What a mighty God we serve. Thank you for all your prayers for the Franklin Graham Festival in Tbilisi. It was one incredible week but also a week of intense spiritual warfare.
God’s timing is very interesting, and there is no doubt in my mind that He wanted us in this nation at this specific time in world history.
Tbilisi is a major city in the Republic of Georgia (part of the former Soviet Union). It’s bordered by Russia to the north, Turkey to the south and the Black Sea to the west. That part of the world has been in the news lately. Crimea, one of the major provinces in Ukraine, broke away and joined Russia. A few years earlier Russia annexed Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia so we knew we were walking into a hot spot.
It takes years to plan a festival, and when the planning began, no one knew that the nation would be going through major turmoil. God knew, so I believe He sent us at the right time.
Spreading the gospel is not always easy, and we knew we would get opposition and we certainly did.
Many were threatened with serious consequences if they attended the Festival. Even so, they still came. After the folks doing the threatening realized their many threats were not working, an arsonist decided to try to stop the meeting by burning the venue.
As a result of the fire, we had to find another location.
Our team contacted many locations and as soon as our directors got to the facility to sign the papers, they were told the facility was no longer available. After contacting 15 different locations and having the same response, we got the message.
Franklin also had a media interview, and there he was told that major forces were opposing the festival. When you get this kind of information from the media, you know you are dealing with a serious situation. One of my pastor friend said to me, “This is just like the old Soviet days.” During those days religious meetings could only be held on registered church property. Anything else was illegal. Many pastors went to prison for sharing the gospel, including my friend’s dad.
With all the venues becoming unavailable, a decision was made to hold the festival in the courtyard of a local church.
Our team was incredible, and with a group of battle-hardened warriors who are not afraid of standing up for Jesus, we were ready for battle.
Franklin Graham led the charge and we all followed. Michael W Smith, Dennis Agajanian, Tommy Coomes and the Praise Band, the Choir, Orchestra, Tech Crew, TV Crew, Counselors, Guest Musicians, and Translators . . . we all followed.
Very soon we discovered one of the major groups opposing us was the Georgian Orthodox Church.
First they told their members which included many musicians not to attend. As a result, we lost many from the orchestra. If they had only asked them not to attend that would have been bad enough, but they went much further.
They threatened them with being excommunicated from the church. This is no small matter in this culture. Being excommunicated means you can’t take part in any church activities. I was told in some churches this means they are condemning you to hell.
You can only imagine the war in the people’s minds, weighing the cost of attending the event or going to hell according to their church’s teaching.
When those opposing the meeting discovered their threats were not working, they showed up outside with large signs saying we were a cult and Billy Graham and Franklin Graham were false teachers.
Praise God for the reminder in these verses.
Matthew 5 v 11 – 12: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
What an incredible promise.
With the threats not having the desired effect, they decided to build a corridor of fire, which is basically a human wall of shame. People getting into the meeting had to walk through this wall of shame where they would be shoved, yelled at, and condemned by the priest.
Even so, people were not deterred. When they discovered people were still not moved, they set up video cameras to record those attending the meeting. Please keep the folks there in your prayers because there will be repercussions for those who attended the festival.
There was not only opposition from natural sources; even in the sky we had warfare. The weather forecasters predicted 0% chance of rain for the days of the festival. I was shocked each day just before sound check started to see dark clouds gather over the church. It looked like a war was taking places in the heavens.
Soon we had lightning without thunder and a few rain drops. If this had been a one-time occurrence, it would have been one thing, but when it happened each day of the festival, it got our attention.
With that the prayer team went to prayer–and I mean serious prayer. Once worship started, miraculously the clouds would disappear, leaving clear blue skies over the church. For those of us who witnessed it, this will be a lifetime memory for all of us. What a mighty God we serve. There is something amazing about prayer and worship.
Now here is more good news.
Over 15,000 people attended the Festival, and when Franklin gave the altar call, over 1000 made decisions for Christ. Imagine the party taking place in heaven. I can also imagine the conference call being held in hell. I knew the kingdom of darkness was shaken. I also have a feeling when we get to heaven, we will hear stories of the lives transformed as a result of this trip.
Thanks for praying for us, I could literally feel your prayers. Please continue to pray we know the door to spreading the gospel is closing rapidly in this part of the world. As a result, we have to make the most of every opportunity.
If you want to see pictures from the Festival, just go to my face book page. If we are not friends yet, just send me a request and I will confirm you.
Here are a few links from BGEA headquarters with more info on the Festival.
God bless you richly thanks for partnering with us in ministry.
Rev Huntley Brown
International Concert Pianist