Graham Attracts 200,000 for Ukraine's Largest Evangelical Event

The first-ever Franklin Graham Festival to hit Ukraine became the largest evangelical event in the history of the former communist-ruled country, attracting over 231,000 people last weekend to hear the Gospel.

Over three-days, the Graham fest drew 124,586 to Olympic Stadium in the country's capital Kiev, and another 107,000 people via live satellite broadcast in 104 additional venues across Ukraine.

On the festival's second night, more than 40,000 people stood in the rain and 6,694 people responded to the invitation to follow Jesus Christ by the end of the weekend, according to the festival's report.

"For years, Samaritan's Purse has used the Ukrainian Antonov airplane to transport hundreds of thousands of our Operation Christmas Child shoe box gifts," said Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, according to the report.

"Now I am here in your country, not because of the Antonov, but because of the Gospel - the good news that you can have spiritual freedom found in Jesus Christ," Graham said.

The historic festival united 4,366 churches and thousands of volunteers from 15 denominations in the country in preparation for the massive festival.

Traditional and inspirational music by artists from Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Belarus, and the United States supplemented Graham's messages - which were translated into Ukrainian and Russian. In addition, each night featured a 4,000-voice choir comprised of singers from all 25 regions of Ukraine – the largest choir in the history of Ukraine.

A noteworthy musical highlight was the Presidential Orchestra sent by the Ukrainian president along with an official written welcome to Franklin Graham and the festival.

"This festival is one of the greatest things that can bring us closer together," wrote the Ukrainian president Viktor A. Yushchenko. "Thank you for all the work you are doing here. May God bless you."

The July 6-8 event also brought together regional champion athletes from the sports of boxing, football, and speed skating who shared personal stories about their faith. Among the athletes who spoke is current WBC heavyweight champion, Oleg Maskaev, from Russia who spoke about how God changed his life.

Occurring simultaneous with the festival was Graham's Operation Christmas Child project, which gave out more than 100,000 gift-filled shoe boxes to needy children in Ukraine. Graham himself also visited poor children and orphans at a local charity hospital where he hand-delivered the shoe box gifts.

Graham's next Festival will be held in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Aug. 23-25.

Since 1989, Franklin Graham has held an average of seven festivals each year as an evangelist for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. In addition to holding the title as the CEO/President of BGEA, Graham is also the president of the international Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse.

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