Hundreds made life-changing decisions for Christ as Franklin Graham and his son Will Graham presented the Gospel to people in two unlikely places in two separate continents on Saturday, as part of an outreach of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which continues Sunday.
The father and son are in Iceland and Japan, which are more than 5,000 miles apart on separate continents. Franklin Graham shared the Good News at the Festival of Hope, or Hátíð Vonar, in Reykjavik on Saturday, while Will Graham spoke at the Celebration of Hope in Fukushima.
The Laugardalshöll arena in Reykjavik was packed with people, according to the BGEA. More than 40 churches participated in the BGEA's first outreach to Iceland in its 60-plus-year history.
Before Franklin Graham's bold Gospel message, a variety of local musicians set the stage with powerful worship. Michael W. Smith also sang new and old favorites.
"Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. Maybe tonight you'd like to see Jesus," said Franklin Graham, who serves as president and CEO of the BGEA and heads the Samaritan's Purse.
About 3,000 believers and seekers came to listen to him. The number is enormous for a country with only 320,000 residents, the BGEA said. "In fact, scaled to size, it would be the equivalent to an evangelistic meeting in the U.S. of about 3 million people."
Though it was founded as a Christian nation about 1,000 years ago, only about 3.8 percent of the people in Iceland are Christian, according to Operation World. According to a 2011 Gallup poll, 60 percent of Icelanders considered religion to be unimportant in their daily lives, one of the highest rates of irreligion in the world.
The Festival of Hope continues at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
In Fukushima, Will Graham stressed that there is hope. "There may be some here who are considering suicide. God wants to give you something to live for. He wants to fill that void in your life," he told the crowd at the 1,800-seat auditorium. "Tonight I want you to know that Jesus Christ loves you. He wants to give you a new beginning; a fresh life."
"Many Japanese believe in many gods. There's a god of Buddhism; Shinto religion, and Shinto has a lot of gods," the BGEA quotes the Rev. Makoto Hosoi, general superintendent of Japan Assemblies of God, as saying on its website. "So the way the Japanese people think about gods is a little bit different than the way that Americans think about God. For Americans, it's God singular, but here when you say god, it's gods, plural."
Less than 1 percent of Japan's population is Christian. The people there are still recovering from the March 2011 tsunami and nuclear power plant meltdown.
"Both of us are in tough places right now," said Will Graham. "But we believe we're both where God wants us to be… I guess in one sense we're preaching to the uttermost parts of the world."
Billy Graham, Franklin Graham's father, will turn 95 on Nov. 7, the day a 30-minute program called "The Cross" will air for the first time, featuring the evangelist's new message to America. Part of a project called My Hope with Billy Graham, the program will air across North America both on live TV as well as streaming internet and DVDs distributed through the more than 22,000 involved churches beginning Billy Graham's birthday.
My Hope is aimed at giving believers an opportunity to invite their friends over to watch and also ask if they'd like to invite Christ into their lives, as Billy Graham's son and grandson are doing in Iceland and Japan.