For Japanese Pastor, Festival of Hope is ‘A Present from God’

By Kristy Etheridge On May 9, 2014

The Rev. Sadami Shitamichi and Franklin Graham hold a press conference for the Hokkaido Festival of Hope, taking place May 9-11 in Sapporo, Japan.

When Sadami Shitamichi was a college student, the 1967 Billy Graham Tokyo Crusade was broadcast into his hometown of Sapporo, Japan.

At that time, a determined Japanese pastor rented Sapporo City Hall and placed a microphone next to a telephone receiver so his community could hear the Gospel being preached more than 500 miles to the south.

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Rev. Sadami Shitamichi, executive chairman of Hokkaido Festival of Hope

Shitamichi heard the message, and it changed the course of his life.

Now, more than 40 years later, he's the one determined to spread the Gospel to Sapporo, and it's Billy Graham's son, Franklin, who is preaching the message.

On May 9-11, the Hokkaido Festival of Hope will be held at the Hokkai Kita-Yell sports arena and streamed worldwide on the web.

It could be the largest Christian gathering ever held on Japan's northernmost island, Hokkaido.

Friday, Franklin Graham held a press conference for local media with the Rev. Shitamichi by his side.

"I am not coming here on my own," Franklin Graham said. "We're coming at an invitation."

The invitation came from Japanese churches of various denominations. Of 403 churches in Hokkaido, 150 are working together to hold the evangelistic event, which will feature a 500-voice Japanese choir, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Singers, Swedish artist Lena Maria and Los Angeles gospel singer Alfie Silas.

Everyone has made the journey to Sapporo with the purpose of sharing the hope of Christ with the Japanese people.

"Jesus Christ is real," Franklin Graham told local reporters. "He is alive, and He'll come into every heart that invites Him."

For many Japanese, that is unfamiliar news. Less than 1 percent of the population is Christian, and Jesus is not a household name.

"I believe this is a big present from God," Rev. Shitamichi said of the Festival of Hope, "because we can hear the true message."

It's a message of hope that changed the trajectory of his life more than four decades ago. His kind eyes light up as he talks about how the same message will change many move lives this weekend. He says he's counting on the Holy Spirit to continue to move powerfully across the island of Hokkaido.

"I believe this is God's time," Rev. Shitamichi said. "This event is not the end. This is just the start for the churches."

©Billy Graham Evangelistic Association