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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M utility Gavin Grahovac (9) throws the ball during A&Ms game against Georgia on Friday, April 26, 2024, at Olsen Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
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Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Evangelist Billy Graham comes full circle with LA mission

PASADENA, Calif. – The nation was still recovering from World War II when a little-known minister pitched a tent over a sawdust floor in downtown Los Angeles and began preaching a powerful message of salvation.
His revival led 3,000 people to embrace Christianity over eight weeks and launched a decades-long career that reaped another 3 million Christian commitments, sparking a boom in evangelism worldwide.
Fifty-five years later, a frail Billy Graham is returning to greater Los Angeles for a four-day crusade that organizers say will be his last in California, with his final one scheduled next June in New York City.
Graham, 86, will speak about 30 minutes a day Thursday evening through Sunday in the 92,000-seat Rose Bowl – one of the biggest stadiums he’s ever booked.
Greater Los Angeles has changed dramatically since 1949, when Graham first preached here. The region of 5 million framed by barren hills and orange groves is now a sprawling metropolitan grid packed with 16 million people who speak hundreds of languages.
Graham says his message endures.
“I’ll be preaching some of the same sermons I preached in 1949,” Graham said in a phone interview. “The Gospel hasn’t changed and people’s hearts haven’t changed – they’re still in need of the affection the Gospel can give.”
Graham’s followers are pondering the future of evangelism without their charismatic leader, who has Parkinson’s disease, broke his hip and pelvis in the past year and was treated for fluid on the brain in 2001. He uses a walker and has doctors and emergency substitute preachers on call during his rare appearances.
Some 1,200 churches from nearly 100 denominations have contributed more than 20,000 pastors and volunteers to plan the California reunion, substantial numbers but less than organizers wanted.
Graham confesses that filling the cavernous Rose Bowl is daunting. “I’m a little bit old for it, the stadium is a little bit big for me,” he said.
Organizers say Los Angeles’ size cuts both ways: The market has lots of untapped potential, but it’s limited by language barriers, weeknight traffic and a lifestyle that can crowd out time for worship.
“We’re busy here, so who wants to think about religion?” said Dr. Jack Hayford, president of the International Foursquare Church in Los Angeles and the crusade’s co-executive chair. “There’s no other city in this country – and maybe in the world – where it’s more difficult to communicate than LA.”
Language plays a large part.
The crusade has spent $1.4 million of its $5.4 million total budget on advertising, most of it in non-English media. Organizers have trained up to 12,000 volunteers in 19 different languages to counsel non-English speaking converts who come forward to receive Christ. Audience members can listen in real time on 17,000 radios that will carry translations in 26 different languages – the most ever at a Graham crusade.

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