Evangelist Franklin Graham is gearing up for his first-ever American Hispanic festival this weekend. Festival de Esperanza (Hope Festival) will also be the first time Graham is holding his signature evangelistic event in Los Angeles.
It’s the city where his father, renowned evangelist Billy Graham, first began to gain attention when he preached for eight weeks straight in a tent to a total of some 350,000 people in 1949. The younger Graham was invited by Hispanic churches in the Greater Los Angeles area. More than 600 Latino churches have been preparing for the June 25-26 festival.
“Our hope is that anyone who is struggling with questions about life or would like a new beginning will watch this Festival of Hope,” said Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the international Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse, in a statement.
Los Angeles houses the largest Hispanic population in the country. Though largely considered religious, Isaac Canals, pastor of Mission Ebenezer Family Church, said many are just nominal believers.
“Most Latino families are already very religious; they are Catholic, nominal Catholic families with a deep religious heritage,” he noted in a video message. “It’s just that they don’t go to church and they are not saved; they don’t know the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Youth Pastor Danny Garza of Templo Calvarios added, “Latinos, their heart is sensitive and open to the Gospel; it’s the perfect people to target and to minister to.”
Churches in the area hope to especially reach gang members. According to Arturo Fierros, a former gang member in L.A., the number of gangs has increased from his time as a youth, from 40 to about 1,108 in the L.A. county alone.
“The enemy is running out of time so sin is progressing,” Fierros said.
Now, more than 47 percent of Hispanics are gang members, the video pointed out and David Trujillo used to be one of them.
When he was 17 years old, his friend was shot while they were in a car. Two years later, when a friend of his jumped in the middle of a gang fight to preach the Gospel, his heart softened up and later received God as his Lord. He now preaches the Gospel as a pastor of Calvary Church South Central Los Angeles.
“That is why I am so thankful that Franklin Graham is coming here to share the Gospel. L.A. is the stronghold of the enemy and I believe that what Franklin is doing is awesome, because not only is he reaching the Latino population, but he’s doing it in the heart of the city,” Trujillo said in a statement.
The festival will be streamed online at 7 p.m. PST on June 25 and at 5 p.m. on June 26 from the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles. Some of the guests will include popular recording artists among Latinos, such as Daniel Calveti, Lilly Goodman and Israel Houghton.
“The festival is going to be a bombshell on the devil’s playground. The festival is going to impact the Latino community like you won’t believe and send a ripple effect to the entire region,” Canals emphasized.
On the Web: www.billygraham.org/LA