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4-day Billy Graham crusade planned for Kansas City in June


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Beloved evangelist Billy Graham will conduct a crusade in Kansas City, Mo., June 17-20 at Arrowhead Stadium, officials with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association announced Jan. 8 during a news conference at the Arrowhead Pavilion adjacent to the 80,000-seat open-air facility.

Billed as “The Heart of America Billy Graham Crusade,” it will mark the third time Graham has conducted such an event in Kansas City, the last being in 1978.

Graham and the BGEA team are coming “in fear and trembling and in weakness, but with great joy and dependence upon the Holy Spirit,” said Cliff Barrows, Graham’s longtime associate and song leader who spoke at the news conference attended by several hundred media, area pastors and lay leaders.

Barrows said Graham’s broken left hip, which required surgery and a partial replacement Jan. 6 at a hospital in Jacksonville, Fla., would not deter him from his 415th crusade.

“Mr. Graham is doing wonderfully well,” Barrows said. “The hospital expects a complete recovery. He’ll plan to be here as scheduled, and we’re praising God for that.”

Graham suffered the broken hip when he fell in a hotel room on the grounds of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, where he was reporting for a semiannual checkup.

Larry Turner, vice president of crusades for the BGEA, read an acceptance letter from Graham that expressed how deeply the renowned evangelist wants to return to Kansas City.

“I never expected to still be preaching at the age of 85, and yet my call to proclaim the Gospel is as strong as ever,” Graham wrote. “For the past two years, the Lord has given me a burden for Kansas City, and the heart of America. … Therefore, health permitting, I will be glad to come to Kansas City. My associates and I are honored to join hands with you in proclaiming the Good News, praying that many will accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.”

The idea for a Kansas City crusade began 16 months ago with a phone call to Turner from Dal Shealy, president of the Kansas City-based Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Shealy, a deacon at the 7,000-member First Baptist Church in Raytown, Mo., joined with his pastor, Paul Brooks, to rally church and community support for the crusade. The two Southern Baptists hosted a series of exploratory meetings that grew from 24 attendees to 300. Those meetings led organizers to write Graham to see whether he would come.

The acceptance letter by Graham read at the Jan. 8 new conference made it clear that Graham would follow up his 1967 and 1978 crusades with yet another in 2004.

“The consensus [among the early organizers] was we need a revival in the heart of America,” Shealy said. “We need to reach out from the heart of America across America and impact the world for Jesus Christ.”

There will be major Southern Baptist and Missouri Baptist Convention participation as crusade preparations take shape.

Rich Hastings, president and chief executive officer of St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City and a member of First Raytown, is serving as crusade chairman while Charles Briscoe, former pastor of Paseo Baptist Church in Kansas City, is serving as co-chairman. Mike Whitehead, a Kansas City attorney and former chairman of deacons at First Raytown, is serving as legal counsel for the crusade as well.

“Paul Brooks and I were praying in Israel, and I prayed at the [Wailing] Wall, ‘Lord if you want me to do something, just tell me,'” said Hastings, who served as a counselor at Graham’s 1978 crusade. “I came back to Kansas City, I missed a meeting, and the next thing I know I’m chairman.”

“Every church that really makes this a priority is going to reap a harvest,” Brooks said. “We are in the business of evangelism. That’s what Baptists do. Most churches can’t put together an evangelistic program with Billy Graham and Cliff Barrows, but this one is handed to us on a silver platter, for free. All we need to do is participate.

“We should see thousands and thousands of people saved and brought into our Baptist churches through this crusade.”

Graham last did a Missouri crusade in 1999, in St. Louis. Attendance at the TWA Dome (now known as the Edward Jones Dome) averaged 45,000 over the four meetings, with an average of 2,500 responding to the invitation to make a commitment to Christ each evening.

Previous St. Louis crusades were held in 1953 and 1973.

David Tolliver, president of the Missouri Baptist Convention and pastor of Pisgah Baptist Church in Excelsior Springs, said crusade preparation will be a high priority in his church in the months to come.

“This is phenomenal that I would be pastoring in the area where he’s going to be,” Tolliver said. “I’m not going to miss this opportunity, and our state convention will be very much involved.”

Millions of copies of Graham’s books have been sold in 38 languages around the world. More than 70 million copies of various sermons by the famed Southern Baptist evangelist have been distributed as well.

Graham is also known for founding Christianity Today magazine in 1955. He led the World Congress on Evangelism in Berlin in 1966, the International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne in 1974, and the 1983 and 1986 International Conferences of Itinerant Evangelists.

Amsterdam 2000, an extension of the 1983 and 1986 conferences, attracted more than 10,000 evangelists.
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(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: STILL REACHING THE LOST.

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  • Allen Palmeri