Evangelist Luis Palau has preached the Gospel to more than 30 million people in 75 countries, but he will share his life-changing message for the first time in New York Saturday as more than 60,000 people gather for a concert, the culmination of a months-long project that couples Christian evangelism with good works.
"It's the largest one I have ever seen that we have used – except maybe Buenos Aires and Argentina, which was sort of large," the 80-year-old evangelist, who has been called the "Latino Billy Graham," tells CBN, of the event at New York's famous park. "This one is so massive. And the city skyline, that is what really gets you."
The NY CityFest, which starts at 4 p.m., will feature special appearances and top national recording artists, according to the event's website. Palau will share "a message about the transformative power of hope, and some Good News that can change your life today."
The event seeks to help spread the Gospel across New York City, which is home to at least 8 million people. It will be streamed live.
"Many pastors have said to me you unconsciously begin to forget that reaching out through evangelism is what the Church really is all about, together with worshiping God and loving one another and serving," Palau says.
City restrictions for Central Park, however, require that no more than 60,000 people can be hosted.
"Sixty thousand is the maximum they will allow inside this section of the park, or any section. That is what we have to live with," Palau says. "I think if it had been open and we could have gone anywhere in the park, we would have had a quarter of a million or a half a million."
The popular Latin American evangelist still has high expectations. "And in years to come, as we have seen all over the world, we expect to see many a minister, many a leader who was converted as a young person, or even a child, here and then being used of God in decades to come," he adds.
The ticketed but free concert is part of The Luis Palau Association's NY CityServe project, which seeks to build long-lasting relations between believers and their neighbors, and connect believers with other believers through evangelism as well as good works.
The project, costing more than $10 million, has about 1,700 churches as partners, and has organized more than 100 outreach and service-oriented events across the city's five boroughs and in locations in New Jersey and Connecticut.
"This is by the far the biggest effort in the history of the Palau team, because it's NYC," Kevin Palau, president of The Luis Palau Association, told The Christian Post in May, of the project.
"Thank the Lord we went into it with this idea, because NYC is this global city, it's almost like a national city. Normally, when we go into a city we don't charge anything for our efforts. Luis Palau doesn't get an honorarium, none of our staff … none of us are paid for this effort," he explained.
"The Palau Association ends up being one of the biggest contributors to this effort. But when it comes to the direct local costs, normally the city (bears the costs). We come alongside them to help them raise the money, but the local city raises the money and it's spent locally," he added.
"I think NYC is a tremendous platform for the Gospel. … There are thousands of vibrant churches, African-American, Haitian, Korean, Jamaican. You may not be aware of them, but in every neighborhood, trust me they are there shining the light of Jesus and loving their neighbor, and we just have a chance to shine a light on that," Palau went on to say.
NY CityServe, publicly unveiled in September 2014 with the mayor's blessing, is headed locally by a large team whose board includes leaders of some of the city's biggest churches, such as the Rev. A.R. Bernard of Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn and Bishop Nam Soo Kim of Promise Church in Queens.