A great man of God still delivers a powerful, life-saving message
Billy Graham brings hope to Kansas City
By Allen Palmeri
October 12, 2004
KANSAS CITY — The Heart of America Billy Graham Crusade Oct. 7-10 at Arrowhead Stadium drew nearly 155,000 people —more than a 1978 Graham Crusade in Kansas City, but less than a 1999 Graham Crusade in St. Louis.
In 1978, more than 143,000 came to meetings in which 3,300 made commitments to Christ. Five years ago, more than 200,000 attended with nearly 13,000 making faith commitments.
This crusade had 8,615 decisions.
“It was prayer that made this thing work,” said Crusade Executive Committee Chairman Rich Hastings, a member of First Baptist Church, Raytown.
Graham, who will turn 86 Nov. 7, complained of “a lot of discomfort in my back, hips and legs” as a result of two falls this year that broke bones. He stood for as long as he could behind a podium before sitting to complete his messages. He spoke in a weak voice and used a walker to move. His voice was faint but his admonition was strong: Sin leads to death.
“Have you always honored your parents as you should?” Graham asked the Friday night crowd of nearly 40,000. “Have you ever stolen, or cheated anybody? Have you ever committed immorality? Jesus said if you even look on a woman to lust after her in your heart, you’re guilty. Have you ever born false witness against somebody, lied against somebody? Have you ever coveted anything? Then you’re a sinner.”
Graham explained the sequence that leads to death—being born in sin, choosing to sin and being sinners by practice.
“We die,” the beloved evangelist said, “and at my age, I know the time is near.”
Hastings said Christians want the mission to launch a great spiritual awakening in the Midwest. The opening prayer Oct. 8 by Carey Casey, in-coming chairman of the deacons at First Raytown, captured that hopeful spirit.
“Thank You for allowing us, Lord, to be in Arrowhead Stadium, and Father, we are guaranteed a victory because of Jesus Christ,” Casey prayed. “Father, even as we pray, we thank you for the families, for the friends, for every person here tonight, red, yellow, black and white, we are precious in Your sight. Father God, those of us who already know You, we thank You for that. Lord Jesus, those who are here who are hurting, wondering how can I make it, Lord Jesus, lead them to Yourself tonight.
“Thank You for the choir. Thank You for the testimonies. Thank You, dear God, for Dr. Billy Graham. Father, we pray that You move in the power of Your Holy Spirit that when we leave here tonight we know that we have met with You. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray, and all of God’s children said, ‘Amen.’”
More than 2,100 people responded to Graham’s invitation that night.
Bob Paulson, a 12-year employee of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association who serves as managing editor of Decision magazine, looked up into the stands at Arrowhead and said “the people just keep coming, and that’s amazing.” A Graham invitation is never routine, Paulson said.
“These people are going to have lives transformed,” Paulson said. “Who knows, 20 years down the road, how their families and everyone around them, hundreds of people around each one of these people, can be different because of what’s going on right now.”
Danah Alahmad, a senior at Southwest Missouri State University, was passing out counseling materials to supervisors on the floor of the stadium as part of an 18-person team of Missouri Baptist students. She, too, was struck by the reverential power of the Graham invitation.
“Just to watch the sea of people coming up and being saved was a beautiful thing,” Alahmad said.
Mark Browning, a deacon at First Raytown who sang in the choir, talked about what happened Thursday night, when a torrential rain held the crowd below 8,000 people and threatened to dampen Graham’s message.
“He came out, everybody applauded him, and about the time that everybody had sat down and stopped, I looked up and the rain had stopped,” Browning said. “I leaned over to the guy next to me and said, ‘Somebody’s prayers get heard better than others’!’”
It did not rain for the rest of the crusade.
Bart Millard, lead singer for MercyMe, said it was an honor for the band to share the platform with Graham.
“The simple truth that Christ is the answer will never change, and that’s what we try to hang on to as much as possible because generations are going to change, cultures are going to change, and we may change some, but that message has never changed,” Millard said. “That’s what we try to embrace with everything we have and hope that people’s lives will change in the process.”
The largest crowd of the crusade was Sunday, when 51,273 people came to the open-air venue of the Kansas City Chiefs that on any given Sunday in October would be sold out with 79,000 fans. The overall attendance for the mission was 154,974.
Graham plans to hold his next crusade Nov. 18-21 in Los Angeles. He also has scheduled a mission next year in New York City.