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Billy Graham celebrates 80th birthday: evangelist looks forward to continued ministry, opportunities

MINNEAPOLIS (BP)–As evangelist Billy Graham looks to his 80th birthday on Saturday, Nov. 7, he counts the blessings brought by age and confirms his commitment to continue his crusade ministry — just two weeks after completing a crusade in the Tampa Bay area where he began his life-long ministry more than 60 years ago.
Despite the normal struggles of aging and enduring Parkinson’s, Graham said he finds joy in getting older. “I’ll be 80 this week, and I’m looking forward to that, and I’m looking forward to my 90th birthday,” he said. “I want to hang around so I can help others and steer them and encourage them.”
Graham will have ample opportunity to do just that as he prepares for another busy crusade schedule in 1999. He has already accepted invitations to hold crusades in Indianapolis in June, and St. Louis in October.
The evangelist is also looking forward to his plans for 1999. He is in the midst of preparation for Amsterdam 2000, an international evangelism conference to lead the way for evangelists into the next Millenium. Scheduled for July 29-Aug. 6, 2000, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, this will be the first such conference to be held in more than 14 years.
Graham’s active 1999 schedule follows on the heels of an equally full 1998. The Tampa Bay area meetings ran four nights in October, and Graham preached to record-setting audiences in the new Raymond James Stadium — crowds averaged 64,500 each night, of which an average of nearly 4,900 came forward to make a commitment to Christ. The Tampa Bay youth night was the first of Graham’s meetings to be broadcast live via the Internet. “He’s preaching better than ever,” said Crusade Chairman Peter Lowe, who has attended Graham’s crusades all over the world for more than 15 years.
Earlier in the year, Graham spoke to record-setting crowds at the Corel Center in Ottawa, Ontario, for the first city-wide Billy Graham crusade to be held there. Of the 23,500 average attendance each night, an average of 1,750 came forward at his invitation to make a commitment to Christ.
Graham continues to look to the future and hopes for many more years of active ministry. He has received numerous offers to host an 80th birthday celebration in his honor, but yielding to his family’s request to have a quiet, private lunch with his wife and family, he has declined all such invitations. “That’s not the one I want to celebrate,” he said, “I want to celebrate my 100th birthday.”

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