Festival por la Vida is beginning its descent into Louisville. 

After making stops in 43 countries and preaching the Gospel to several million Spanish-speaking people, the Christian event is coming to North America for the first time on Saturday, May 18, at Iroquois Amphitheater.

Evangelist Mike Silva, who is the evening’s main speaker, said Southeast Christian Church was instrumental in bringing Festival por la Vida to Louisville.

“I want to tip my hat off to the Missions Ministry at Southeast,” Silva said. “It was born out of their heart saying, ‘We’re a refugee city. We’ve got all of these immigrants coming in so fast, we don’t know how to speak their language and reach them. What do we do?’ Southeast is such a huge missions church, so then the thought came, ‘What if we did something in our town? We’re seeing something here and not exactly sure how to reach them, but can we try this?’”

Festival por la Vida is a free event that will feature Christian pop music duo Tercer Cielo and Christian rapper Redimi2. Motorcycle team Zero Gravity will perform aerial tricks and stunts.

Taylor Barton and Sara Rodriguez from Southeast’s Worship Ministry will open and close the event with music.

Before the concert and program begins at 5 p.m., families may participate in Festikids, which includes inflatables, face painting and other activities starting at 2 p.m.

Since 1994, Silva and his team have traveled around the world speaking to crowds as large as 100,000 people during one- and two-night festivals. He most recently held festivals in Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and the Dominican Republic.

Silva said Louisville has had an influx of foreign immigrants.

“I think we’ve got a people group that are right under our noses,” Silva said. “But sometimes we’re always looking to the horizon because the North American mentality is, ‘I’ve got to conquer more, do more, be more out there’ and we’re missing them.”

Southeast Lead Team Pastor Matt Reagan said Southeast and Silva’s ministry share a common calling.

“When we saw what this ministry was all about a year and a half ago, we went all in,” Reagan said. “The reason is they share our heart for evangelism. A lot of times when people think evangelism, they think, ‘Oh, you’re just going to do a big concert and then what?’ But this group goes in a year ahead of time and builds relationships. That’s what we do and that is our hope within our city.”

Festival por la Vida is a tool for long-term transformation.

Several months ago, Silva sent eight team members to Louisville to live in a Southeast missions home near the Blankenbaker Campus. They have met and established relationships with leaders of Hispanic churches in and around Louisville.

“This is so much more than just coming, doing an event and leaving,” Silva said. “They’ve been establishing relationships. They’ve told me, ‘Brother Mike, when we leave this city we’re going to leave our heart here because we’ve fallen in love with the Latino people. These people are now family for us.’ So we’re not in the business of doing events, but in the transformation of lives.”

The bigger picture

In 1970, Hispanics represented 9.6 million people in the United States. By 2016, that number grew to nearly 58 million and has accounted for half of the nation’s population growth since 2000, according to the Pew Research Center.

The United States has the second largest Hispanic population in the world. Mexico is No. 1.

The Census Bureau has projected that Hispanics will comprise roughly one-third of the American population by 2060. According to NBC News, Cubans are among the fastest-growing immigrant group in Louisville.

Silva wants the 2,300-seat amphitheater to be packed, making Festival por la Vida the largest Latino event ever held in Louisville. The current record is 483 people.

“This is an event for literally the entire family,” Silva said. “There’s something for everybody. Hispanics are so receptive to the Gospel, and there’s this massive vacuum that we just want to jump in and say, ‘This is an answer to “come and see” like Jesus said.’ We’re actually telling the church, ‘If you’re not going to bring a nonbeliever, then please stay home because we need the room, and we’re trying to introduce people to Jesus.’”