The Heartland Festival, sponsored by world-renowned Latin American evangelist Luis Palau, came to a close this past Sunday, but not after drawing in an estimated 105,000 people from around the United States.
Held in Omaha, the event was the largest outdoor festival ever in Nebraska's history and brought together a confirmed 275 churches – about one-quarter of the total – from around the area.
Palau was thrilled over the outcome for the free two-day festival, which exceeded the ministry organizers' expectations.
"It was a glorious celebration," the native Argentinean explained in a statement. "The cooperation and unity of the churches, city officials, business and civic leaders was spectacular. We're confident that, with God's grace, the spirit of unity and purpose that was borne out of the festival will continue in the Heartland for years to come."
The festival had a number of highlights which included biblical talks from the bilingual evangelist in both English and Spanish, nightly concerts from top name Christian performers, family activities from more than 90 community care providers to help families stabilize their lives, outreach luncheons, and ceremonies to honor active and veteran military men and women.
The event took two years of planning and a budget of $1.75 million to successfully complete. The event was completely funded through contributions from corporations, churches, businesses and individuals.
Organizers made a point to ensure that the event was completely free – without even offerings are collected. In this way, they can encourage as many believers and non-believers to attend the celebration.
"We want this festival to lift up everyone in the community," said Palau to KETV 7 News before the festival began. "Everyone is welcome. That's why it's free."
The event was also able to help in-need individuals throughout the area. Every attendant was asked to bring one can of food with them to the festivities, and a total of 30,000 pounds of food was collected. The provisions will now be distributed through 14 different regional food banks.
Habitat for Humanity also helped build a home as part of the festival, with a lucky family receiving the keys to the front door during the Sunday night ceremonies.
Performing during the Heartland Festival were some of the biggest artists in Christian music that span country, pop, and gospel genres. Performers included tobyMac, Jeremy Camp, Kirk Franklin, Salvador, KJ52, and Mandisa.
The South American evangelist is now in the process of planning his next U.S. festival scheduled to hit Atlanta over Labor Day weekend titled "Celebrate Freedom Atlanta with Luis Palau." He expects an equally large number to attend.
Palau has been doing mission work for over 40 years and has been running his own ministry – thanks to the help from long-time friend Billy Graham – since 1999. His festivals alone have reached over 6.5 million people and worldwide he has spoken to 25 million people in 70 countries.