Reverend Dante Gebel began years ago filling Argentina's stadiums with his youth rallies dedicated to blunt, direct preaching. He promoted total dedication to God, sexual abstinence until marriage, purity, honesty, 'no' to drugs and alcohol and... in a word, true Christianity!
More recently Dante with his lovely wife Liliana have moved their family to Anaheim, California where they have started and now serve as pastors of FavorDay Church, a Spanish speaking church of thousands that has outgrown buildings and meets in stadiums and convention centers. (Click here to see when they invited me with my little Felipe in August 2012 to FavorDay Church: http://ralphhiatt.blogspot.com/2012/08/favorday-church-in-anaheim.html.)
On December 14, 2013 they came back to Argentina to celebrate the 20th year of their "Superclassico Rallies." It would be the 2nd time they have filled this same stadium with mostly teenagers.
Dante asked me to be with him in this big December stadium rally. I had no idea what he was up to, but agreed to postpone my return trip to the USA for a week. He had chosen several people to specially honor. Liliana told how my wife, Frances, who served as national leader of Missionettes had been a great blessing to her as a little child in camps. She also said that it was in a service where I was preaching that God touched her life and she dedicated herself totally to the Lord. I was overwhelmed with the honors they showed me and only wished that Frances could have been there by my side.
Then Dante preached a powerful message about what it means to take up our cross and follow Christ. He mentioned the scripture that I already have inscribed on my tombstone, John 12:24 "Except a grain of wheat fall to the ground and die it remains sterile, but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit." He challenged the youth to a sacrifice of total dedication to God and His service. It was thrilling to see the reaction of these thousands of youth as they sought the Lord with all their hearts. All the thousands on the playing field had no seats. There was no room for chairs. They stood, tightly crammed together, for over four hours!
Then Sunday the 15th a small church in a low income community had invited me to preach. As always I arrive early to set up my Hawaiian guitar, check sound, etc. As people come in I have the habit of going back to their seats to greet them.
A lady introduced me to a middle aged couple. They were her neighbors and were apparently inside an evangelical church for the first time.
They may have come to see a ventriloquist. I always let Felipe do his thing before I preach.
In this shot the congre-gation was praying with me before my message.
Wherever there are "Castle Kids" (teenage city park and street evangelists in red shirts) they almost always fill the front rows! This makes preaching much more fun!
One can feel such liberty to minister when the congre-gation is virtually snatching the very words from your mouth and applying it to their lives.
As I was concluding my message I noticed that tears were flowing down the faces of many, including that new couple that I had met earlier. I did not point them out. I just asked people to seek a place to kneel and pray to meet with God. The altar area was filled with people on their knees. When I looked for this couple, my heart fell. I assumed that they had left since I could not see them. Then I noticed the top of their heads. They were kneeling on the floor in front of their seats. I found my way through the crowd and slipped in to kneel behind them. Both were sobbing, pouring out their hearts to God. They needed no urging. They were ready as I offered to help them reach assurance of eternal salvation. This was my final ministry opportunity before leaving Argentina Monday, December 16.
It is true... I was blessed greatly by the honor of being able to speak briefly to 90,000 youth, but there was something about kneeling with that contrite couple and leading them into eternal salvation that topped it all off! Again I was filled with joy as I boarded United flight 818 for SFO via Houston... and yes, you guessed it, I left my heart in Argentina.