In November 2019, five people from Living Hope Church of the Nazarene in Saipan completed the Christian Life and Witness course sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA)in preparation for Rev. Franklin Graham’s visit to the island February 21, 2020, for the Marianas Festival of Hope. The outreach event was put together by the BGEA in association with over thirty churches in the northern Marianas region of Micronesia. Guam is participating with its own event two days later.

“It all started with Yutu,” said Helen Ann Bucher. Helen Ann and her husband, Rev. Dave Bucher, have been in Saipan since 2001. Rev. Bucher is pastor of Saipan Living Hope Church of the Nazarene. The Buchers also work for the Public-School System in Saipan. “Super Typhoon Yutu was a devastating typhoon that hit us one year ago in October 2018,” said Helen Ann. “Many people lost their homes in the storm and were afraid for their lives. Samaritan’s Purse brought relief supplies after the storm.”

While they were in Saipan doing relief work, some of the Samaritan’s Purse workers asked if Operation Christmas Child (OCC) boxes could be delivered here. While the devastation prevented delivery of OCC boxes at Christmas, soon after the first of the year, Saipan’s churches worked together to register children. Distribution of the OCC boxes happened close to Easter, 2019. Then, as OCC was drawing to a close, an announcement was made that Franklin Graham would like to come to the island to see things for himself. The churches invited him to come. Out of this visit, the Marianas Festival of Hope was created. Planning for the event began last spring, with city-wide prayer meetings all summer, culminating in meetings this fall geared to prepare Christians to both to share their faith and to disciple those who make a commitment to Christ.

“The churches have really come together this past year,” said Rev. Bucher. Some thirty-five Protestant churches have joined hands to reach out to the 52,000 people on the island with the gospel of Christ. Most of the churches are small, typically under 50 in attendance. The enthusiasm and love being shared across denominational, ethnic, and cultural lines have been an encouragement to the people at Saipan Living Hope Church of the Nazarene. “Working together with the other island churches has built our confidence and created a sense of camaraderie among us,” said Rev. Bucher.

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Helen Ann Bucher, missionary to Saipan

Blossom George agrees. She and her sister, Pearl, attend Living Hope and have been going to the teen events sponsored by the organizers of the Marianas Festival of Hope. Blossom said, “We meet so many school friends there. I am encouraged that there are lots of Christians in school. We didn’t know about each other before.”

Helen Ann said, “That has been one of the biggest and best side effects of this whole thing, our fellowship and our strengthened ties with the other churches. Who knew something as horrible as Yutu could bring about something so good in our community!” God truly causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose for them (Rom. 8:28 NLT).

– Written by Amy Trosen