Thursday, June 23, 2005

Billy Graham's Last American Crusade

Friday night in New York City, Billy Graham will begin what is being billed as his last crusade in America. The 86-year-old evangelist, who has been in failing health in recent years, will preach each of the next three nights in a park near Shea Stadium in Queens. Seating will be available for 70,000 people, with accommodations being made for an overflow crowd.

According to an Associated Press article carried by Agape Press, the chairman of the New York crusade believes the timing couldn't be better for Rev. Graham to speak in the city: . . .

Rev. A.R. Bernard told reporters that New York is in the midst of a "religious transformation" like some "of the great revivals of the past." Bernard, who pastors the 20,000-member Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, says his church and other local evangelical, Pentecostal and charismatic churches have grown dramatically in recent years. He expects this weekend's crusade to advance what he sees as a movement of God.

Once he does step down from the ministry, Rev. Graham's successor in the pulpit will be his son Franklin, founder of his own ministry organization, Samaritan's Purse. In another AP article, the younger Graham shared how this weekend's event might affect him:
Franklin Graham, 54, who took over leadership of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association about five years ago, said he was too busy handling last-minute details of the crusade to mull its importance. Tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out each day at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park - many drawn by a final chance to see the man known as America's pastor.

But the younger Graham anticipates his mood will change Sunday, when his father makes his trademark appeal for people to come forward and accept Christ, likely for the last time before a mass audience.

"Sitting on the platform, at the invitation, with the people in front, I think maybe that's when it's going to sink in on me and hit me," Franklin Graham said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press. "I think it will be a very reflective moment Sunday for me."

Should his father need him to, Franklin Graham is ready to step in this weekend and preach in his stead. However, the younger Graham is not anticipating that happening, as he told AP:
. . . Franklin Graham said speaking before a crowd energizes his ailing father.

"He was born for this," Franklin Graham said. "When he stands at that pulpit, God created him and I think made him for such a moment. When he's standing at the pulpit, I'm not worried one bit."

I'll be praying for Rev. Graham this weekend and for all the lives he will touch as he preaches God's Holy Word.

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