally to come hear the Good News. I am praying today…

  2. Diann says:

    I concur with above congratulatory positive comments for enlightening Icelanders to the Saving Grace of God through Jesus Christ ,His SON. I will pray with those many for understanding of Franklin and Will Graham withGod's Grace and Mercy.

  3. Bright says:

    I will pray for you both so that the Gospel which is the best message to the world will be received with power and thousands will be set free from the devil's deception.

  4. Hafdis says:

    Thank you for coming. This will be great! So exited.

  5. Paul Michael says:

    Praise God for your compassionate heart that is just like Christ who does not want to see His children being ignorant of Jesus Christ promises for them. I pray that Holy Spirit will saturate those hearts who attend this convention. God bless you all

  6. Bettie says:

    Lord, I pray for your Men of God taking Words of our Father Jesus Christ, Far in other Lands. Into the homes and Hearts of many and for the missionary in prison in another country to come home. Aman

  7. Jack says, says:

    Two Countries, Needing JESUS CHRIST, Its fellowship, The right words, Will gather, Brothers and Sisters in CHRIST, The GOSPEL, SALVATION, And the TRUTH, GOD is saying to his children, His CHURCH, With LOVE, That can not be Ignored, PRAY. PRAY, PRAY.

  8. Nancy says:

    Dear Dr Graham I met you when I was 11 in Pgh You were visiting with Dr John Calvin Reed I had dinner with you at their home I have carried that meeting forward with me May God smile upon you May you be embraced by warm hearts, smiling faces, and Luv

  9. Kristjan says:

    Please be fair and not ignorant. Icelanders are evangelical as majority. Baptized and we, common Icelanders pray for the Billy Graham meeting and we are as a Evangelical lutheran participating in it. I am just a common Icelander and my friends.

  10. Inga says:

    Iceland is so blessed to have the opportunity to have your team coming to us. And I am sure Iceland will not be the same after 😉