First '09 Palau Fest Draws 400,000 in Guatemala City

Evangelist Luis Palau held his first evangelistic festival this year in Guatemala City, where more than 425,000 people attended the two-night event.

The festival, held March 13-14, was attended by Guatemala's president, first lady, vice president, and three ministers of state, according to the Luis Palau Association. President Alvaro Colom addressed the massive crowd from the main stage – the first time a president has done so at a Palau festival.

Guatemala is known to be one of the most evangelical nations in the Spanish-speaking world. More than 3,000 Guatemalan churches had invited Palau to hold the evangelistic campaign, which began on March 4.

The campaign included the largest community service initiative the nation has ever seen, with more than 25 outreach events supported by more than 25,000 trained volunteers.

Community outreach events included volunteers offering free medical and dental care to more than 8,500 individuals, helping to clean up local neighborhoods and schools, and providing meals for more than 40,000 underprivileged children.

"I have had the joy of ministering in Guatemala for more than 40 years," Palau commented about the campaign, according to the Luis Palau Association. "But what distinguished this campaign from any other was the level of impact – the depth of penetration – to all levels of society.

"Never have we seen such access to government leaders, business professionals, and military personnel. It's a testament to the power of the Gospel."

Earlier in his trip, Palau held private meetings with Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom and his Cabinet, local mayors, military officers, and lawyers.

During his meeting at the Presidential Palace, Palau read from Deuteronomy 28:1-13, saying, "We are capable of keeping and putting into practice the principles written in this book. God Himself promises a long list of blessings will follow."

He added, "This promise of God is directed as much to an individual as to a family or all the nation. We need to return to the practice of moral and spiritual values as the foundation of national daily life."

Palau told the president and his ministers that churches in Guatemala pray for political authorities because that is their spiritual responsibility, but now they are also beginning to assume more social responsibility and engaging in solutions to resolve social problems.

Later on that same day, Palau met with about 1,000 lawyers and said he wanted to be a lawyer when he was younger to defend his mother and little sisters after his father died, but in the end became an evangelist and an "advocate of God."

"In my role as an advocate for the things of God, I tell people how to settle their debts with God," Palau said to the crowd of lawyers. "I tell them of the pardon available and how to be free of condemnation and I want to tell the same message to you. You need to get your life right with God."

Palau challenged the audience to restore moral and spiritual values in their own lives.

"Only then could you be successful lawyers in the midst of crisis," he said.

The next festival will be headed by Andrew Palau in Kingston, Jamaica, on March 21.