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Billy Graham, in Oklahoma City, says ‘never say never’ to next campaign

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–Weeks before the Billy Graham Oklahoma City Mission, speculation had been reported in the media that it might be the evangelist’s last campaign. However, Graham noted that the same stories had surfaced during his mission in Dallas a year ago and in San Diego earlier this year.

He asked the crowd at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City to pray about a mission next year in Kansas City, Mo., saying he had met that day with a team of clergy from that area.

“I never say ‘never,'” Graham said. “I’m under the direction of God.”

Although his 84-year-old body is wracked with an ailment that causes his legs to be numb and affects his walking, and sometimes impairs his speech, Graham appeared surprisingly strong during the four sermons he delivered in Oklahoma City in mid-June.

Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys greeted the crowd on the opening night, June 12, and gave his testimony of how he lived with one foot in the world and one foot in the church until God changed his desires.

“Faith that depends on Jesus plus anything else is no faith at all,” said Humphreys, who served as chairman of the mission’s executive committee. “Thirty-three years ago, I believed in Jesus Christ. He changed my desires, the way I think and respond to life. My relationship with Jesus affects every hour of my life.”

In introducing the Charlie Daniels Band, Cliff Barrows said he realizes country music is popular in Oklahoma. He recalled driving his pick-up through Oklahoma years ago on his way to California and hearing a song on the radio titled, “Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goal Posts of Life.”

“I don’t know if Charlie knows that song or not,” Barrows said.

Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma Executive Director Anthony Jordan, came to the microphone to present an appeal for the offering after Charlie Daniels did a rousing rendition of “I’ll Fly Away.”

“That will almost make a Baptist say ‘Hallelujah,'” Jordan responded.

Jordan, who served as vice chairman of the OKC mission, reported that $1.3 million had been received toward the overall $1.9 million budget.

“You received an offering envelope as you came in,” Jordan told the crowd. “Some of you may have wondered why you received it, but as a Baptist I knew what it was for.”

When George Beverly Shea approached the platform to sing his first solo, he remarked that when the Graham team was in Oklahoma City in 1956, he was 47 years old. “Now,” he said, “I’m 94.” At choir practice on Wednesday night, he told the volunteer choir members he is “49 backwards.”

Graham, in his sermon, said he thought about God during the storms from the previous night and he understands why people wonder why a loving God allows terrible things to happen.

Admitting he doesn’t know the answer, he said you can’t put God in a test tube or on a computer screen, but that doesn’t mean He’s not real.

After talking about God creating the vast universe, being holy, pure and a judge, Graham said all of mankind is born in sin. “If I came back to this city 75 years from now, most of you would be gone,” he said. “Gone where? Heaven or hell? It will be one or the other.

“Is this your last opportunity to change your life and get ready for heaven? I’m sure those who died in the [1995 Oklahoma City federal building] bombing or the tornadoes never thought this was their last day on earth.”

Graham told the audience he has had four brain operations and recovered in excellent shape, but doctors cannot find the source of one of his problems.

“Doctors told me they cannot find a solution to the numbness that affects my walking and sometimes my talking,” Graham said. He added that doctors say he is the only adult they know of affected by the problem that usually appears only in children.

Graham said when he was in the hospital and thought he was going to die, all his sins came upon him.

“But I knew Jesus had covered my sins,” he said.

Friday night was deemed Native American night with a testimony by Neal McCaleb, former federal Bureau of Indian Affairs director and former Oklahoma transportation secretary, who told the crowd that “we are not here to separate ourselves by race or sex or ethnicity, but we are here as God’s children unified in faith by Jesus Christ.”

Franklin Graham, in introducing his father before the message on Friday night, said, “How do you introduce Billy Graham? Here’s my father.” Then he looked toward the elder Graham as he motioned for him to join him at the pulpit and said simply, “Daddy.”

“This is a wonderful evening,” Graham said as he came to the pulpit one night. “You say, ‘You just came on the platform, how do you know?'” Graham, who was escorted to the stage a few minutes before he was to speak each evening, said, “There’s a room back there with a TV, and I’ve been watching everything that happened.”

Although the second night of the mission was Friday the 13th, Graham said it was a very important day for him. “On Friday, June 13, 1943, I was married,” he said to thunderous applause. “There was a full moon that night. I’m not going to go any further than that.”

In announcing Saturday night’s service, Graham said it would be for young people. “But anyone under 99 is welcome,” he added. “Bring your earplugs because it will be loud. It’s music for the next generation, but you’ll have the same old preacher.”

About 20,000 young people gathered to hear concerts by Tait from dc Talk and Kirk Franklin before Graham’s message on the “richest, sexiest man who ever lived.”

“The world is searching for peace and satisfaction,” Graham told the youth. Graham, in a sermon on Solomon, said the king’s search “led him everywhere. He had wisdom, food, wines, pleasure, 40,000 horses, but everything was meaningless.”

Solomon tried religion, even building a temple, but religion without a personal encounter with Jesus Christ does not save the soul, Graham said.

As a young person, Graham recounted, he had attended church faithfully, mainly because his parents had made him. Graham had been baptized, but when an evangelist came to his town and read from the Bible and asked people to come forward to accept Christ, he went forward.

“I don’t understand all that happened to me, but I knew I was different,” Graham said.

In addition to the youth night, a Kidz Gig was held on Saturday morning with about 10,000 children in attendance.

Led by Psalty the Song Book, Colby the Computer, a church mouse choir and other characters, the children joined in song and fun with a 2,500-voice children’s choir led by Wynn Anne Hook, executive assistant for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s church and family equipping team.

“We’ve had a lot of fun pretending, but I’m going to talk to you now about someone who is real,” Psalty told the kids. “God gave Jesus to us as a gift. The way the gift came to us is He had to die on the cross. He took all the bad things you’ve done, took the punishment and wiped all our sins away.”

Otherwise it was classic Billy Graham throughout the mission.

“I’m going to ask you to get up out of your seats … hundreds of you. If you’re with friends or relatives, they’ll wait for you,” Graham said at invitation time.

With those familiar words, hundreds streamed down the aisle to make a commitment to Jesus Christ.

Graham’s Oklahoma City mission recorded 2,297 first-time professions of faith among 4,359 total decisions encompassing rededications and assurance of salvation.
Dana Williamson is associate editor of the Baptist Messenger, newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

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