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Will Graham’s inaugural campaign buoyed by Shea, Barrows

GASTONIA, N.C. (BP)–Thunder, lightning and pouring rains held off as Will Graham, 31, grandson of Billy Graham, finished his first U.S. evangelistic campaign Oct. 11 in western North Carolina.

During the three-day Greater Gaston Celebration, comparisons with Will’s famous grandfather began to pop up everywhere — in their voice and look and their clear call to repentance from sin.

Longtime Billy Graham associates George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows, on hand at Sims Legion Park in Gastonia, N.C., had Will take Billy’s part in their rendition of “This Little Light of Mine,” a featured part of Graham’s meetings through the years. Both Shea and Barrows were part of Billy Graham’s first citywide crusade nearly 60 years ago in nearby Charlotte.

As Will Graham made his way to the podium, dark clouds loomed in the west, threatening to spoil the evening. The impending rain notwithstanding, an impassioned Graham told the crowd of 4,000 they must decide how they will respond to Jesus. Using Mark 15 as his text, Graham recounted how Pilate faced that same decision: Who is this Jesus?

“Pilate was impressed with Jesus. He heard the living Truth,” Graham said. “Yet he made no decision.”

Graham challenged the crowd to choose a different path than Pilate, whom Graham described as trying to be politically correct and neutral. Instead, Pilate missed the truth of Christ, Graham said. “Pilate lacked the courage to make a decision.”

Graham reminded the crowd that truth is absolute, quoting Jesus’ words in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Referencing Barabbas, described in the Bible as a murderer and thief who had been sentenced to death, Graham told the crowd, “You and I are like Barabbas, sentenced to death. But Jesus took our place on the cross.

“Tonight the buck stops with you. Barabbas took his pardon, will you take yours tonight?”

As people responded to Graham’s invitation to make a decision for Christ and come to the infield of the baseball park, small flashes of lightning began cutting into the night sky. Some 45 minutes later, the rain began, after the decisions had been recorded and volunteers had cleaned up the scattered remains from the three-day crusade.

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  • Bob Carey