For Only One Soul…

A Reflection from the Franklin Graham Festival of Hope May 29-31, 2015 (BGEA- Billy Graham Evangelist Association)

My monumental weekend of “soul-saving” had finally arrived.  It felt like I had trained forever to ensure I was adequately prepared to proudly execute my volunteer assignment as Counselor for the Festival of Hope.  My preparation consisted of attending three Christian Life Witness Courses, completing weekly bible study homework, memorizing scriptures on flash cards, attending follow-up event meetings, and watching hours of YouTube videos of Billy and Franklin Graham (since I had personally never heard their message before).  I did prayer walks circling downtown Jacksonville just like I had learned from Mark Batterson’s book, Draw the Circle.  I participated in small women’s groups for the success of the Festival and I even borrowed a video series from Susan Freese called “Share Jesus Without Fear”, to guarantee that I was equipped from A to Z, especially since the counseling would be to a complete stranger.

The festival brought people of all faiths together at the Veterans Memorial Arena for three consecutive nights to partake in awesome worship and hear the Message of Hope. Franklin’s message was brief, direct, and simply anointed. I believe Hebrews 4:12 best describes the impact of the message…

“For the word of God is quick [living], and powerful [active], and sharper than any two edged sword … judge of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

It was no surprise that God’s holy presence fell upon the festival, as it was with expectancy that He would honor the prayers of thousands of believers who faithfully prayed for its success days, months, and even years prior to the festival date.  Due to the amount of training resources and recruiting efforts for the hundreds of Counselors by the Billy Graham Evangelist Association (BGEA) to be in attendance for the festival, it was my impression that I would be potentially interacting with at least 3 to 5 people nightly.

I was confident God saw how diligently my attempts were to prepare to witness to new believers and now was the time to put my love for evangelism into practice for His glory.

To my astonishment, on Friday and Sunday there were so many Counselors, that sadly, there was no one left for me to be assigned to counsel. It was evident at that point how BGEA is sincerely committed to doing God’s work and saving souls when they invested the resources to ensure hundreds of people per night could be ministered to without hesitation.

God revealed His love for even ONE soul to me during the festival.  On Saturday, I knew for sure there would be several people I would finally get to counsel to receive Christ as the arena had double the attendance.  As Franklin made the alter call for people to get out of their seats and make their way down to the center of the arena,  I anxiously awaited the hand motion sign from my Supervisor Counselor to pair me with the complete stranger, with whom I would finally get to demonstrate my new skills.  Unfortunately, my heart was beating so hard from nervousness that I didn’t see my daughter waving her arms frantically at me from several rows away to get my attention.  She shouted, “Come on mom, Jasmine wants you to pray with her”.  At this point, my focus goes from anxiously waiting to be assigned to a complete stranger, to my daughter calling me counsel her 10-year-old friend. A friend who rode with us to the festival, who has slept over our house on multiple occasions, who has sung the lyrics to “God is Not Dead” by the Newsboys in my car, and who has attended service at Chets with my family so many times she is listed on my child’s swipe badge.

How is it possible she has never prayed to accept Jesus? And selfishly, how is it possible she wanted me to pray with her on the important weekend of my “Evangelism debut”?  This weekend was supposed to be dedicated to coming face to face with a total stranger, not my daughter’s friend!  For a split second I froze in my seat. I could hear the devil mocking me, singing the nanny-nanny-boo-boo song that everything I did to prepare was a total waste of my time. Yet, I immediately stood up and practically ran towards her.  I walked with her to the center of the arena where all the Counselors congregated with the new believers in Christ.  I carried out my assignment as Counselor as this young child was searching to know Jesus (He was a stranger to her!).  God revealed to me that this ONE SOUL was so important and precious to Him that He hand-picked my daughter to befriend her and me to witness to her one-on-one to receive Christ and welcome her to the family.  God showed me how important she was and that He prepared and used me to be His instrument.  Now I pray that I no longer assume that because someone knows the words to a Christian song or goes to church that they are saved. We have to boldly ask.

To God be the Glory!

{This post was written by Liza Akley.  Liza has been married for almost 13 years to her husband Nick.  She has 3 amazing children (Anthony, 24, Jasmine, 21, and Ilana, 11). Liza is currently seeking employment in the nonprofit world after almost 24 yrs. in mid-senior level positions in the collections/customer service industry.  She has been a member at Chets for 3 yrs and currently serves on the Unleash Team and with Kidz Extreme.  Liza also enjoys running and catering lunches and conducts volunteer work with Heartland Hospice as bereavement counselor and Children’s Home Society of FL as Spanish Tutor.  She loves her Chets family and is seeking to grow in spiritual knowledge to work for the Lord full time.}

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