Billy Graham helped fling open the doors of evangelism in the Soviet Union when he first visited the USSR – now Ukraine, Russia, and Hungary – in the 1980s, under Communist rule.
Decades later, his son, Franklin Graham, would continue to carry the torch by sharing the Gospel with tens of thousands of Ukrainians in 2007.
In June of 1988, Mr. Graham was invited to visit the Soviet Union to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of Christianity in the region. In 988, Prince Vladimir had baptized the people of the region in the Dnieper River.
“As Prince Vladimir changed and turned from idols, you must change and turn to Christ,” Mr. Graham told crowds gathered at Kiev’s Shevchenko Theater on June 14, 1988.
That same day, he preached the Gospel to a crowd of about 15,000 gathered at Kiev’s most famous Orthodox cathedral. Military generators manned by Soviet troops supplied the power for loudspeakers that broadcast the message into the streets, where Mr. Graham’s voice could be heard a block away. The September 1988 edition of Decision magazine reported “church bells pealing for the first time in decades.”
In 2007, Franklin Graham was part of another historic moment for Christianity in Ukraine, when some 90,000 people heard the Gospel at the Ukraine Franklin Graham Festival of Hope in Kyiv.
Following a series of political protests that led to a sense of hopelessness among many Ukrainians, the local churches took an opportunity to tell their friends and neighbors about the hope of Jesus Christ.
Ukrainian believers would argue that only one Savior can bring lasting peace to the region—the same Savior who has carried the churches through more than 1,000 years of history—Jesus Christ.
In this case, Mr. Graham’s words from his 1988 visit to Kiev may be more appropriate now than ever:
“One thousand years ago Kievan Rus stood at a moral and spiritual crossroads which would determine its future. In like manner, our world stands at a moral and spiritual crossroads. Our world today needs a spiritual ‘perestroika’—a spiritual transformation.
“As a Christian, I believe only the rediscovery of the Bible’s unchanging message can give us lasting meaning and hope.”