(Photo: AP Images / Esteban Felix)
The first large-scale evangelistic festival since the massive earthquake devastated Haiti earlier this year will be held Friday amid the rubbles of Port-au-Prince.
Local organizers say they expect more than 500,000 people to attend the event that will feature musical performances by rap and hip hop artist The Ambassador, urban alternative artist J.R., and Jamaican king of reggae Prodigal Son.
Evangelist Ben Cerullo will deliver the message at the event called “Hope Alive!”
“Our whole purpose in going down there is to bless the people,” said Cerullo to The Christian Post. “They’ve been through so much. We want to entertain them, take their minds off of it (earthquake), [and] bring in some music groups.”
The 33-year-old said he will be preaching a message of hope that will likely be based on the Mark 5 story of the woman who could not stop bleeding.
“Hope is alive and if you turn to Jesus no matter what you’re going through, no matter what is taking place, he will be able to release that hope in your life and help you rebuild not only your life but your nation,” the young evangelist said, giving a dose of what he'll preach.
The free, all-day event will be held in front of the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince where nearby sits a tent city that is home to 50,000 people.
The Christian music festival in some ways stands in for the Carnival, an annual Mardi Gras-like festival celebrated in Haiti, which was canceled this year because of the earthquake.
More than 212,000 people were killed by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck the island nation in January. More than one million people were affected by the disaster, many of whom were left homeless, and damages are estimated to reach $14 billion.
“We believe that God will shift something while we’re there,” said Cerullo. “To shift a nation that is known to be one of the most demonically controlled in the world to being a nation that serves the Lord.”
Cerullo mentioned that there is typically a lot of voodoo and witchcraft that occurs during the Carnival.
The young evangelist had been involved in drug and alcohol abuse for years. He said he met God while in a hospital room after he overdosed on cocaine. From that moment, he said God set him free from the destructive lifestyle that he had led and he subsequently founded a youth ministry called SteelRoots. The youth ministry blends action sports and Christian music to reach young people who would otherwise not likely be reached.
“I am not a suit-and-tie kind of preacher. I got tattoos; I’m covered up in them. I wear my hat sometimes when I preach. We don’t fit the mold,” Cerullo said.
Cerullo anticipates bringing the Gospel in a “fresh way” on Friday and doing evangelism in a way Haitians have never seen.
This will be the young evangelist's first time preaching in Haiti. But this isn't the first time Haiti will be welcoming a Cerullo. Pentecostal evangelist and miracle healer Morris Cerullo, Ben's grandfather, preached in Haiti decades ago.
Morris is a controversial figure who has been accused of false miracle healings and fraudulent fundraising techniques.
Ben's father, meanwhile, is Inspiration Network CEO David Cerullo who also is not immune to criticism.
The Inspiration Network came out of the PTL (Praise the Lord)'s cable television network. Morris bought the PTL ministry, formerly run by disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker, after it went bankrupt. David has been criticized for receiving an “outrageous” salary, estimated to be more than $1.5 million a year, when running a non-profit.