American evangelist Franklin Graham made history this past weekend by attracting a crowd of 185,674 people to the Festival of Hope – the largest evangelical event in Ecuador's history.
The festival took place in the western port city of Guayaquil – the largest and most populous city in Ecuador – and broke the record set by last year's Graham Fest which drew over 140,000 people to the capital city of Quito.
"Each time we go to a different city we have no idea how many people will come, if the weather will be a problem, or how many lives will be changed," said Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, in a statement. "But God knows and we are humbled to just be a part of the impact He had on this city – it was more than we could have imagined."
Hundreds of local churches and thousands of volunteers had come together in partnership with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for the Aug. 23-25 event.
By the final night, some 16,177 people responded to the invitation to put their faith in Jesus Christ, according to the ministry's report.
In addition to Graham's nightly messages, the three-day event featured inspirational music from popular Latin Christian artists such as Marcos Witt, Spaniard Marcos Vidal, Lily Goodman from the Dominican Republic, and local musicians from the Guayaquil area.
It also witnessed 46,419 children pack Guayaquil's Alberto Spencer Stadium for "Festininos," a program of fun drama and music that teaches children about the love of God.
The Word Put Into Action
Earlier in the week, Samaritan's Purse – a Christian relief organization headed by Graham – distributed part of 90,000 gift-filled shoe boxes to underprivileged children in Ecuador as part of the organization's Operation Christmas Child project.
Graham helped hand out some of the shoe boxes and visited children living in some of the poorest areas in Guayaquil. For some of the children, the shoebox gifts were the only presents they had ever received in their entire life.
The gifts are among 8 million shoe box gifts to be given to needy children in 95 countries this year.
In addition, Samaritan's Purse is working in Ecuador to build 100 homes for victims of the Tungurahua volcano eruption. The ministry is also feeding 1,500 children a day and has provided medical care for more than 50,000 people.
Billy Graham Still Recovering
Meanwhile in the United States, Graham's father, internationally renowned evangelist Billy Graham, Franklin, is still recovering in the hospital from intestinal bleeding. On Sunday, the older Graham was able to take several walks, his staff said according to The Associated Press.
The 88-year-old evangelist's appetite is said to be excellent and he resumed a normal diet at Sunday's lunch after watching his favorite worship service on television. There is no set date yet for his discharge.
Since 1989, Franklin Graham has held an average of seven Festivals each year as an evangelist for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Graham Fests were already held in Panama City, Panama; Norfolk, Va.; Binghamton, N.Y.; and Kiev, Ukraine, this year. The remaining 2007 events are Busan, South Korea, (Oct. 18-21); Tacoma, Wash. (Nov. 2-4); and Hong Kong, China (Nov. 29-Dec. 2).