- (Photo: billygraham.org)
Evangelist Franklin Graham is preparing for his first sermon in Thailand for the Abundant Life Festival, where he will speak in front of thousands of people and answer deep questions, such as what or who is behind the universe.
"Every one of us, at some point in our lives, has looked up at the stars in heaven," Graham told reporters in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
"And we wonder and ask ourselves, 'Is there something – or someone – behind this universe?'"
The evangelist, who is president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and Samaritan's Purse, has been to the Asian country before to offer humanitarian aid during refugee crises and natural disasters. But the Nov. 22-24 event will mark his first major sermon to the people there.
Graham clarified that he is not going to Thailand to present a religion, but to "talk about God and how we can have a relationship with Him, and that relationship with God can only be established one way."
He continued: "I want the people of Thailand to know God loves Thailand. God gave His Son, Jesus Christ, for the Thai people. The God of this great universe will forgive our sins and heal our hearts as we accept His Son, Jesus Christ, into our hearts and lives."
With a population of over 67 million people, Christians in Thailand find themselves in the minority. The CIA Factbook lists that only 0.7 percent of the people there are Christians, while 94.6 percent identify as Buddhists.
Church leaders there say that they have already witnessed positive effects from the Abundant Life Festival, as the four major Christian denominations in Chiang Mai – Independent, Baptist, Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT) and Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand (EFT) – have been working together again after years of problems.
"We never worked together," explained Rev. Dr. Boonratna Boayen, honorary chairman of the Festival. "Sometimes, we'd fight."
"All our denominational backgrounds melted, and we became one," added Rev. Kiat Luksanasakulchai, co-executive chairman of the Festival
"Four rivers have come to be one because of this event. God is working through His churches. This is God's time for Chiang Mai and the northern part of Thailand."
Meanwhile, Graham's famous father, evangelist Billy Graham, who celebrated his 95th birthday earlier this month, returned home in Montreat, N.C. on Thursday after a two-day stay at the hospital due to respiratory congestion.
"Mr. Graham was alert and in good spirits during his stay. We are pleased with the results of Mr. Graham's evaluation," said William R. Hathaway, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Mission Hospital.