American evangelist Franklin Graham held his largest evangelistic event to date this past weekend with 423,335 people overflowing seven separate venues in Hong Kong and in neighboring Macau.
The massive four-day event, which ended Sunday, involved more than 800 churches and was also broadcasted live to the island of Macau and also to Yuen Long Stadium in the New Territories.
Graham preached the simple message that "God loves Hong Kong" to the crowd, saying China – to which the United Kingdom transferred sovereignty of Hong Kong to in 1997 – had "a special place" in his heart.
"I have a common history with China," said Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and the international Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse. "My mother was born in China, my grandparents were medical missionaries here, and I've been traveling here for more than 30 years, so this country has a special place in my heart.
"I love the people of China. I love this great city," said Graham, "But most importantly God loves you, and you can know the transforming power of the Holy Spirit."
Local pastors, leaders and churches across denominational lines in Hong Kong had invited Graham to visit and share the Gospel with the Chinese people.
With the help of translator Youngman Chan, the ministry head spoke about the Gospel message of hope and forgiveness through Jesus during the festival alongside local and international musical guest appearances.
Franklin Graham's eldest son, Will Graham, also took part in the Festival, speaking to 40,650 youths at a special event geared towards teens. Although Will has held his own evangelistic events, the Hong Kong Fest marked the first time Will joined one of his father's events.
An event for children was held on Saturday afternoon that drew 38,000 kids.
By the final night, 33,464 people had responded to the invitation to accept Jesus Christ as their savior.
During Franklin Graham's visit to Hong Kong, he met with the highest ranking government official in the city, Chief Executive Donald Tsang. He also received an official invitation from the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, China Christian Counsel and the China Association for International Friendly Contact to go to the People's Republic of China in 2008 to meet with local church leaders.
Meanwhile, teams from Samaritan's Purse and BGEA provided 12,000 book bags filled with school supplies for underprivileged children in the New Territories part of Hong Kong where many immigrants from the mainland settle looking for work.
The Hong Kong Festival was the last of eight Franklin Graham events this year. The location line-up for the 2008 Festivals include: Ireland; Taiwan; Mexico; Romania; Las Vegas; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Charleston, S.C.