Just last week, Poland celebrated 25 years of democracy. And although still relatively young in its political reform, the nation stands at a stark contrast from when Billy Graham first preached the Gospel there in 1978 under communist regime.
Mr. Graham described his time in Poland, which included a visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp, as “one of the most unforgettable events” of his life.
“Christians know the human heart is capable, because of sin, of incredible acts of evil and destruction. Auschwitz is a sobering witness of this fact,” he said. “But Christians also know that God is able to change the human heart.”
Memories of the Holocaust and oppressive society that once consumed Poland still linger. But as Franklin Graham prepares to follow in his father’s footsteps to preach in Warsaw June 14-15, church leaders are hoping for a new wave of evangelism like what followed Billy Graham’s visit.
“We’re talking about only a short period of history of democracy, yet the place where we are today—there are many things to be thankful to the Lord about, and we appreciate the openness to be able to share the Gospel,” said Wladyslaw Dwulat, executive chairman for the Warsaw Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham.
“Our main prayer is to see many people come to the saving knowledge of Christ,” he added.
Dwulat was a Christian academy student when Mr. Graham preached in Warsaw in the late ’70s. Now, he serves as general secretary of the Polish Evangelical Alliance.
It was at one of the group’s meetings that he introduced the idea of Franklin Graham coming to Poland to preach the Gospel.
Since then, Dwulat has been amazed at the number of churches uniting across denominations to rally support for the Festival of Hope.
“The Festival represents the majority of evangelicals and historical churches in Poland,” he said.
“It’s a good spirit and understanding of the need for the revitalization of the country,” Dwulat explained, adding that leaders have been meeting for the last 11 months or so to make sure every detail is covered.
Today, much of Poland identifies with the Catholic faith, so an evangelical event of this size sets precedence.
“We’ve never had anything like this in the country. We’ve never had events similar to the Festival of Hope,” Dwulat said.
And because of that, getting the word out about the Gospel event has been key.
“We know that it is important for us to mobilize, bring friends, and create a spirit of understanding and cooperation between the churches,” Dwulat said.
Though Poland is historically a “very traditional” country, Dwulat feels many people are no longer looking for spiritual growth, but instead, material possessions.
“The values like the family and integrity are declining,” he said. “There’s an emphasis on materialism and religious indifference.”
Dwulat has witnessed several prayer meetings as the Festival of Hope nears.
“We want the Word preached clearly and the Holy Spirit at work, so we’ve been praying every day and night,” Dwulat said.
He sees the Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham not only as an event to impact people Saturday and Sunday, but an opportunity to impact Poland’s churches for years to come.
“The message of the Festival of Hope is the message of Jesus Christ,” Dwulat said. “We are trying to put the [congregational] differences aside to communicate that the Gospel is the most important message.
“And I believe the cooperation is not only for the sake of the Festival, but that the relationships between churches will stay,” he continued.
Dwulat summed up how people can be praying for Poland in one word:
“The goal is to have as many people as possible develop that relationship with Christ,” he said.
“[We want to] walk into the presence of God and other Christians with an open heart, an open mind, to be basked by the Word of God preached and the work of the Holy Spirit,” Dwulat added. “Without that, it would just be another event, and we don’t want to have just an event.”