Thousands of Mongolians heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ during an unprecedented outreach by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, in which more than 2,000 reportedly made decisions for Christ.
More than 17,300 people attended Rev. Franklin Graham's two-night Festival of Hope held at Steppe Arena in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar last weekend, according to BGEA.
Sandwiched between Russia and China, the central Asian country of roughly 3.3 million people has a long tradition of Buddhism and, more recently, a rise in the practice of shamanism, the worship of the elements.
But after 20 years of prayers from Mongolian church leaders, the plan for the Mongolian outreach came together, marking the first time in Mongolia's history that hundreds of churches gathered for such a large-scale event, BGEA reports.
The festival also featured music from popular Mongolian Christian singer Naki, a Christian Mongolian group that uses traditional instruments and sounds called Nomadic Spirit, and The Afters, an award-winning U.S. Christian band.
Along with a program that honored and showcased Mongolian culture, the festival featured an evangelistic message from the son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham as many in the crowd held up their hands and their phones to capture the moment.
"He sent his Son from Heaven to earth to save you," Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, told the crowd. "Are you broken in your spirit? Are you spiritually empty? Have you wasted your life? Will you come to Him?
"You need Jesus Christ — He is the only way to God. Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.'"
At the end of his message, Graham invited audience members to come forward to indicate their willingness to receive the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Among the more than 2,000 people who came forward for the invitation was Chuluu, who attended both nights of the outreach after meeting BGEA staff members earlier in the week at the Zaison Memorial honoring Mongolian and Soviet soldiers killed in World War II. Chuluu said that before choosing Jesus, he was Buddhist but hadn't followed religion for eight years.
The 70-year-old Graham had not been to Mongolia since 2018, when he met with dozens of Mongolian pastors and visited some of the 450 Mongolian children who have received life-saving heart surgeries from Samaritan's Purse, the international Christian relief and evangelism organization that he leads.
Organizers anticipated that a recent pre-festival youth rally hosted by local churches would draw somewhere around 600 students, but as many as 1,400 youths showed up, BGEA reports.
Nearly 250 churches worked alongside BGEA to help make the outreach a reality. Many in attendance caught a free ride on a bus leaving from one of 50 community wells, where BGEA provided complimentary water for two days before the event.
Fifty churches and some 400-plus volunteers partnered with BGEA to fill containers, carry water, and, most importantly, share the Gospel.
"I am grateful we have been able to care for so many precious Mongolian children. While physical needs are important, and I want to do everything I can to meet those needs, I believe the greatest needs of the human heart are spiritual," said Graham.
Since the end of communist rule in the early 1990s, an estimated 40,000 Mongolians have converted to Christian denominations, including Protestant, Catholic, Seventh-Day Adventist and others, making up just under 2% of the population, according to 2020 census data.
More than half of Mongolians practice some form of Buddhism, while nearly 35% are religiously unaffiliated. The majority of Mongolia's people groups — 23 out of 28 — are still considered unreached for the Gospel, according to Mission Eurasia.