Part of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s legacy has always been its ministry to Latin American countries—from Mr. Graham’s first Crusade tour there in 1958 to Franklin Graham’s Festival in Cúcuta, Colombia, during the 2019 Colombia-Venezuela border crisis.
But with the rising number of Hispanics in the United States, BGEA is increasing its focus on reaching Spanish speakers here at home.
“Right now, there are close to 61 million Hispanics living in the United States,” says Angel Jordan, a native of Guatemala and director of BGEA’s Hispanic Initiatives. “And it is predicted that by 2050 that number is going to increase to about 100 million.”
Zoom in on U.S. Census Bureau statistics and you will find that 18.5% of the U.S. population—that is, one in every five persons—is Hispanic.
“The face of America is no longer black and white,” Jordan says. “It has become a beautiful mosaic filled with many colors and ethnicities.”
BGEA has always been mindful of its audience at evangelistic events— translating its materials in native languages, providing native teachers for its Christian Life and Witness Classes, and interpreters for evangelists and other speakers.
“In the U.S., Spanish is a language that we often find in the cities where we go,” says Gary Cobb, director of training. “We have Spanish-speaking instructors who teach the classes in Spanish. We also offer interpretation at the Festival on headsets and invite those who speak Spanish to come forward to a designated area where we have Spanish-speaking counselors and materials.”
And those making decisions for Christ are referred for follow-up to a church where their language is spoken.
“For years now, we’ve partnered with Latino churches in other countries and right here in the United States,” said Franklin Graham, “and I’m thankful to be able to work together.”
But BGEA wants to do more, he said on “Storms of Latin America,” a special broadcast to be aired this month in English and Spanish.
“This year, we’re launching a new initiative to increase our focus on ministries in Spanish. We’re doing this through the internet, through the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team and through our evangelistic Festivals.”
The Route 66 God Loves You Tour—eight one-night events from Sept. 19 through Oct. 2—will include live music from Marcos Witt, a well-known Hispanic Christian artist, and Franklin’s messages will be interpreted into Spanish. The Billy Graham Library will observe Spanish Heritage Day on Sept. 18 in conjunction with Spanish Heritage Month. Tours will be offered in Spanish, and Hispanic Christian artists Daniel Calveti and Raul Sanchez will be performing, as well as children’s entertainer Yoly Pacheco.
BillyGraham.org will launch a Spanish version in the fall, following the launch of Franklin’s Spanish-language Facebook page, Franklin Graham en Español, earlier this year; and BGEA social media will eventually have versions in Spanish.
“There are 21 Spanish-speaking countries,” says Chris Swanson, vice president of Hispanic Initiatives. “We in many ways are No. 22. English is the most commonly used language, but if you measure Spanish-speaking countries solely by volume, we’re actually in the top three most populated countries that speak Spanish.”
BGEA will also continue its Fidelidad Eterna (Eternal Faithfulness)—formerly Fidelidad Extrema—which began as a series of virtual conferences to support Hispanic pastors who were suffering during the pandemic. The daylong events will be held live in key ministry cities next year.
The reasoning behind the Hispanic Initiatives is threefold, Jordan says. It’s Biblical first and foremost; it’s a blessing for participating ministries; and it aids the advancement of the Gospel.
“John 3:16 says, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life’” (NKJV), Jordan says. “And we see in the Book of Revelation how it addresses the urgency of the Gospel being preached to every nation, tribe and tongue. God created us to be one blood, to be one community.”
It’s a blessing for churches and ministries like BGEA to collaborate in the Great Commission, Jordan says. “It’s a mandate from God for us to come together and be united, to pursue our common goal of evangelism and discipleship. Genesis 22:18 says, ‘In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice’” (NKJV).
And the multicultural nature of the U.S. is beneficial in that it helps BGEA spread the Gospel to all nations.
“What happens in the U.S. is going to reflect back in the Spanish-speaking countries represented here,” Jordan says. “We sometimes think that to reach the world, we need to travel overseas. But now the nations are here in the U.S. The world is here.”
Through Hispanic Initiatives, BGEA will be able to strategically connect and engage with Hispanic leaders in the evangelical world, starting with a meeting of Spanish-speaking leaders from around the country in October. The idea, Swanson says, is not only to pray and worship God, but to think about what the Hispanic church is doing now, and what BGEA can do to help it prepare for the future.
“When we talk about the call to go and make disciples of all nations—to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth—this is that kind of ministry,” Swanson says. “Our Hispanic Initiatives is us looking at our own Jerusalem and saying, ‘How can we be more effective in Jerusalem to make sure that we’re impacting everyone?’
“The added blessing in this particular case is that as we make an impact and engage the Hispanic community in our Jerusalem and Judea, we’re actually reaching the nations.”
Anyone wishing to contribute to BGEA’s Hispanic Initiatives can go to BillyGraham.org/Spanish.
“Thank you for standing with us,” Franklin said at the end of the “Storms of Latin America” broadcast. “These partnerships are critical as we proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”
Photo: Ron Nickel/©2015 BGEA