(Photo: Samaritan's Purse)
Almost a year has passed since the devastating earthquake hit close to Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, leaving over a million people homeless.
Since the disaster that struck the highly populated area on January 12, 2010, survivors continue to struggle to rebuild their lives in the poorest country of the west.
It is in this desperate time that a Festival of Hope will be held with Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). He is set to lead the event in response to an invitation from 75 Haitian pastors eager to deliver the message of the Gospel as a reminder of hope and God’s love for the survivors.
More than 500 local churches will also gather in support for the event to be on held on Sunday, January 9, at Haiti’s National Soccer Stadium.
“It’s very important right now, the message of hope. The people of Haiti need hope,” said a pastor who lost his wife and daughter in the earthquake. “That’s the reason why it’s important to have the festival. Not only a festival but a festival of hope.”
Disaster response teams of international aid organization Samaritan’s Purse have continuously worked with Haitian churches over the past year, constructing over 10,000 shelters, providing food and clean water and treating over 6,500 victims in the recent cholera outbreak.
Last month, former governor of Alaska Sarah Palin joined Graham for a two-day visit to the island nation, hand delivering Operation Christmas Child shoe box gifts to poor and neglected children, dropping by a shelter community for victims left homeless and assessing the progress of recovery in towns left completely destroyed by the quake.
In a coordinated effort, BGEA dispatched trained chaplains to comfort and pray for people mourning lost family members and friends. The evangelical ministry has witnessed over 1,370 Haitians accept Christ since the disaster.
Despite the relief efforts, a recent status report by World Vision claimed that the small nation is unlikely to make a full recovery soon, with the country already dealing with problems in sanitation, health, education and income before the earthquake hit.
But the Christian community in Haiti remains hopeful, with BGEA Festival Director Sherman Barnette saying, “In my 20 years of doing this, I have never worked with a group of people more excited about a Festival and having Franklin come.”
“As far as preparation for the festival goes, all you have to do is hint that something needs to be done, and they are all over it. They get it done.”
A live streaming of the evangelical festival will be available on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. EST at www.billygraham.org/HaitiLive.