On a sweltering afternoon in the Nigerian city of Lagos last November, amid heavy traffic and polluted air, a large banner hung from an overpass for all to see. It pictured the gleaming face of a white European man. With one hand, he pointed a Bible toward the sky. With the other, he held a microphone to his mouth. come and receive your miracle, the banner proclaimed. The publicity committee had gone to great lengths to make the man's presence known in Lagos—Nigeria's commercial capital and one of Africa's largest cities. Fliers were plastered everywhere—on streets lined with shacks, near humble fruit stands, and on roadsides where open sewers are the norm. Seven degrees above the equator, where children in the brutal African sun forage in fields of rotting garbage, great expectations were building: Reinhard Bonnke, the larger-than-life evangelist from Germany, had come to town again.

That evening, 550,000 people gathered on 80 acres of bare ground to listen to Bonnke, a pastor's son with an unquenchable thirst for Africa's lost souls. Spiritually hungry Nigerians—whose lives are bounded by poverty, violence, and an unforgiving climate—could hardly wait to feast on the good news the preacher promised to bring. Many Nigerians walked hours, traveling through the giant, slum-like city to arrive at the spare crusade site. Neither chairs nor portable toilets were on hand. Some people relieved themselves on the field itself.

As the pulsating drums and opening music subsided, Bonnke looked out into a sea of humanity and began his message, using simple words in a vibrant, heavily accented English: "Jesus is the Savior of Nigeria!" he shouted. "All of Nigeria is going to heaven!"

Bonnke completed his "hot gospel message" (as he calls ...

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