(Photo: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)
Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), is in Budapest, Hungary, Friday for the beginning of a three-day "Festival of Hope" event that seeks to revive evangelic efforts in the Eastern European nation.
"We are here to preach God's Gospel at the invitation of area churches," Graham said in a statement, revealing that a year's work and around 312 churches from various denominations had brought the outreach effort together. The worship event will include a thousand-strong choir, an opera, the Air Force band, Christian singers like Michael W. Smith and Casting Crowns, and other musical guests.
"Everyone will find something to enjoy. But this isn't a weekend event," Graham explained. "This effort took more than a year's worth of work, planning and prayer. There has been a small army of people working behind the scenes."
"We have great problems – economic problems, political problems – and no one seems to have the answer. And that's because our problem is a spiritual problem," Graham said as he recalled a visit with his father, Billy Graham, to Hungary in the 1980s.
Like much of the rest of Europe, Hungary has faced the influence of secularism in recent times. In 2001, statistics showed that 54.5 percent of the total population were Catholic, while 19.5 were Protestant, but a 2005 poll revealed that only 44 percent of Hungarians believe there is a God, with another 31 percent believing there is some sort of spirit or life force.
"I prayed that many lives will be changed this weekend. I cannot change lives but God can use His Word in a mighty way," Graham shared of his prayers on the way to Hungary.
"We're committed to preaching the truth as revealed in the Bible, and we proclaim the Gospel that changes hearts and saves souls for eternity."
Last year, Graham led another major Festival of Hope in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a year after a massive earthquake killed over 300,000 people and left a million homeless. The January 9, 2011 prayer and worship event, which drew over 500 local churches, sought to inspire the whole nation. Samaritan's Purse has continuously helped Haitian churches with rebuilding efforts, constructing tens of thousands of shelters and providing food and clean water for the many in need.
Phone messages to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association were not immediately returned at the time of press.