Thousands drawn to Jesus at Luis Palau event in Venezuela

(Photo: Luis Palau Association)Thousands of hands were raised as an expression of surrender to Christ at the end of Luis Palau's evangelistic message at a youth festival in Venezuela this month.

Argentine evangelist Luis Palau has completed a three-week international campaign by preaching to 45,000 people at a youth festival in Venezuela.

"It has been a glorious time here in Venezuela, quite surprising, way beyond what we expected," said Palau, who is taking his Gospel message throughout the world.

The evangelist said that preliminary estimates were that 4,000 people committed themselves to Christ at the event in Barquisimeto, the country's fourth largest city.

Charisma News reported that response cards were collected from these individuals. Local churches were planning to follow up with the respondents.

An emphasis of the open-air festival was sexual purity until marriage, according to the Christian Post.

"If each and everyone one of you gives your life to Christ, not only will you all revolutionize Venezuela, but Colombia and the entire world," Palau said to the crowd on July 6.

"Tonight, the Lord tells you, you have more than hope, you have the security that the power of God will be upon your life."

Sexual temptations come to all of us from youth to old age. It's all in what you do with it," he added.

The theme of the festival, called "Juventud Libre (Free Youth) 2013," was "open your heart to hope." It was held in Barquisimeto's bicentennial park.

Thousands of young people spend time in the park each weekend.

The crowd at the Palau event was so large that it spilled from the park into the streets, according to his ministry website.

The theme reflected festival organizer Gabriel Blanco's desire to see the generation transformed by entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ, living a life influenced by biblical morals and discovering hope in the midst of uncertain circumstances.

In his message, Palau acknowledged the uncertain social and political climate in Venezuela, where evangelicals make up only 15 percent of the population.

Juventud Libre was broadcast on 700 television stations in Venezuela, as well as in other countries, including Japan and Australia.

The festival included performances from Grammy award-winning artists Monica, Tercer Cielo and GeneraSion.

In the week prior to the event, Palau appeared in the media, sharing messages and giving biblical advice. In addition, he spoke at a gathering of 450 business reperesentatives.

His ministry reported that 126 people expressed dedicated their lives to Christ at the dinner.

The evangelistic campaign began in June in Naples, Italy. A smaller festival, called FestiNapoli, was held with the support of the tiny evangelical community.

Despite the small number of evangelicals in Naples, thousands attended the Palau event.

FestiNapoli was an encouraging event for the Palau organizers in that it was the first time in recent history that government officials allowed anyone to host a public, outdoor evangelistic event.

Delegates from the mayor's office even greeted the Palau team officially at FestiNapoli.

Palau reported in his campaign wrap up that the number of Christians mobilized in Naples wasn't that many, but that the festival was a success.

"It is a very hard place to preach the good news Gospel - very religious, very hard place really," he said. "Nevertheless, the crowds came. Two thousand stayed for the whole event. The Lord really saved many people."

One of those converted was a policeman assigned to the event by the mayor, who Palau said became his friend during the visit.

In addition, people in homes in the mountains surrounding the bay where he spoke heard his messages.

One man called up the church that was the main sponsor of FestiNapoli and told them, "I prayed. I received Christ. I would like a copy of the book you gave to the people down by the beach."

After the Naples festival, past Luis Palau events were broadcast around the world leading up to the one in Venezuela.

Prior to the evangelistic campaign in Italy, the Palau ministry trained several hundred people in evangelism in Spain.

After FestiNapoli, Palau told his supporters via YouTube of his group's ministry in Spain and Italy, "One of our team members said they were two spectacular months. He was right. It was spectacular."

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