(Photo: Scott Tokar)
LOS ANGELES – Evangelist Franklin Graham concluded his first outreach to the American Hispanic community in Los Angeles Sunday evening speaking about the value of the human soul.
The two-day Festival de Esperanza (Festival of Hope) opened on Saturday with crowds on both evenings first treated to mariachi and Latin-flavored music performed by Christian artists.
Graham said it’s hard for people to truly understand the value of their souls. His message was translated on stage by Galo Vasquez, who is the director of Latin American Ministries for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
“Think about the power of the Internet and what companies like Google and Microsoft are worth now,” Graham said. “Your soul is worth more than Google, Microsoft, and the whole Internet combined. Not only that, it’s more valuable than the whole world.”
“The body is made out of dust of the ground,” Graham continued. “Your soul is the real you and it will never die. What should it profit a man to gain whole world but lose his soul?”
Crowds fell substantially short of filling the 27,000-seat Home Depot Center in Carson that hosts L.A. Galaxy professional soccer games. However, the combined attendance for both nights was more than 18,000 people, according to organizers. More than 1,500 people left their seats to join others in front of the stage on the stadium field when invited to accept Jesus by Graham. The event was broadcast live at BGEA.org.
Los Angeles resident Carlos Mejia, originally from Guatemala, said he was overwhelmed by God’s power as he fell to the ground after rededicating his life to Jesus during Graham’s prayer for those on the stadium field.
“When I heard the pastor I felt like Jesus was calling me to go up there,” said Mejia, 27, through a field counselor translator. “I felt like I was in another place. I didn’t know what was going on. The power of the Lord is big.”
Graham has preached in all but one of the Spanish-speaking countries in Central and South America, with the one exception being Guatemala. The festival is the first of its kind in the 60-plus-year history of the BGEA, working specifically through the Hispanic churches in the Los Angeles area. In L.A. County, there are 4.7 million Hispanics, making up 47 percent of the population.
Graham said at a press conference on Friday that he wants to reach Hispanics, many whom may be religious, but do not have a relationship with Jesus. The oldest son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, he is currently the director of BGEA and Samaritan’s purse.
Carlos Quintero, the president of the Festival Executive Committee, presented Franklin with a plaque before the Gospel message, thanking him on behalf of Hispanic churches in Los Angeles for “the seeds of love and compassion you have planted in our city during this first Hispanic Festival.”