- (Photo:Bill Graham Evangelical Association)
Close to 2,000 churches in Canada have signed up to participate in the major "My Hope with Billy Graham" campaign, which will culminate in November, marking the preacher's 95th birthday.
"This type of large-scale event has not been done before, and that's why we're quite excited about the potential for this," said Dave Ingram, director of ministry for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada.
The BGEA website noted that efforts are being made to spread the Gospel from one end of the world's second largest country to the other, reflecting Canada's motto "from sea to sea."
"In just three months, believers across Canada will step out in faith, sharing the Gospel with friends, family and neighbors who haven't had a life-changing encounter with Christ," BGEA added.
"My Hope" will also take place throughout the U.S. and will feature a TV broadcast of Billy Graham sharing his message with Christians. For the event, believers are encouraged to invite their neighbors and friends to their homes to share a meal and watch the broadcast. Afterwards they are encouraged to share their personal story of their relationship with Jesus and invite their friends to receive Christ.
Over 18,000 U.S. churches are currently signed up to participate in "My Hope."
The evangelistic campaign began 10 years ago and was originally intended to bring Graham's message of hope to countries around the world where he could not travel. With the evangelist's advanced age in mind, the movement is being brought to America, with informational sessions being set up in various locations around the country leading up to his birthday and the major broadcast.
As for Canada, Ingram added that one special area of focus will be the French-speaking province of Quebec.
"Quebec is the least evangelized area of North America, and we've gotten some very positive feedback from pastors and church leaders about the project there," the director of ministry explained. A French-language version of the "My Hope" messages is being developed for residents of Quebec, including a 30-minute "Defining Moments" video.
BGEA said that the English version features preaching from Graham as well as three individuals who share their stories about how and why they chose to follow Christ – the French version will now feature French Canadian Christians who will share their own stories.
"Just in the sense that there are a lot less churches in Canada, and Christianity is a little more on the outside looking in," Ingram said about the challenges "My Hope" faces in Canada. "Sometimes just to get someone to listen to you about Christ is a challenge."
A recent Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life report shared that while two-thirds of Canadians identify as either Catholic or Protestant, both groups have been experiencing notable decline in the past few decades.
Ingram noted that the fastest growing faith group in Canada is people with no religion, and that Christianity is on decline – so "My Hope" aims to have a "tremendous impact" both on individuals and on society.
"We pray this would be one opportunity for significant impact in Canada," the director of ministry added.