Evangelist uses football to spread gospel message

 

He has become a fixture at GAA matches in Croke Park, standing on Hill 16 holding aloft his large yellow-and-black sign which reads simply John 3:7.

The evangelist from Limerick, Mr Frank Hogan, isn't fussy about where he takes this gospel message: "Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again."

He funds his own outings to sporting events, concerts, festivals and fleadhanna.

Anywhere, basically, where there are sinners - and where he's assured of a captive audience and televised coverage.

"It's what I call a silent witness so people can go to the Bible and check it out for themselves," says the 61-yearold former Catholic.

"All I am doing is pointing to Jesus. I can't charm anybody or force anybody to be a Christian."

The quiet-spoken and polite retired shop owner was back at Croke Park yesterday for the all-Ireland semi-final between Kerry and Armagh.

Dressed in a casual shirt and trousers, he wore a baseball cap emblazoned with John 3:7 in the Armagh colours, orange and white.

But Frank insisted he was not partisan and that the orange cap was the only clean one he had to hand yesterday.

As he is not a member of a GAA club, Frank buys his tickets from touts. At Croke Park he always stands on Hill 16 because it is behind one of the goalposts, where he is assured of getting his gospel message on television.

"When there's a score I hold the sign for three to four seconds. It's putting something up before people and it also encourages other Christians in the country," he says.

Frank began his evangelical crusade 11 years ago after he saw a similar smaller sign in the audience of a televised Wimbledon final.

His banner is six feet long and 18 inches wide, with John 3:7 printed horizontally on one side and vertically on the other.

"People ask me what does it mean and I can tell them because they have asked," he says.

Frank says most sporting fans are good humoured about his evangelising, and he has even been asked for his autograph.

But he also attracts verbal abuse, and once narrowly escaped being punched.

"I get plenty of abuse and I'm not doing this for the good of my health. I've been saved from sin and death and Hell and I want to tell people they can be saved from sin and death and Hell by repenting and trusting that Christ paid for their sins."

Frank says the most difficult people to speak to are staunch Catholics or Protestants.

"They don't listen," he says. "The best people are those who aren't religious."