n what has been described as the largest gathering in the history of Christianity, an estimated 3 million South Africans met to pray and fast for their nation last Easter weekend, March 29.
Carl Richardson, international evangelist for the Church of God, was featured speaker for the event, held in a valley near Pietersburg. His message was translated into five languages and covered on national television by the South African Broadcasting Company.
With police estimating the crowd at 3 million, the South African rally reportedly would become the largest Christian meeting in history. In 1975, Evangelist Billy Graham addressed a group of 1 million at a similar gathering in Seoul, South Korea.
South African Bishop B. E. Lekgwyane and Bishop Isaac Mikoena organized the huge meeting and invited Richardson to speak. Lekgwyane leads the 6-million member Zion Christian Church, while Mikoena represents 5 million members of the Reformed Independent Churches.
“You are not alone in your struggles, because 65 million of your Christian brothers and sisters from America are with you today in prayer and faith,” Richardson told the crowd. As many listeners wept or applauded enthusiastically, he urged them to “never give up.”
Richardson concluded his message by urging the 3 million present to go to their knees and pray “for the healing of South Africa.”
Speaking with a television reporter after the rally, the evangelist called the record turnout “a touching tribute to their [South Africans’] faith.” It was, he added, “one of the most moving experiences of my life.”
“We were thrilled to have Carl Richardson speak here,” said Bishop Lekgwyane of the Zion Christian Church. “[He is] a man considered by millions of South Africans of all races as one of the most powerful preachers in the world. He really moved the hearts of the people.”
While in South Africa, Richardson also met and videotaped interviews with “the very top leaders of the country from all ethnic and racial groups,” said press spokesman Jerry Millwood. Among those he interviewed were South African President P. W. Botha, Foreign Minister R. F. “Pik” Botha, Zulu Chief Mongosuthu Buthelezi, and other leaders of black, colored (mixed race), and Indian ethnic groups.
The former director of the Church of God’s radio and television ministry, Richardson now serves as an international evangelist for the church. He and his family make their home in Brandon, Florida, in suburban Tampa Bay.