With hands raised high, thousands cried out in worship as Grupo Barak, a popular band in Latin America, sang ven, ven, ven Espíritu Santo, ven, which means “come, come, come Holy Spirit, come.”
More than 550 churches participated in the Festival de Esperanza (Festival of Hope) with Franklin Graham, as believers in Monterrey, Mexico, were eager for God to move in their city and ignite a revival in the hearts of the people.
Monterrey, a leading industrial and commercial city, is the capital of the state of Nuevo Leon in northeastern Mexico and the third-largest city in the country. Of its 4.5 million inhabitants, only 6 percent are considered born-again believers, and many barriers to the Gospel exist.
“First, many people are concerned about finances, money and personal comfort,” said Isaí Montoya, pastor of Templo Cristiano El Salvador in Monterrey and president of the Festival executive committee. “Second, there is a lot of addiction to drugs and increased problems with violence in the last few years.” Sadly, many drug runners superstitiously follow the death cult known as La Santa Muerte.
Because of this material and spiritual deprivation, churches around the city joined together to consider the need in their community. Realizing only God could meet that need, they invited Franklin Graham to come preach the Gospel.
“I’m not here to preach religion. We see lots of religion,” Franklin told the media before the Festival. “I’m here to talk about how you can be sure that your sins are forgiven and that you’re ready to stand before God. And that’s simply by faith, believing on the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Each night, hundreds repented of their sins and put their faith and trust in His Name.
During a dedication service before the Festival began, a man with a shaved head bearing multiple tattoos came forward at the invitation, his face buried in his hands as he wept.
“He was a drug addict, and he came looking for a change,” said Americo, a prayer volunteer who prayed with the man. “He doesn’t know why he came here, but today he accepted Jesus. … This is the beginning of many more coming to know Jesus because of the prayers of the churches in Monterrey.”
The Festival, held at the Arena Monterrey, drew a capacity crowd each night. The first day was so packed that hundreds waited in long lines hoping to get inside the arena while others stood or sat under two small tents, huddled around a television screen to watch the livestream of the service.
Beto, a 24-year-old man, had been at another event in the area when the crowd outside the arena caught his attention. “He saw the screen and saw that people weren’t leaving, so he came closer and stayed,” said a prayer volunteer. When Franklin gave the invitation, Beto gave his life to Jesus underneath the crowded tent.
Beto wasn’t alone. Many who couldn’t get inside the arena gave their lives to Christ. A woman named Beatriz had come with family and friends in the hope that her 21-year-old niece, Ana, would accept salvation.
“She’s not a Christian, but she wants to listen to the Word of God,” Beatriz said. “We’ve been running all around the arena and haven’t been able to find access to get in, and we can’t come back tomorrow.” At that moment, a woman from a local church in Monterrey heard Beatriz’s desperate cry and asked Ana if she wanted to receive Jesus Christ. Ana said yes, and as a smile filled her face, she prayed to receive salvation and learned that God is not limited to an arena; He will always meet her right where she is.
While many responded to Franklin’s invitation outside, hundreds flooded the floor inside to surrender their lives to Christ. Moments before Franklin gave the invitation, he asked the crowd, “Have you ever wanted to run? Run from problems. Run from school. Run away from your family. … Well, I want to look at a man in the Bible. He didn’t have a relationship with God; he wanted to run. He wanted to run from God. He wanted to run from his family. His life was in a mess. Maybe there’s some of you here tonight and you’ve been running. Maybe your life is upside down. You don’t know where to go, what to do.”
After Franklin shared the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15:11-32, hundreds came forward. Among them was a boy named Josalese.
“He came here today from another state, Oaxaca,” said the prayer volunteer who prayed with him. “Tonight he reconciled with God. He was sobbing. He said, ‘I was running from God, but tonight I found Him here.’”
A 22-year-old woman also decided she had been running from God long enough.
“I am from Chiapas. It’s a state in the south of Mexico,” she said. “But I’ve been having some problems in my state, so I moved cities and now I’m living in Monterrey. I knew Jesus before, but I recommitted my life to Christ tonight.”
As thousands filled every seat of the arena and flocked to the floor when the invitation was given, prayer volunteers were ready to come alongside those who would be making the most important decision of their lives. One of the volunteers was Laura, a 51-year-old who battled internal bleeding for more than four years.
“I love Jesus. I was about to die when I was saved by Him, and it was a miracle,” she said. “The least I can do is serve Him. That’s why I’m here, to give Him all the glory and honor, forever and ever. … And God put in my heart to give out 150 invitations to my co-workers, and I’ve been praying for them so they can come for salvation.”
Between the dedication service, the children’s event and the two-day Festival Oct. 6-7, the total attendance reached more than 53,000, with more than 2,000 indicating first-time decisions for Jesus Christ.
Church leaders said the Festival was a great harvest for souls but was also an awakening for the church in Monterrey. It was an opportunity for the church to rise up and be better equipped to nurture the faith of those who came to Christ.
“I believe it is like a breakthrough for this city,” said Francisco Garza Hernández, pastor of Castillo del Rey La Fe and member of the Festival executive committee.
“For several years we didn’t have an event like this. Actually, this arena has never been filled with a Christian event because everyone had their own agendas. As a church, the Festival has taught us that unity can do a lot for the Kingdom of God.”
“There’s a vision in my heart to see this every Sunday,” he added. “In Latin America, this is happening, and we want to see it here, in Monterrey.”