Their faces touched the cool, concrete floor as they lay outstretched in the middle of the arena, quiet and still as a band sang praises to God in Spanish.
It was a beautiful, raw portrait of worship—this handful of people overwhelmed by God’s holiness in full view of over 16,000 others at Saturday night’s Festival of Hope in Monterrey, Mexico.
Multiple news outlets attended a press conference the day before where reporters thanked Franklin Graham for being there and asked how this event may provide some kind of solution to the problems their city faces—specifically the lack of security and rampant crime due to gang violence and drug cartels.
The deeper issue, Franklin responded, and the root of the problem, is security of the soul. Without a heart anchored in Christ—and a life dedicated to Him—he said in a room full of cameras and recorders, all kinds of human problems will persist.
On Saturday, he repeated that sentiment in front of thousands more, including over 6,500 from 48 countries who watched the Festival online.
“Man is searching for purpose and meaning to life,” he said from a packed Arena Monterrey.
The prosperous city known for steel manufacturing has no shortage of shops and gadgets, but, as Franklin continued, none of that ultimately satisfies. “You have a vacuum of emptiness that can only be filled by God in His Son, Jesus Christ.”
Monterrey is the third largest city in Mexico and the most Americanized, though still brimming with Mexican culture. Of the 4.5 million people who live in the greater metropolitan area, though, only about 8 percent are considered born again Believers, Festival Director Galo Vasquez shared before the two-day event. Most attend church on special occasions but lack that day-to-day relationship with Jesus, he said.
“We may think, ‘Is this really going to have an impact?'” Graham asked earlier this week about the Festival. “We don’t know. Only God knows … What we’re to do is be faithful to preach the Gospel.”
His late father, Billy Graham, heeded the same calling to preach in several Mexican cities over the years. Franklin said one of the most important things his father taught him was the importance of prayer, and he’s been praying over this Monterrey Festival for months. So have thousands of others.
“Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit would descend on this city,” he said a day before the event began.
Looking around at people’s faces Saturday night, it seems that prayer was answered in the affirmative.
In an age when so many refuse Jesus Christ and mock His name, the Monterrey crowd could have moved a person to tears as they shouted, jumped, danced in the aisles and sang at the top of their lungs, totally unrestrained.
The arena busted at the seams with people full of pure passion, willing and wide open to the Gospel.
And when Franklin Graham invited them to walk forward as a sign of their commitment to Christ, they came. They were unashamed and ready, emptying seats on either side of the venue, in the front and the back, stuffing the aisles as they made their way down the steps until the floor could hardly be seen.
Several hundred came. The crowd moved forward to make room for more, and when that wasn’t enough, a team of men stacked up the chairs at the back of the floor to offer more space.
Even some who had been waiting outside the arena decided they wanted more of this Jesus they’d just heard about. A few prayer volunteers who stayed outside helped them take the next step.
Inside, 29-year-old Jesus wasn’t sure at first. He had come with his wife and wanted to know he was forgiven for his sins, but hesitated to make a move.
Then Franklin called again, and this time, Jesus got out of his seat.
“God is revealing Himself,” said 23-year-old Jacia as the night ended.
Jacia served as a prayer volunteer, but had tears in her eyes from all she witnessed. The magnitude of the event blew her away, especially as she watched people from different backgrounds “coming to the same Jesus.”
He’s not just a story, she said, but a real person who can make all the difference in their lives.
Tatiana wants Christ to change her life, too.After a long embrace with one prayer volunteer, tears still filled the corners of Tatiana’s eyes as she wiped them away and smiled.
The 16-year-old was listening as Franklin Graham talked about the Prodigal Son in the Bible, the perfect example of a restless generation, continually searching for fulfillment in all the wrong places and putting God on the back burner.
“I’ve been running away from God. I don’t have the same kind of relationship with Him that I used to,” she said.
But she knows that can change and that God wants to use her gifts for His good.
Like the story of the Prodigal Son, she learned that, “No matter where I am, God can rescue me.”
Irish Bishop Against Practicing Yoga in Christian Schools
An Irish bishop has written to Catholic schools urging them to ban yoga as it is ‘not of Christian origin’ and the children should spend their time ‘in adoration of Jesus’ instead.
Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, wrote to principals, teachers and school staff members in Waterford City and County, Ireland, on October 10.
In his letter, he said: ‘Yoga is not of Christian origin and is not suitable for our parish school setting and especially not during religious education time.
‘I have been asked by several people to say a word on yoga and mindfulness. My question is, ‘Will they bring us closer to God or replace him?’
The bishop claimed that Christian Mindfulness is ‘meditation on Christ’ which empties the mind of ‘everything unnecessary’ in order to become ‘aware of the presence and love of Christ’.
While he also quoted Pope Francis that practices like yoga are ‘not capable of opening our hearts up to God’.
The bishop added how people can ‘take a million courses in spirituality’ but this activity ‘will never be able to give you freedom’, echoing Pope Francis’s speech in 2015.
He said Pope Francis’s philosophy was in keeping with Ireland’s Grow In Love programme. This touches on Christian doctrine, Scripture, morality and prayer.
Teacher’s were reminded that October is the ‘month of the Rosary’ and they should each pray in a bid to get closer to Jesus, in the letter.
But the primary school curriculum allows a degree of flexibility about how its implemented, according to the Irish National Teachers Organisation, who hit-back at his view.
John Stokes, a yoga instructor in Waterford, said the practice of yoga, meditation and mindfulness should be ’embraced’ in ‘an age where children are really suffering from anxiety and stress’.
‘There is no dogma taught in our classes and Yoga in it’s truest sense is a movement and breath awareness practice for health and wellbeing.
They said ‘here’s to tolerance, love and unity’ and invited him to a one-to-one yoga session or class of his choice’ at their Wellness Centre in Youghal, Ireland.
The Irish National Teachers Organisation said the primary school curriculum allows schools a certain amount of flexibility and autonomy with regard to its implementation.
They said the schools ‘are best placed’ to make the decisions about how the subjects are taught, taking into consideration the ‘school culture, ethos and needs of the pupils’.
This is not the first time Bishop Cullinan has received backlash for his views as he said he was to establish a ‘delivery ministry’ group to rid people of the devil through exorcism, last year.
He also claimed the cervical cancer vaccine could lead to promiscuity in 2017.
The bishop said the vaccine ‘lulls girls into false sense of security’ and encourages sexual activity, adding: ‘Prevention, the number one and most effective protection, is abstinence. A good old traditional value.’
He later apologised and admitted he was not fully informed about the vaccination programme. Cullinan’s ‘intention was solely motivated to protect people from HPV’.
China Demolishes 3,000-Seat Megachurch during Worship Service
The People’s Republic of China destroyed a church that reportedly could seat 3,000 people and detained its pastors, according to a human rights organization.
An international nonprofit Christian human rights group based in Texas, reported the incident in a statement released Saturday. According to the group, Chinese authorities provided no legal papers to justify the demolition.
The church was located in Funan, Anhui province. Its pastors, Geng Yimin and Sun Yongyao, were detained under suspicion of “gathering a crowd to disturb social order.”
China Aid President Bob Fu said in a statement that the incident was “yet another clear example showing the escalation of religious persecution today by the Chinese Communist regime.”
“The total disregard of religious freedom’s protection as enshrined in the Communist Party’s own Constitution tells the whole world President Xi is determined to continue his war against the peaceful Christian faithful. This campaign will surely fail in the end.”
While China’s persecution of religious groups has existed for many years, recently under President Xi Jinping a wave of crackdowns on religious practices in China has taken place.
The Communist government has destroyed or damaged several churches, reflecting concerns about the increasing Christian population of the country.
In the summer, True Jesus Church in Henan province was razed to the ground, according to persecution watchdog Bitter Winter. Police officers reportedly dragged out all believers from the church before they demolished the property.
Bitter Winter also reported last month that the Ten Commandments have been removed from nearly every Three-Self church and meeting venue in a county of Luoyang city and replaced with the President Xi Jinping’s quotes as part of the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to “sinicize” Christianity.
In addition to cracking down on its Christian minority, China has engaged in violent persecution of its Uighur Muslim and Falun Gong communities.
The China Tribunal, a human rights group, told the United Nations Human Rights Council last month that the Chinese government is harvesting organs from religious minorities, with possibly hundreds of thousands of victims.
“Forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience, including the religious minorities of Falun Gong and Uighurs, has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale, and that it continues today. This involves hundreds of thousands of victims.”
“Victim for victim and death for death, cutting out the hearts and other organs from living, blameless, harmless, peaceable people constitutes one of the worst mass atrocities of this century.”
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