Editor’s Note: BBI is celebrating its 25th year of ministry in the Baltics and beyond. Throughout these years, God has consistently surprised us with His plans, which far surpassed anything we could have dreamt. Hope ’99 is one such example.
By Nancy Kelley
PHILOMATH, Oregon – Hope ‘99 took place in 33 cities simultaneously in September 1999. It was the most comprehensive evangelistic effort in the history of Latvia. Jointly organized by Bridge Builders International, their Latvian affiliate Partneri, and the Luis Palau Evangelistic Association, Hope 99 involved over 150 Latvian, Russian and international participants.
“Hundreds of people stepped out this week and said they were receiving Jesus Christ. That’s really what Hope ’99 is all about – that more people come into the Kingdom of God.” – Luis Palau
It was the opening night of Hope ’99 and 3,300 people filled the Sports Arena in Riga. More than 100 Latvian young people in brilliant yellow shirts set the tone with joyful celebration. As members of the Hope ’99 Youth Choir, they had worked hard to prepare for the week’s events. Besides singing, they also handed out Hope ’99 flyers to crowds all over Riga as 20 musical groups from 8 nations performed.
Another group of young people, King’s Kids, brightened the stage on opening night with artistic movement. Their energy and enthusiasm helped create an atmosphere of expectation. Special guests of the evening included the former President of Latvia, Guntis Ulmanis. He gave the opening greeting and emphasized his support for the theme of the week, “God is Relevant”.
Throughout the week, Mr. Ulmanis was involved in three events, including the final service at the Dome Cathedral where he and his wife were the first to stand in response to the Gospel invitation.
Simultaneous to the opening in Riga, evangelistic services and concerts were held in 29 cities throughout the nation. While Luis Palau shared the Gospel in the Sports Arena, other pastors and evangelists ministered in smaller cities and towns. Two of Palau’s associates, Dan Owens and Mike Silva, held major crusades in Liepaja and Daugavpils.
During Hope ’99, the Gospel was presented 215 times in multiple settings to a combined audience of more the 50,000. Thousands of people raised their hands or came forward in response to an invitation. Some came with questions about God. Some came to open their hearts to Christ. All who came took a step forward in their spiritual interest and understanding. Christian leaders in Latvia processed 2,189 response cards from individuals who were counseled and are receiving follow-up support.
Neither numbers nor words can describe the glorious praise that was offered to God the last Sunday in the 13th century Dome Cathedral. The orchestra, Crescendo, played, while the Hope ’99 Youth Choir and the African-American choir, The Sons and Daughters of Levi, joined their voices in singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.
The stone walls resounded with the sounds of Hope ’99 … of Hope through Jesus Christ … the promise of Hope for the nation of Latvia!