Franklin Graham event breaks Italian venue's attendance record; hundreds make decisions for Christ
An Evangelical outreach led by Franklin Graham broke attendance records at Mediolanum Forum on Saturday in Milan, Italy, an event hosted in partnership with over 520 Evangelical churches.
Over 13,200 people attended the Noi Festival organized by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. At the festival, Graham, son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham, presented a Gospel invitation, which led to hundreds of people making decisions for Christ.
According to a statement from BGEA, Officials reported the event was the largest crowd gathering ever hosted at the Mediolanum Forum, a 32-year-old venue primarily used for concerts and EuroLeague basketball.
"There are many people here with hungry hearts, many who have been searching for peace in their lives," Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, told the crowd.
"I'm here to tell you that God loves you, and you can find that purpose for your life by putting your faith and trust in God's Son, Jesus Christ. He came from Heaven to this earth to save us from our sins."
Volunteer counselors from local churches spoke with attendees who came forward to make decisions for Christ.
One counselor was an 18-year-old named Elizabeth, a relatively new believer who came to Christ over two years ago. According to BGEA, Elizabeth met a group of six children ages 6 to 11 and told them about what it means to follow Christ.
"One girl even started reading [a booklet with the gospel of] John as she was walking away," Elizabeth said.
One person who made a decision for Christ was a 50-year-old named Rosa, who was brought to the event by her uncle even though she was not religious.
"She came forward with her uncle and said she could feel the presence of God right behind her," a volunteer counselor named Simona said.
Graham, who also serves as the leader of the international Evangelical aid agency Samaritan's Purse, said during a press conference Friday that churches in Italy asked him to come and preach after Samaritan's Purse was instrumental in helping Italians impacted by COVID-19 in 2020.
When Italy's Lombardy region was the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, Samaritan's Purse was the first international aid agency to provide emergency relief by deploying a 68-bed emergency field hospital and disaster assistance response team to Cremona, near Milan.
Based in North Carolina, Samaritan's Purse has provided spiritual and physical aid to people in need worldwide suffering from natural disasters, war, diseases, poverty or famine. Since 1970, the organization has provided care to over 100 countries.
Samaritan's Purse doctors and nurses from five countries aided Cremona Hospital for two months in the field hospital, caring for over 280 patients.
"We've had over 500 Evangelical churches ask me to come and preach," Graham said, adding that he would preach a straightforward message of "God's love for us."
The COVID-19 relief efforts spearheaded by Graham and his organization led to other collaborative opportunities within the ministry, as confirmed by the region's leader.
Before the Noi Festival, a private reception occurred in which Lombardy President Attilio Fontana met Graham and expressed gratitude for Samaritan's Purse's assistance during the pandemic.
"During the most difficult time of the pandemic, they brought a lot of help to the Lombardy region and the city of Cremona," Fontana said.
"It was a fundamental help that the people of Cremona appreciated so much. And it made us feel close to so many friends who understood the situation. I think it is right to collaborate with them, and even today, we talked about possible future collaborations."