Chris Lange, FISM News
Thousands of Vietnamese people flocked to Phu Tho Sports Facility in Ho Chi Minh City over the weekend to hear the message of love, hope, and forgiveness of the Gospel at the Billy Graham Association’s Spring Love Festival.
“The Spring Love Festival is historic because this is the first time the government has given permission for an evangelistic outreach with a foreign speaker outside of a religious holiday,” the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said in a statement to The Christian Post ahead of the event.
The stadium quickly maxed out its seating capacity on Saturday and Sunday as overflow crowds gathered on curbs and patches of grass outside the stadium to listen to Franklin Graham’s message and praise and worship songs.
Around 300 local churches joined together to invite non-Christian friends and family members to the festival, with many providing transportation services.
“Have you ever watched the sun come up or the sun set and asked, ‘Is there a God behind all this?'” Franklin Graham asked the crowd of thousands through his interpreter, Pastor Lam Thien Loc, according to a press release. “Man is searching for purpose and meaning to his life. … God made us and He created us, and He created a vacuum that He wants to fill inside our bodies,” Graham continued as the crowd appeared to hang on his every word.
“God is offering a gift: salvation, forgiveness, eternal life. But you have to be willing to accept it.” he continued. The press release noted that “many people” came forward during the two-day event to commit their lives to Christ.
We praise God for all He did in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, this weekend! Join us in praying for those whose lives were transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ… pic.twitter.com/TkRY9gNoNn
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) March 6, 2023
The festival marked the second time Graham has shared the Gospel in Vietnam, having previously held a festival in Hanoi in 2017. The Spring Love Festival was originally scheduled to take place in 2019 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Spring Love Festival also featured worship music led by well-known Christian artists.
The Tommy Coomes Band, a collective of popular individual Christian artists that perform at evangelistic events in the U.S. and abroad, sang “There’s joy in the house of the Lord,” in both English and Vietnamese as attendees joined the chorus, lifting their voices in praise and worship of the Creator.
Christian artist Michael W. Smith said that as he prepared to exit the stage following his last song Saturday night, the crowd continued singing a cappella.
The three-time Grammy Award winner has joined Franklin Graham for multiple international outreaches.
‘I NEVER THOUGHT I’D SEE THE DAY’
Vietnamese Christians who attended the festival marveled at the fact that so many of their fellow citizens were hearing the Gospel in one place, many for the first time.
A woman referred to in the release by her first name, Janet, said that she felt “goosebumps” upon seeing the crowd as she entered the stadium.
“I never thought I’d see the day,” she said, having grown up in Vietnam. “Now people have choices in my country [about faith]. There are millions here who have never heard the Name of Jesus.”
‘GOD GAVE ME THE COURAGE’
Kim, a 23-year-old Vietnamese college graduate who served as one of the interpreters at the Spring Love Festival, said that she invited 60 family members, friends, and co-workers to attend and also posted information about the event on social media, despite the risks.
“God gave me the courage,” she said.
A NATION OF PERSECUTION
Vietnam was ranked 25th in Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch report on Christian persecution. Believers represent about 9% of the communist nation where Buddhism is the primary religion. World Watch noted:
Pressure and violence targeting Christians among ethnic minorities is especially strong in the central and north-western highlands of Vietnam. Christians who leave their tribal religions to follow Jesus are viewed as cultural and family traitors. They are at risk for violent attack, having their children forcibly taken and having their homes and crops destroyed.
Kim explained that “[t]here are many broken people” living in Vietnam today, which compels her to continue to share the Good News of the Gospel.
“Young people move here but feel lonely because their family is far away,” she continued, apparently referring to Ho Chi Minh City, which has a population of around 9.2 million.
Kim said that these young people try to fill the void in their lives with work or relationships that can never satisfy the soul’s longing for a personal relationship with Christ.
Kim shared that, prior to the festival, she chose to leave her career in public relations to pursue ministry opportunities.
“This is my time,” she said. “God gave me a time to serve.”
Janet said that local churches, including hers, who participated in the festival are committed to helping new believers grow in their faith and study God’s Word.
“We have to do our part for new believers — disciple and build them up in Christ,” she said. “There are already many young Christians and God wants to use them.”