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New Orleans to welcome Billy & Franklin Graham

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–For 10 years, an interfaith group in New Orleans tried to get the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to schedule a campaign in the Crescent City.

David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans and the group’s chairman, said the Graham name has been “the name that is most able to unite the largest number of people in the New Orleans area for a spiritual event.” But because not enough of a cross-section of the Christian community would commit to being involved, the Graham organization said the time wasn’t right.

Then Hurricane Katrina hit. Within days, Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse organization was on the ground, assisting in the disaster relief effort with chaplains, food and water.

“They have made a long-term commitment to the Gulf Coast,” Crosby said.

Some of the pastors spoke to Franklin Graham about the 10-year effort, and by November, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association agreed to fully underwrite a festival now set for March 11-12 in the New Orleans Arena, which seats 18,500.

In late January, Billy Graham joined the effort.

Crosby recounted that Graham went to his son’s office and said, “New Orleans has been on my heart. I’ve been praying for the city and I believe God wants me to go.” With Billy Graham, longtime team members George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows also are expected.

“I feel that Billy Graham and his team returning to our city is just the favor of God in the wake of the storm,” Crosby said. “He is sending His choice servants to proclaim the Good News and a message of hope in this storm-ravaged city.”

At least 215 churches have participated in preparation for the Graham Festival, Crosby said.

On Thursday, March 9, “We’re going to have an hour of prayer for pastors and spouses in the area, by invitation only, at our church,” the pastor said. “We can only seat 1,500.”

The festival itself is set for 7 p.m. Saturday, March 11, and 4 p.m. Sunday, March 12, with doors opening 90 minutes beforehand.

“People had better get there early,” Crosby said. “It’s going to be
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, online at www.baptistmessage.com.