It was the largest public evangelistic service ever held in an Eastern-bloc country, according to missions researchers.

A crowd of 90,000 flocked to People’s Stadium in Budapest on July 29 to hear evangelist Billy Graham. It was the biggest group to attend any event in the 75,000-seat, two-tiered oval, according to stadium officials. After Graham concluded a message on the Cross and its meaning for today, more than 25,000 people walked onto the playing field in response to his call to “come to Christ” or recommit their lives to him.

Millions of others listened to the service live on Hungarian state radio. The following weekend, Hungarian television aired a 90-minute program, which included almost all of Graham’s message. The daily press, including new independent national newspapers, also provided major coverage.

“This is the first time that an evangelistic effort has penetrated the entire country on such a scale,” Methodist superintendent Frederick Hecker said.

The widespread coverage was a far cry from the notice Graham received during his first preaching visit in 1977, when Hungarian pastors were not permitted even to announce from their own pulpits his meeting at a Baptist campground.

The event was testimony to the cooperative organizational efforts, the new climate of religious freedom in Hungary, and the receptive spiritual mood among Hungarians caught up in worsening personal and social crises.

Jointly sponsored by the two councils that represent almost all of the country’s Protestant churches, the outreach effort—advertised locally as Budapest 89—also attracted Catholic involvement. Catholic Bishop Endre Kovacs of Miskole was among 2,000 who took training classes held in both Catholic and Protestant churches for prospective ...

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