Crowds overflowed Corpus Christis American Bank Center Arena Friday for the opening night of the South Texas Festival with Franklin Graham.
On the first evening of the highly-anticipated evangelistic festival, over 8,300 people packed into the hockey rink-turned evangelistic stadium with a capacity of 7,000. Over 600 people responded with a decision for Christ.
"It was fantastic night," said Festival Director Dan Klug. Franklin was very passionate and very clear. There was a tremendous response last night. It was just ecstatic.
Local organizers said the turnout resulted from years of prayer.
"A lot of people have been praying a long time," said Pastor Steve Fieldcamp of First United Methodist Church. "Nothing happens without the power of prayer. I've been praying for nine years for revival."
Others attributed the unexpected high attendance to the support and coordination of the area's local churches.
Although historically the churches in Corpus Christi have not been unified in this city, over 170 churches of various denominations have been preparing for the three-day event since Franklin Graham accepted the invitation in January.
"I just think there's the whole Spirit at work, and there's a great hunger to know God and Christ as savior," said Fieldcamp.
While the citys name, Corpus Christi, translates to the body of Christ, Fieldcamp says, We'd like to see it transformed into the true body of Christ."
Klug similarly stated, "They would want nothing more than to see a town named after the body of Christ to reflect the biblical context of the body of Christ.
Franklin Graham, who will speak at all programs except Saturday morning, has been holding an average of seven festivals each year since 1989. To date, the 53-year-old evangelist has led more than 100 festivals in locations from Wichita, Kan., to Sydney, Australia, speaking to more than 3.4 million people.
Like the many messages Graham has delivered in past festivals, Friday night's message was "hope in Jesus Christ, and opportunity to be free from sin and receive forgiveness," said Blume.
And tonight, Graham will deliver the same message of Jesus. Organizers expect tonight's event to have an even greater turnout.
Tonights event will open at 7:00 p.m., local time, with performances by The Katinas, and will open at 4:00 p.m. for the final night on Sunday with music by CCM artist, Michael W. Smith.