High up on Corcovado Mountain overlooking Rio de Janeiro is the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue. This symbol of Christianity has towered over the seaside city for more than 90 years and has drawn Brazilians and tourists alike to reflect on the divine nature of God’s Son. “Jesus Christ and His cross are intertwined in the history of Brazil,” Billy Graham said during a 1974 Crusade held in Rio’s famous Maracanã Stadium.
A Call to Missions
Forty-eight years later, a man named Deusiceguay remembered the event like it was yesterday.
“My mother took me to Maracanã to see Billy Graham when I was 9 years old,” he said.
Mr. Graham preached from Daniel 5, Deusiceguay recalled. He spoke of Belshazzar’s rebellion against God and the Lord’s judgment. Mr. Graham warned that, like Belshazzar, the world would one day face God’s judgment for breaking His laws.
“There’s only one safe place in the midst of the coming judgment,” Mr. Graham said to the crowd, “ … [and that’s] at the cross.” He explained that if they would repent of their sins and put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, they would be cleansed of their sins and receive eternal life.
That wasn’t the first time Deusiceguay had heard the Gospel—his mother had taken him to church his whole life—but it was the first time he felt convicted to share that life-saving message with others.
“Mr. Graham’s sermon touched me in such a way that I gave my life to missions,” he said.
Deusiceguay served as a police officer for 40 years and often spoke of God’s love with his fellow officers. The police station was his mission field, he explained. And it still is.
Deusiceguay’s three children—a daughter and two sons—are also police officers. As 68,000 people descended on Copacabana Beach June 11 for Esperança Rio with Franklin Graham, Deusiceguay’s children were there working security.
“I want my kids to come to know Christ,” he said.
At 58, Deusiceguay has a large cataract covering his left eye and walks with a cane. But neither his health issues nor the poor weather could keep him away from Esperança Rio.
“I could be at home—my leg is hurting,” he said. “But I wanted to be here. We’re living in the last days, and this might be the last chance I have to be a part of an event like this.”
The Soul-Saving Savior
Like his father, Franklin Graham urged the people of Rio to confess their sins and invite Jesus Christ to come into their hearts.
“You see, your soul was lost when the first man sinned … but Jesus said, ‘I have come to seek and to save that which is lost’” (see Luke 19:10).
As a steady rain began to fall, Franklin offered those in the audience an opportunity to turn from their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ.
“Your soul has been lost to sin, but Jesus has redeemed it with His blood,” he said. “ … You say, ‘Well, Franklin, it’s raining.’ Yes, it is. What a great night to come to Christ.”
More than 4,500 people accepted the invitation, raising their hands to signify their decision to surrender to Christ and make Him Lord of their lives. BGEA is actively following up with those who made decisions to connect them to a local church.
A man named Rojario was shocked to look over and see his wife, Rosanne, with her hand raised high.
“He was already a Christian,” said Emerson, a prayer counselor who spoke with the couple, “but she wasn’t.”
Rojario had to work the following evening, so he had convinced Rosanne to come to Copacabana Beach for a date night. What he didn’t tell her was that a massive evangelistic event would be taking place on the beach that night.
“He told her, ‘It’s a surprise!’” Emerson relayed.
Both in their mid-30s, Rojario had been praying for years that his wife would come to know the Lord. And finally, on this night, she made the decision to give her life to Jesus Christ.
Rojario was overjoyed—a feeling that Emerson knew well.
“Our story is similar,” Emerson said, pointing to his wife, Sheilah.
Fourteen years ago, he was the husband praying for his wife’s salvation. God answered his prayers, and now Emerson and Sheilah serve together in ministry.
And there on Copacabana Beach, with a cold drizzle falling from the sky, Emerson and Sheilah were able to join Rojario in welcoming Rosanne into the Kingdom of God.
“I told Rojario, ‘Your prayers made all the difference,’” Emerson said.
More than 4,000 churches were involved in bringing Esperança Rio to fruition.
While Rio de Janeiro is a popular tourist destination, it can often be challenging for locals to navigate via public transportation—particularly when trying to reach Copacabana Beach.
Rio’s main form of public transport is the bus, but the city limits the number of buses brought into the beach area. So in an effort to help more people get to Esperança Rio, churches in the area agreed to load money onto “Rio cards.”
Since buses, trains and boats work together with the same transportation oversight in Rio, the cards could be used for all three forms of transit.
Sixty thousand Rio cards were distributed to local Brazilians and activated on June 11.
Friends Darlene and Luana traveled across Guanabara Bay to attend the FestiKids portion of Esperança Rio. With their five children in tow, they rode the bus for two hours from their home in Niterói.
Both members of the same Assemblies of God church, Darlene and Luana felt it was necessary to bring their children, ages 6 to 10, to the event.
“Our kids ministry really encouraged that we bring all our children,” Darlene said.
The mothers were grateful that the Rio cards provided the opportunity for their children to hear the Gospel clearly presented through dance, music and skits.
Eighteen-year-old Valdinito traveled with a group of friends from Petrópolis, about an hour north of Copacabana Beach. With the help of Rio cards provided by his church, the First Baptist Church of Petrópolis, Valdinito was able to watch firsthand as several of his friends recommitted their lives to Christ.
“Jesus is giving a chance to Brazil,” he said, “and I know that He can do big things.”
Photo: Karollayne Mendes/©2022 BGEA