For most of the events that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) holds around the world, months of prayer and preparation culminate in one multi-day Festival or Celebration.
But the Metro Manila Celebration with Will Graham has looked a little different. Eight days and nine events led up to this weekend’s large-scale events in the Philippines’ capital city—and many lives have already been changed for eternity.
A week ago, Will shared the Gospel message just north of the bustling city during a two-day event in the Pagasinan province. Then, in the days leading up to the Celebration in Manila, Will preached at individual events for Filipino youth; leaders in the government military and police; and business men and women.
At each outreach, many people made life-changing decisions to follow Christ. A total of more than 40,000 people attended those events, with more than 8,000 deciding to commit their lives to Him.
Continuing What God Started in the Philippines
With such a great response to the Gospel message, Will’s evangelistic tour in the Philippines was already a success. As this weekend approached, local believers and the BGEA team prayed expectantly for God to continue working.
“Lord, we praise you for all the wonderful things that have taken place in the Philippines,” Will Graham prayed Friday at staff devotions. “But God, we pray again for another mighty work of the Holy Spirit.”
During Billy Graham’s Crusade in 1977 and Franklin Graham’s Festival in 2006 at the same venue—the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park—hundreds of thousands attended and tens of thousands made decisions for Christ.
However, this weekend’s first large-scale event with Will Graham had a unique set of challenges. Between some of the world’s worst traffic, continued Valentine’s Day celebrations, and payday in the Philippines, Manila residents had to make a great effort to come to the Friday night event.
Despite those challenges, God faithfully answered prayers for another fruitful night. Thousands of people attended and hundreds began a personal relationship with Jesus or rededicated their lives to Him.
“God has provided,” said Mary, a local prayer volunteer. “The heart of the Graham family is really a blessing—to come all the way here to share the Good News.”
“I am really amazed by how God is working here,” added Evan, another volunteer standing nearby.” When Will gave the invitation and people stood up, I was overwhelmed. … I immediately started crying.”
The meaningful evening started with worship led by artist Mark Christian, local Filipino bands and a thousand-voice choir. After the sun set on the southeast Asian island, Will Graham took center stage to offer the same invitation his father and grandfather did decades ago.
With many in the predominantly Catholic nation likely to know about Jesus, Will stressed the importance of a personal relationship with Christ—who can meet needs and desires that this world can’t satisfy.
“You have to make that decision on your own,” Will said. “I’m not asking if you’re a church member. I’m asking if you’ve accepted Jesus into your life.”
The crowd listened attentively to the powerful message. Many worshiped, bowed their heads during prayer and laughed at Will’s humorous takeaways of the Filipino culture.
But when the time for a response came, every person in the crowd had to make a personal decision.
“Tonight is your hour of need,” Will said. “You’re exhausted and weary. You’re about to lose hope, and you’re looking for answers. You can cry out to Jesus tonight. Are you willing to do that?”
Finding Freedom in Christ
Hundreds responded to the invitation by coming forward to symbolize their personal surrender to Christ. Among them was 16-year-old Sheena, who stood close to the Quirino Grandstand stage with tears streaming down her face.
The young woman didn’t plan to come to the Celebration—she didn’t even want to come. However, she explained that she felt an inexplicable need to hear a message from the Lord. Will Graham’s sermon about the satisfying and strengthening power of God convicted and encouraged her.
“My faith has been shaken by trials recently, but I’ve been strengthened tonight,” she said while wiping a steady stream of tears from her face.
With so many Filipino hearts softened by the Holy Spirit, it’s hard to believe two more events are yet to take place during the Metro Manila Celebration. But there is still much work to be done as many hopeless souls walk the busy streets of Manila—and every city around the world.
As a local prayer volunteer said, “Let’s continue to pray for a great harvest of souls as the Celebration continues Saturday and Sunday.”