Festival of Hope: A defining moment
by Giulio Gabeli
In every lifetime there are specific defining moments for individuals, marriages, families, churches, cities and nations. These are unique decisions, circumstances, events or happenings that mark a person, a place or posterity for years to come.
The Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham which took place in Vancouver on March 3-5, 2017 at Rogers Arena was such a moment. The Festival journey began in September of 2014, when a number of Vancouver Pastors and leaders travelled to Toronto to participate in and experience a Festival.We were exposed first hand to the ins and outs of the Festival observing what takes place on stage and what occurs behind the scenes. We had an opportunity to discuss with the Festival Team organizers the challenges and the benefits of hosting the Festival in their city. We asked many pertinent questions seeking to discern whether this could happen in Vancouver.
Upon our return, as a team we began to dialogue with other key church, network and organizational leaders about this initiative. We spent a lot of time in prayer with many key leaders and pastors asking the Lord for wisdom and direction regarding the possibility and the timing of such an event in our city. In the course of time it became very clear that the Lord was truly highlighting Vancouver for such a moment.
In the next step the Lord began to identify and single out those who were being called to serve in the local leadership team; leaders who had great influence with other leaders, who had caught the Heavenly vision for a city-wide evangelistic event.
The Core Team (representing over 600 churches, networks and organizations), along with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association staff formed a partnership with a specific mandate to present the Gospel message through the Festival Of Hope with Franklin Graham to our city in Rogers Arena.
The FOH Leadership Team never wavered from this focus even when opposition arose from within the church as well as from outside the church. The controversy that was created by a number of religious leaders who opposed Franklin Graham coming to Vancouver, indicting Him for comments that they deemed too American, too political and racist (comments taken out of context) sadly were shared openly with the secular media. This created a domino affect fuelling a concern and a fear that was exaggerated by the media and sadly embraced by the Mayor and the Chief of Police, that Franklin Graham would be inciting hatred and violence if he was allowed to speak at Rogers arena. It was a very sensitive and vulnerable time for the entire team that required great wisdom and grace to navigate through in a Christ-like manner.
We all recognized that this issue was beyond Franklin Graham and the FOH, but in fact it was really about our freedom as Bible believing Christians to speak freely and share what we believe in and what we stand for; even if it confronts a liberal left wing,secular ideology that thrives in our politically correct culture.
We were fully aware of the consequence if we would not allow Franklin Graham to speak; a precedent would be set that would hinder the cause of Christ and the freedom to preach the Gospel in the future. With great boldness and determination we did not capitulate or succumb to that spirit of intimidation and manipulation that was seeking to thwart God’s purposes through the Festival of Hope which created a platform to preach a clear gospel message to our city.
In the aftermath of this controversy, we have resolved that we will continue to pray for and pursue the unity of the Church in our city.
We have clearly stated to those that were in opposition to Franklin Graham these words, ”Events come and go in our city but relationships endure, therefore let’s agree to disagree without sacrificing the unity of the body, for when the smoke clears and the dust settles we will remain comrades and not competitors in the Kingdom of God.”
Now consider the practical impact of this event in our city; 34,400 people came to Rogers Arena, 2,774 decisions were made for Christ as a result of this initiative. As well take into account the long term impact of many coming to Christ as a result of these individuals in the future. When you consider the marriages, the families, and the homes that will experience a change because of the light of the Gospel coming into their world resulting in changed lives; this compound effect alone is immeasurable.
Consider the impact of 3,000 believers that took the Christian Life and Witness Classes in preparation for the Festival of Hope who have been inspired to be a bolder witness for Christ; their faithfulness and commitment to the local churches have been strengthened and this will contribute significantly to the very life of the Church continuing to bring in the harvest of souls and much more…
Folks we can safely say in conclusion, that eternity and Heaven alone will reveal the full extent of the impact of the Festival of Hope coming to our city… It truly was a defining moment for Metro Vancouver.
To God be all the glory for the great things He has done!
Rev.Giulio Lorefice Gabeli, Executive Leader FOH.