47 Years After Billy, Graham Association Returns to Colombia

More than 22,000 showed up Thursday for the first night of Festival de Esperanza (Festival of Hope) in Colombia's capital city.

And in the end, more than 1,200 turned their lives over to Christ, accepting an invitation from U.S. evangelist Franklin Graham to have their lives changed.

"If you willing tonight to trust Him as your savior, if you willing to turn from your sins and accept Christ into your heart and your life, He will cleanse you and forgive and give you new life," Graham called out to the thousands assembled at Simon Bolivar Park in Bogota.

Festival de Esperanza, which runs until Saturday, is the culmination of months of preparation by some 900 local churches, which the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association notes as being the "backbone" of the festival.

"Our dream is to stimulate the body of Christ, to bring pastors and leaders together," reported Galo Vasquez, director of Latin America Ministries for the BGEA. "We are coming together with one vision. We are united for the cause of the Gospel."

In addition to nightly evangelistic messages, the three-night event will feature of number of musical guests including the Tommy Coomes Band and local favorites Dennis Agajanian and the Gutierrez Brothers.

The last time the BGEA held a massive evangelistic event in Colombia was in 1962, when Graham's father, world renowned evangelist Billy Graham, shared the Gospel with as many as 250,000 throughout his visit.

Around 9,000 at that time made decisions for Christ.