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Graham, in Louisville for crusade, aims ‘to preach as long as I live’

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–He has trouble standing and has slowed in recent months, but evangelist Billy Graham said June 19 that with God’s grace he will preach the rest of his life.

Graham, 82, was in Louisville for the Greater Louisville Billy Graham Crusade, which will take place June 21-24 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Graham’s appearance comes just days after hospitalization for a series of surgeries over the past year to relieve fluid pressure on his brain.

He briefly spoke to some 75 members of the media June 19 on the field of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. He was driven to the field on a golf cart, then used a cane to walk.

“I am sorry to let my age show, but I just got out of the hospital about two weeks ago,” Graham said as he stepped from the golf cart.

While Graham held two crusades last year, he said there were moments in recent months when he questioned whether he would be healthy enough to hold a crusade in Louisville. In recent years his son, Franklin Graham, has attended each crusade, ready to step in and preach if necessary; he also will be on hand in Louisville.

“I’m grateful for the privilege of having the strength to be here,” the older Graham said. “I wasn’t sure that we could do that, but we put it in God’s hands and I think the Lord has allowed me to have the strength.

“My biggest problem is standing. I can walk a little, but I can’t stand very long. You [will] see me begin to look around for a place to sit down. I’ll be standing here when I speak, because I’ll have a podium to hold onto. If I don’t, they’ll have a chair behind me and I’ll sit down to preach. I’ve done that before, and I’ll be happy to do that again if that’s what the Lord wants me to do.”

While Graham did entertain a handful of questions, he did not hold a full-fledged news conference. It was, he said, the first time he has failed to hold a news conference prior to a crusade. Because of his various surgeries, he said he “cannot answer all those questions anymore — all the political questions, the social problems and all of that. I haven’t been able to keep up with everything. I come here just to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. I can do that with God’s help. I’ve been preparing my messages, and trust that God will use them.”

Last year, Franklin Graham took over for his father as CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Franklin Graham also gave the invocation at the presidential inauguration in January after his father had to withdraw because of health problems.

“He carries a big load,” Billy Graham said of his son. “He took a big load off of me when he accepted it. He’s a far better preacher than I am.”

Graham last held a full-scale crusade in Louisville in 1956. He held two crusades last year — one in Nashville, Tenn., and another in Jacksonville, Fla. He has a crusade scheduled in Fresno, Calif., for later this year.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and chairman of the Greater Louisville Crusade’s executive committee, said he is thankful that Graham has come to Louisville again.

“There has been a group of persons who for many years have been praying together that the Lord will bring Dr. Graham here for a major crusade,” Mohler said. “The seeds of this were really sewn in 1956. Rare is the city that has the opportunity to host a Billy Graham crusade. Far rarer is the city that is able to have Dr. Graham come twice.”

While Graham’s pace has changed in recent years, his message hasn’t. At one point during his comments, he quoted John 3:16.

“The message is going to be the gospel of Christ, because I believe that’s the answer to many of the problems we face today as individuals, as families [and] as communities,” he said.

Graham speculated that he may be the oldest evangelist to ever hold such a large-scale crusade. He also said he has no plans of slowing down.

“I intend to preach as long as I live,” he said. “I don’t know how long that will be, but I really appreciate the privilege of being here.”

Graham said his fragile health has made him even more appreciative of the work Mohler has done as chairman of the Greater Louisville Crusade.

“I don’t know if we’ve had a chairman before with such ability, and the ability to articulate [with an] intellectual background,” Graham said. “I’ve watched him on national television on such programs as ‘Larry King (Live),’ and I’ve been proud of him every time. I’m delighted to join hands with him and proclaim the gospel to this area.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: GRAHAM IN LOUISVILLE.

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  • Michael Foust