“Thousands” Embracing Christ In Hungary At Graham Festival

 

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Budapest, Hungary

Evangelist Franklin Graham speaks to thousands in Budapest.


BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)-- Over 2,700 people have come forward to "make decisions for Christ" at the recent three-day 'Festival of Hope' in Hungary's capital Budapest of American evangelist Franklin Graham, his organization confirmed in comments monitored by BosNewsLife Wednesday, July 4.

He returned to the city where 23 years ago his now elderly, and frail, preaching father Billy Graham held the first open-air arena evangelism event in then Communist-ruled Eastern Europe.

Recalling the visit to Hungary in the 1980s with his father, Franklin Graham noted that Hungary and the world have changed.  "We have great problems—economic problems, political problems—and no one seems to have the answer. And that’s because our problem is a spiritual problem," he told reporters.

"God created us, but sin has separated us from Him. The only way to be reconciled to God is through a relationship with Jesus Christ," the preacher explained.

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Some 312 churches from various denominations were involved in last month's evangelistic outreach at Papp László Budapest Sports Arena, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Organization (BGEA) said.

'GRATEFUL FOR SUPPORT'

"We are grateful for the support of all the churches [because] the Gospel isn’t for one creed or doctrine," Graham stressed. "We all have doctrinal differences but the need for the Gospel unites us."

That was also the theme that the evangelist brought home to the 36,175 people who attended the three nights event at the indoor stadium, organizers said.

"Thousands" have made decisions for Christ in Budapest, BGEA says.


"Tonight you can be forgiven," Graham exclaimed in his trade-mark carefully formulated, flowing English. "It's Jesus who took your sins. He paid the debt in your place. Will you come tonight?" Come quickly, come," he said, as many Hungarians, both young and old, came forward.

In total, 2,727 "gave their hearts to Jesus" during the June 1-3 festival, according to official estimates.

Local committee members, who claimed they "prayed and labored over the Festival for years", were overjoyed. "We think the three days passed too quickly," added Festival of Hope Chairman János  Papp  in a statement.

'PRAYING FOR LONG'

“It was amazing, we prayed for so long but I didn’t even comprehend what God would do here. I cannot begin to express my gratitude and joy," Reverend Papp said.

Papp recalled that his heart was "especially full" on Saturday when scores of youth from Hungary and beyond came forward "to begin a new life" with Christ. "I [even] saw families and young children from [my] own church accept Christ.”

It comes at a difficult time for evangelicals following the recent adoption of restrictive legislation limiting the number of churches and other religious groups recognized and supported by the state in this predominantly Catholic nation.

Yet, Papp remains hopeful. "It is most exciting to see the youth meet Jesus. They are the future of this country and they are the ones who can bring lasting change to Hungary. Now they have direction and Budapest has new hope.”Those singing about Christ, included a thousand-strong choir, an opera, the Air Force band, Gospel singers Michael W. Smith and Casting Crowns, and other musical guests.

Hungarian and international musicians were among those at the 'Festival of Hope' in Budapest.


HISTORICAL PREVIOUS GATHERING 

It was the continuation of what his father Billy Graham described in his autobiography as a remarkable event in Budapest.

"In 1985, we were given use of a 12,500-seat public sports arena in the center of the city," he wrote.  "It was the first time in many decades, to our knowledge, that a public venue had been used for an evangelistic meeting in Eastern Europe. I couldn’t explain that in any other way than God’s doing."

Graham said, "Four hours before the start of the September 22 meeting [in 1985] every seat in the indoor arena was taken; many had to stay outside to listen over loudspeakers. The Hungarians' love of music is legendary, and a large choir, accompanied by a volunteer symphony orchestra, had been recruited for the event from virtually every Christian denomination. Even without special political insight, I felt that Eastern Europe was on the brink of massive change."

A young BosNewsLife reporter at the time recalled that many people were standing when asked to make a decision for Christ.

Coming forward was not an option amid concerns secret agents would intervene, church representatives told the journalist in those days.

MORE REMARKABLE VISIT

Graham's July 1989 visit was viewed as even more remarkable.

"In what can only be described as a miracle, we went to hold a huge evangelistic rally in Hungary’s largest outdoor stadium," noted Billy Graham.

Some 110,000 people attended the evangelistic gathering of Billy Graham in Budapest in 1989.


"All attendance records were broken at the rally; every seat was taken, and people packed the grassy perimeter of the playing field. Statistics never tell the whole story, of course, but everyone was astonished that an estimated 110,000 people attended."

When the invitation was given, 35,000 people jammed the playing field and overflowed onto the running track, according to witnesses and organizers.

"Never in our ministry had such a high percentage responded," Graham claimed.

'SPIRITUAL FORCES' HERE 

"My four visits to Hungary in 12 years absolutely fixed my conviction that the Holy Spirit was releasing a spiritual force in that part of the world that was bound to challenge the atheistic philosophy that had dominated nations in that region for decades," the elderly Graham commented. Franklin Graham has now taking over his father's evangelistic traveling with events he prefers to call 'Festivals' rather than 'Crusades' as they were known previously.

Worship songs are key part of Festival of Hope.


Yet, the message remains the same, he stresses referring to Bible verse John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Soon after his visit to Budapest, Franklin Graham went to Riga, Latvia, for the one day Baltic Youth festival at a time of social concerns. "Franklin Graham proclaimed the Gospel to a region with some of the world's highest youth suicide rates," the BGEA said about the June 9 rally.

"Feeding off the momentum from Festivals in the past three years in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, the one-day Baltic Youth Festival included all three countries and a lineup of high-octane Christian bands," the organization explained.

An estimated 19,200 people attended the one-day event, with some 200 people reportedly answering Graham's call to start a New Life with Christ.



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 Farmotel Stefania is located in hunting area in one of Hungary’s most prestigious wine regions. Near hills, forests and lakes.  It has all the facilities of a fine hotel and offers full privacy, huge outdoor space, sauna, grill house and much more. 

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