Amazing love event…so good for the soul
Towards the end of last year, I heard from my church that the Franklin Graham Foundation was planning an event called the Amazing Love Festival.
It was going to be happening in January 2019 and they needed volunteers to be counsellors to pray with and explain the gospel to those who responded to the altar call to receive salvation. I thought this would be a great opportunity to invest in others’ lives, but which was not going to be a long-term commitment which needed loads of my time.
The training was enjoyable. The method they used to explain the gospel is very similar to how I heard the gospel as a 13-year-old at youth camp. This made me even more sure it could impact peoples’ lives. Knowing the actions of Jesus on the cross bridges the gap (caused by sin) between us and God brought me peace and hope and with this I was excited for the date of the event to come. We were equipped with all the booklets and trained well.
January the 19th and 20th came and sadly many of those who had done the training and originally been excited to volunteer had lost the motivation or had other time commitments that were of greater importance.
It ended up being just me and Jessica and a few others who travelled by different means. The first day as we drove up to park, there were so many cars, and as we walked in the building you could tangibly feel the excitement and expectancy that God was going to work powerfully. This got our hearts racing and Jessica’s eyes welling up with joy.
We went to the desk and got our official language counsellor cards and lanyard. We went into the big arena and saw the chairs laid out and so many people. It blew my mind and made my eyes widen.
We sat down and Jess was emotional again. I didn’t help much as I kept commenting on different thoughts that came to mind about what an impact this could have on new Christians and those who go to small churches to be in such an environment. We were well aware that mainly Thai people were there and this filled us both with joy as we struggle with being at the orphanage and there being limited hope in that Thai environment. The music started and the songs were mainly in Thai, but some were recognisable.
There was a massive choir and orchestra and band also. The atmosphere was electric and the worship wonderful but composed. Everyone was so friendly and smiley and the feeling that we were family was true and intense.
Then Franklin Graham came on the stage with the translator and the two started the sermon. The first night (the Saturday) was about the healing of a blind man and about how he was in darkness and that we are in spiritual darkness when still separated from Christ.
Then it was time for the altar call and so we took up our places in the languages corner. My Thai was not strong enough to explain the booklet in Thai, but we were available for those who needed to hear in English.
At this event on the first night must have been just under 20,000 people and we think about a third of them came forwards. My hands were shaking with the nervous energy. I witnessed to two ladies, Kate and Shommait, who were both wanting to recommit their lives to Jesus. The Thai counsellors were overwhelmed with people coming forwards and had to witness to more than one at a time. We lead them through the booklets and filled out the form to assist the foundation in getting them connected into a church and prayed the salvation prayer with them.
Once we were finished, people headed home. I can’t tell you how good for my soul this was to see and be part of God at work in lives. On arriving home, I saw on Facebook that a former colleague from the orphanage (her name was Jo but is now Na) had also been at the event with her whole family. When I first arrived in Thailand and visited the orphanage, I lived in a one-room apartment in the condo where she also lived. She helped me find my feet and get used to Thai life in the early days. It was nice to see her family again in the pictures she posted, but a shame we had not seen each other on the night. I connected with her over her photos she posted and asked if she had gone to the front and she said yes. She explained she didn’t fully understand, but that her heart was truly stirred. I got her address and intend to send her the little booklet we received that made it simple and clear.
On the Sunday evening (day 2 of the event) I went with my friend Michael (whose family run the missionary charity ICARE) and three Thai ladies from my church. One had only become a Christian at Christmas, when she attended the Thai bible study Christmas celebration. We were all excited, but me more so maybe, because I knew what it was like. It was great on arrival to see their reaction as mine had been the day before.
This time all the seats were filled and saved, so I think the numbers were way over the 20,000. I’m told this was because the acts on this night were more famous. One was a singer who used to be famous and was known for being gay but then became a Christian.
Franklin started his sermon again with his Thai translator’s help and this time it was about Zacchaeus and how he was a sinner who expected Jesus to have no time for him, but Jesus’ love saved him and helped him change his ways.
He said a few times ‘In a short while, I’m going to ask you to come’ and finally when he said ‘Come now to the front, if you want Christ to give you that peace in your life’ it was as if people felt finally free and it was wonderful to see the masses moving to the front.
Pi Fah, the new Christian in our group, wanted to go up, so hand in hand we walked down the aisle to where the Thais were prayed with and then I went to my language space. This time I prayed with a lady called Komal and her child and a lady called Norelyn.
As I waited afterwards to see if anyone else needed assistance, I noticed a young lady sat behind us up against the rail. She explained she was a Buddhist and that she was waiting for a friend who was getting prayed for and filling in the form. I asked her if anything Franklin had said had interested her and she said yes, that his comment about us all being guilty was true. I told her I agreed and that this is why Jesus death on the cross gave me such hope. Telling her it was lovely to meet her, I got her name and wished her a safe journey home. She clearly was not seeking to accept Christ at that point, but I sensed God wanted me to be a gentle and kind witness of his friendship to her. Her name was Surina and I will continue to keep her in my prayers. I shall pray that in the days and weeks ahead, she will remember what was said at this event and it will become something to her.
We were finished and so after handing back the unused supplies, I headed to the meeting point. As I did so, I saw people from another charity in my area. Thanksgiving Home is run by a couple I’ve known for many years. They have a home in the community which assists children and young adults with disabilities. On this occasion they were with a huge group including some young people whom I’ve also known for years, since they were probably 5 to 7 years old, and now they are young adults. This was made lovelier when I heard that one in particular had gone up to the front to reconfirm her faith. I’d not known she knew Christ, so my heart was doubly warmed to know she had made steps to be more firmly rooted in Christ. I said farewell to this group and wanted to thank the crew and those on the admin desk for the event and their part in it.
The lady I spoke with was actually the counsellor who had assisted the young lady, Shompoo (that’s her name), in the prayers of recommitment and she was pleased to see how much support this young lady had. I reassured her that with that group she would be encouraged in faith. It was lovely how God connected dots to blow my mind further at how powerful he is.
We travelled home with a different friend so that Michael could go directly home to his family where two of the children had been unwell. The journey was lovely and Fah completed it with a joyful ‘See you at church service on Sunday’.
I arrived home and slept well. The morning started better too at work on Monday. Nothing was able to dampen my spirits till the afternoon, not even Miss K’s bad positioning. Alas, in the afternoon there was something that did, although the child I added to my group for feeding gave a smile of thanks that I was going to get her out and nicely fed, and that was a good pick me up.
I thank God for this opportunity. I hope and pray for all who attended the event and for whose accepted Christ and that we all remember this event for the right reasons.