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Cliff Barrows shares crusade memories at seminary hymn sing


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Cliff Barrows will never forget the evening that Billy Graham’s Gospel invitation led the famous evangelist to fear for his safety.

Graham had just finished preaching the Gospel message in a stadium in Budapest in the late 1980s. As the opening notes of “Just As I Am” began, a majority of the 80,000 attendees made a beeline for the platform.

Many sprinted. Some jogged. Others walked at a rapid pace. Graham began to fear for his safety. Graham workers sought to meet the literature demands of the throng.

“It frightened Bill,” Barrows said. “In fact, he tried to stop them. He did say, ‘Stop!’ through the interpreter. They just jammed so tight. We had no way of getting to them with the literature.

“We had prepared thousands upon thousands of packets with the `Beginning with Christ’ Bible study and the Gospel of John and the decision cards in little plastic bags with a pencil so if it rained they would be protected. We literally stood on the platform and threw the material to the people. They were reaching up and grabbing it. It was just a very moving thing.”

Barrows, 81, worship leader for the Graham crusades for six decades, along with longtime Graham pianist John Innes and organist Don Hustad shared such crusade memories during Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s ninth annual community hymn sing March 21 in Alumni Memorial Chapel on the Louisville, Ky., campus.

Barrows served as music leader for the hymn sing while Innes played the piano and Hustad the organ, with more than 1,000 people in attendance.

Innes, who joined the Graham team in 1965, said his most memorable crusade moments have come during Graham’s many evangelistic efforts overseas.

“I remember when we were in Moscow one night when the Red Army chorus sang and then when the invitation was given, a lot of those guys in the chorus came forward,” Innes said.

“That was incredible when you think about the history of the place, and here we were in the middle of Russia. It was moving that in these other cultures, the Gospel was preached and people responded with such incredible fervor and in such large numbers.”

Barrows donated a large collection of hymnals to Southern Seminary in 2003 at the behest of Hustad, who has served for more than 30 years as professor of church music at Southern.

Barrows, who began working with Graham in 1945 during his days with Youth for Christ, recalled a crusade at Olympic Stadium in Berlin in 1954, less than a decade after the fall of Hitler and the Third Reich.

At the conclusion of his sermon, Graham asked all who wanted to trust in Christ for salvation to stand. More than 50,000 Germans rose to their feet. Believing they misunderstood his instructions, Graham asked the crowd to sit down. After setting forth the Gospel and the cost of discipleship more clearly, Graham again asked those seeking Christ to rise. Again 50,000 stood.

A bit frustrated, Graham seated them again and attempted to give clearer instructions and, again, more than 50,000 came to their feet, Barrows said.

“It was incredible,” Barrows said. “Billy was convinced that he had not been clear the first two times but it became evident by the third time that they understood the Gospel.”

Hustad joined the Graham team in 1960 and remained until 1967, the year he joined the faculty at Southern Seminary. Hustad had taught music at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago for many years when he received the opportunity of join the Graham team. He spent seven years playing fulltime for Graham crusades and another 15 playing part-time.

“Every individual who has had such an invitation understands that none of us is worthy of such a privilege,” Hustad said. “For one thing, it contributes much more to our own development than we can possibly bring to it…. It was a great privilege to be part of the Graham team.”

Barrows and Innes also spoke of Graham’s favorite crusade hymns, naming “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “And Can It Be” at the head of the evangelist’s list.

While the 86-year-old Graham has battled Parkinson’s disease and other health problems for much of the past decade, Barrows said he is set for yet another crusade later this spring, scheduled for June 24-26 in New York City. It will be the latest in what has become a series of “final crusades” for Graham, Barrows said, laughing.

“He just had a checkup at Mayo Clinic and his mind is keen, his voice is strong and his mental being is well,” Barrows said. “The doctors have been encouraging to him that he must be able to get along much better in the days to come. He is excited about anticipating one more crusade.

“We have had eight ‘last’ crusades because over the years I thought Bill would not be able to do another one … but we are anticipating the next crusade in June 24-26 in New York City.”
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  • Jeff Robinson

    Jeff Robinson is director of news and information at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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