‘Pearl’ of Great Price

Gospel reaches many precious souls in Puerto Rice Festival

At the break of dawn each morning in the two months leading up to February’s Festival de Esperanza (Festival of Hope) in Puerto Rico, Angelica Calveti gathered via conference call to pray with sisters in Christ in Latin America, Florida and Israel.

They asked the Lord to move mightily on the island, which Franklin Graham called “the pearl of the Caribbean” because of its beautiful beaches, rain forests and mountains, and especially its effervescent people.

Angelica, whose husband, Juan, pastors a congregation near San Juan that has planted 22 churches in various areas of the world, said the group prayed against any spiritual interference and for the hearts of the people to be open.

“Many of them have spiritual baggage that will oppose them coming to Christ,” she said.

Angelica has a deep conviction that the Lord’s divine power knows no bounds—a belief forged out of her personal experience.

A Hurting Land

Puerto Rico, an unincorporated U.S. territory, desperately needs a move of God.

Its homicide rate of 20 percent per 100,000 people in 2016 was about four times that of the U.S. mainland. Police reported last summer that at least 66.3 percent of murders that had occurred year to date were directly related to drug trafficking and revenge. Approximately 46.2 percent of Puerto Ricans live below the poverty level, and the island’s population is down 9 percent since 2000, largely due to economic difficulties and decreasing job opportunities.

The Festival provided a source of hope, uniting churches around the One who can transform lives, families and cultures. Newly elected Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosello spoke at the Festival on Saturday night, Feb. 11, saying: “To our people: what a beautiful night. We know we’re in difficult times, but now, if we [let God go] ahead of us, we declare that nothing is impossible.”

Franklin preached about the prodigal son that same night, posing piercing questions to a crowd of more than 13,000: “Are you broken in your spirit? Are you spiritually empty? Have you been wasting your life? What is your need tonight? You need Christ!”

Among the 343 people who came forward in response to the Gospel invitation that night at Hiram Bithorn Stadium were Carlos Daniel and his wife, Joanne. Both prayed to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Carlos, 44, said he was fed up with his life on the streets, chasing drugs and parties, and he repented of his sin in prayerful hope that he’ll become the husband and father that the Lord wants him to be.

Prior to that night, Carlos couldn’t have imagined committing to such a life change. He said he was impacted by Franklin’s full message.

“It was the entire proclamation that contrasted entirely with my life of sin,” he said.

One night earlier, an 11-year-old boy named Ian, accompanied by his mother, walked from his seat into the area beneath the stage where Franklin spoke. He wiped tears from his eyes on the walk and wept more vigorously as he prayed to receive Jesus into his life and heart.

His counselor, Marcia Sevarino, asked if he was certain of the decision he was making, and he said yes.

“It was something very special,” said Maria, who was reminded of when her oldest child received Christ at age 12.

God’s Power On Display

Angelica Calveti’s journey to becoming a Festival intercessor and Kingdom builder with Juan began in 1978 when their 6-month-old son Daniel was hospitalized with bacterial meningitis in Venezuela, where they lived at the time. She and Juan cried out to the Lord for Daniel’s healing and were shocked when he was pronounced dead.

Eight hours later, Daniel’s lifeless body lay in the morgue, but then suddenly his limbs started moving again. He was alive!

Eleven years after that, Angelica was riding in a public transportation bus that crashed into a Venezuelan river, killing nine of the 22 people on board. Angelica’s back was broken in four places, paralyzing her from the neck down.

After a year of paralysis, an evangelist prayed for her healing, and she arose from her wheelchair and has been mobile ever since.

Thus, she was an ideal person to lead her prayer group for Puerto Rico and the Festival. She’s filled with faith that God wants to do amazing things for His glory.

“I consider life on earth to be a privilege and a gift from God,” Angelica said. “Every second, every minute of every day belongs to Him. I believe He healed Daniel and me to invest our time for the Lord so that others will be saved and become disciples, and to send people to the nations to evangelize.”

Daniel, now 39, is one of the most popular contemporary Christian singers and worship leaders in Puerto Rico and throughout Latin America. He has nearly 3 million followers on his Facebook page and was a featured singer at the Festival.

His father was astonished by God’s supernatural touch in his family, but maintains an eternal perspective.

“The miracles are good, but people being saved is a lot better,” he said. “When people come to Christ, their family changes, their children change and other things come if they’re seeking Him as their First Love.”

Festival counselor Amparo De La Rosa marveled at how God used the Festival to captivate the hearts of women in the San Juan area who were serving jail sentences for crimes such as drugs, prostitution and larceny.

Seventeen women—nine on Saturday night and eight on Sunday—were transported to the Festival by bus from the place where they were detained. They were accompanied by a penal guard.

Amparo said every one of them eagerly repented of their sins and gave their lives to Christ.

“They were told about the event before it got here, that [Franklin] was going to come and preach and that he would be here for three days,” Amparo said. “Then they started saying, ‘I want to go there. I want to be there.’”

Their salvations—along with 1,001 more recorded responses to Christ during the three-day Festival—infused Amparo with hope that something big might be underway in a land in need of a miracle that only God can do.

“This is fantastic,” she said. “We have great expectations. We’re going to continue to praise the Lord and preach the Gospel so this can continue like brushfire.”