Catholic’s Take on the Festival of Hope
Franklin Graham, son of the legendary Billy Graham brought his Festival of HOPE to Jacksonville.
Almost all Christians, no matter the denomination know the Graham family. I remember when Billy Graham filled the Gator Bowl fifteen years ago in my hometown. When I heard of his son Franklin Graham bringing his tour to town I felt I needed to go.
I prayed about it and felt the compelling desire to attend. I mentioned the event to another Catholic, not as invite but more as a ‘this is what we are doing.’ When I did the reaction was that of surprise. They then went into a segue of how wrong they (non-Catholics) were and how right we were.
This did not sway my decision to attend, if anything just the opposite. As Christians if we spent less time judging one another and more time loving, maybe just maybe the world would be a better place.
Friday nights event started off with music by the band Caves from Canada. The emcee for the weekend was spoken word poet Amena Brown. Her husband providing dj entertainment for the weekend. City Harmonic really got the party started as the opening act. Franklin Graham then spoke about his HOPE not only for America but even his HOPE for our own city. After hundreds of people were brought to Christ, the band Tenth Avenue North closed out the evening.
Saturday night Franklin’s talk was centered around the story of the prodigal son. Many more were moved to make a decision that night. As a packed house witnessed hundreds more come to Christ. By standing up for God and publicly admitting they are sinners they received forgiveness, healing and God’s grace. There is a moment in everyone’s life where they must make a choice. Only they can make the decision on whether they will seek the face and forgiveness of Jesus.
As a Catholic this is not exactly what we are taught in our schools or churches. That is not the way it is supposed to work. We have sacraments and saints that other religions do not share. When I had mentioned attending the Festival of Hope to a fellow Catholic, you would have thought I was a heathen. Funny how that didn’t stop the Baptist, Methodist, Protestants and even Catholics like me from giving their lives over to the Lord. This is not to say that I strayed away from my faith or religion.
If anything it strengthened my walk. I found comfort in admitting my brokenness that I may never have found elsewhere.
Saturday nights entertainment consisted of Lacey (formerly of Flyleaf), closed out by an amazing show by the Newsboys. A packed house of worshipers of the one and only Jesus Christ is a beautiful thing, no matter what religion they may be. Having the opportunity to witness the Holy Spirit minister and move in so many lives in one place is incredible to see. Whether it is in the confines of a church service on Sunday morning or the Veterans Memorial Arena on a Saturday night.
We returned for Sundays worship service once again hosted by DJ Opdiggy and wife Amena. Worship was opened by Grammy award-winning artist Tasha Cobbs. Hundreds more souls were brought to Christ Sunday night by Reverend Franklin Graham. People making the personal decision to turn away from sin. Making that choice to accept that God Loves them and that there was HOPE for them in eternity. The Festival of HOPE was closed out by none other than The Charlie Daniels Band. According to Charlie “If people could hear only one song, I would want it to be ‘Jesus Died for You.'”
Overall the Greater Jacksonville Festival of Hope was an event of a lifetime. Where else would you find current mayor Alvin Brown and mayor elect Lenny Curry on the same stage sharing their faith in Jesus Christ. Where else would you find artists like Dae-Lee, Dennis Agajanian, Tommy Coomes, Lacey and the Newsboys share the stage. Where else could you witness hundreds of people in a broken city, come together with one purpose, to find HOPE.
It does not matter if you are Catholic, Protestant, Episcopalian, or Baptist. As long as a community, better yet as a country we can come together as one unified Christian body and pray for HOPE in America. In the end we all are seeking God’s forgiveness for our sins, hope for salvation rather than damnation. If that means you spend your weekend with a bunch of Christians that some view as wrong as far as what they believe, well so be it. I am unashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, hopefully they are too.
About Charles Johnston
Charles is a Christian, husband and father of fur-kids who shares his walk with others in hopes to help other's along the way.