FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–At 83 and battling Parkinson’s disease — and with former President George Bush providing the introduction — evangelist Billy Graham made a historic return to north Texas to launch his Metroplex Mission Oct. 17-20 at Texas Stadium in Irving.
The former president received a deafening standing ovation more akin to a Dallas Cowboys victory than the opening night of an evangelistic campaign. Bush spoke for eight minutes about faith and his family’s close relationship with the Graham family.
Bush recalled spending part of the evening in prayer with Graham the night Operation Desert Storm began in 1991. “And that night I can tell you that once again I gained great comfort and peace from Billy Graham and from God above,” Bush said.
Graham’s son, Franklin, steadied the evangelist as he walked to the podium, and a chair was placed behind him, which he didn’t use until the end of his sermon. Graham eventually motioned for the crowd to sit during a long ovation given in appreciation for his more than 60 years of unparalleled ministry. His last Dallas-area crusade was in 1971.
After thanking Bush and talking about how much the area had changed, Graham recounted that he held his first crusade in Texas in the Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth in 1951. Then in characteristic fashion, Graham said, “I want to turn to the most familiar passage in all the Bible for my text, John 3:16,” and the heart of the mission began. Emphasizing God’s love, the evangelist said, “If you don’t remember anything else I say this weekend, remember that God loves you.”
Two pastors with ties to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary participated in the opening night’s program. Michael Dean, pastor of Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth and chairman of Southwestern’s board of trustees, led the crowd of more than 38,000 in the opportunity to support the mission financially.
Dean introduced the offering by pointing out the “ring of honor” around Texas stadium. During the mission, he said, hundreds of individuals would make decisions for Christ in the famous venue and would join another ring of honor.
Southwestern alumnus Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, gave the closing benediction. Just before that, hundreds came down from the stands at Graham’s invitation to give their hearts to Christ as the choir sang “Just As I Am.”
Southwestern professor of missions Daniel Sanchez was a member of the organizing committee that helped bring Graham back to the Metroplex.
More than 400 students were participating in the mission as counselors, supervisors and choir members, said Roy Fish, distinguished professor of evangelism.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: PRESIDENT’S INTRO and GRAHAM RETURNS TO DALLAS.