It’s said that America’s day begins in Guam. On Sunday, that day ended focused on Jesus for 5,500 people gathered to hear a message of God’s love during the one-day Guåhan Festival of Hope with Franklin Graham.
A U.S. island territory in Micronesia, Guam is situated west of the International Date Line. That means a new day shines first upon this island nation in the western Pacific 15 hours before it does in North America.
As that sun dipped below the horizon Sunday, the 85-degree day cooled considerably and hearts warmed to the idea of Jesus’ love. Graham, making his first trip to Guam, used John 3 and the story of the Pharisee Nicodemus to explain that true faith isn’t about religion.
“Religion in itself is not enough, and there are many people who are religious,” Graham told the crowd that filled every fold-out plastic chair and spilled onto the pitch at the Guam Football Association National Training Center. “I’m not here to talk to you about religion. I’m here to talk with you about how you can have a relationship with God.
“There’s lots of religions in the world, but there’s only one Jesus.”
The message resonated with Norman Lariner. He accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour in 1980, but over time, he had slipped away.
“For a long period of time, I wasn’t walking with the Lord,” Lariner said after praying to rededicate his life. “That’s why I came over here to pray for the Lord to forgive me.”
He held the hand of his young granddaughter during his prayer and also afterward while sharing his story. He wanted her especially to know what’s going on. Maybe one day, he said, she’ll follow in his footsteps.
“Welcome to the family!” one counsellor named Tanya cheered nearby after praying with a woman who wanted to receive Christ. Volunteers counselled in English, Korean and Chuukese, but no matter the lingo, the body language was similar. Some wiped their eyes; others smiled brightly through the tears.
Counsellors cried right along with the people wanting prayer. Counsellor Rosalene Galgo rejoiced with one woman who felt compelled to come forward for prayer.
For Galgo, Sunday’s event was a “dream come true.” She moved to Guam recently from Los Angeles, where she became passionate about seeing the churches unite together to serve Jesus and address social issues such as homelessness.
“This is going to catch Guam on fire,” counsellor Rosalene Galgo said. “There’s so much hopelessness here, there’s so much death, so much drugs. I believe that we are now rising up to the call of Jesus Christ.
“We’re rising up to the call now, and we pray that there’s going to be revival, not only in Guam but it’s going to extend to the other islands in the name of Jesus.”
Suicide is a key issue on the island and as recently as 2017 ranked inside the top 10 for causes of premature death. There’s a feeling of hopelessness, particularly among the younger generations. Everybody, it seems, knows somebody impacted.
Jason Soliva went to school with somebody who died by suicide. He said he didn’t know what to tell the person’s parents in the aftermath. On Sunday, while counselling young children, he stressed over and over again the hope found only in Christ.
“Remember this day,” he remembered telling a dad and his two young children who came forward to accept Christ. “Whenever you feel sad, whenever you feel depressed, remember this day. Jesus is there. God is there. He’s there for you.”
Sunday is a day Jasel Delgado said she won’t forget. She attended with Angelina Campos, a friend so close they call each other sisters. The two found Christ once upon a time while attending church with Jasel’s mother, but Franklin Graham’s Biblical message reignited the duo to take a stand for Jesus.
“Religion here, it’s more of a tradition than a belief,” Angelina said. “It’s tradition to go to church, but it’s not tradition …
“to have a one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ,” Jasel said, finishing her sentence just like a sister would. She continued:
“I believe everyone here felt touched by it and will carry it on for years and years. I will definitely remember this night for the rest of my life.”