(Photo: Bill Graham Evangelistic Association)
A three-day evangelistic festival in Japan headlined by U.S. preacher Franklin Graham concluded Sunday with 400 new commitments to Christ, bringing the weekend total to 1,765.
The Kansai Franklin Graham Festival, held in Osaka, was the culmination of efforts by hundreds of churches, 400 of which had invited Graham to preach in the Kansai region, which represents about one quarter of Japan’s national population.
“We believe God can impact Kansai in a way that, 30 years from today, people will look back on this Festival the same way they looked back at the Billy Graham Crusade 30 years ago,” commented Festival Director Chad Hammond.
“They will realize that Franklin Graham, when he came to Kansai, began a revival,” he added.
With an attendance of 30,782, the Kansai Festival was one of the largest gatherings of Christians in the history of Osaka, the largest city in the Kansai region, and took two years to prepare.
The festival was preceded by a ten-day pre-festival concert tour featuring Alfie Silas of the Tommy Coomes Band, and included a Osaka Ladies Festival that drew 3,217 women and men and a Kid’s Festival that drew more than 5,000 children.
For Christian leaders in Japan, the festival was a much-needed event to not only bring individuals into saving grace, but also to breathe new life into churches in the Kansai region, some of which suffer from small and aging memberships and some even without pastors.
“As a result of a decreasing child population, Sunday school enrollment is down. Some seminaries and theological department have closed. There are very few young Christian leaders in our country to assume the roles of senior leaders,” reported the Rev. Yoshikazu Takada, executive chairman of the Kansai Festival, ahead of the three-day event.
Despite the struggles – which have been compounded by Japan’s slow economy, high rates of suicides, and reports of school and domestic violence – churches in the areas have found hope in the Kansai Festival, which was supported by church leaders from other cities, including Sapporo, Fukuoka, Hiroshima and Tokyo.
"This is God's time for Japan," Graham said at the conclusion of Saturday’s evening service.
When asked Thursday how the event’s success would be measured, Graham told reporters that the success of any evangelical meeting depends on prayer.
“There have been thousands of people praying. If one person were to give their life to Jesus Christ this week, it would be successful,” he responded.
With the Kansai Festival now over, Graham will prepare for his next evangelistic festival, which will be held in Riga, Latvia.
Graham’s Festival of Hope in the north European country will take place Nov. 5-7.