Billy Graham Preaches Through Four-Night Crusade in Kansas City
Evangelist Billy Graham concluded four nights of preaching at a crusade in Kansas City, Sunday, October 10.
The 85-year-old preacher, having recovered from two surgeries, spoke each evening at Arrowhead Stadium to an audience that totaled almost 155,000 over the four days, crusade officials said.
Both Graham and his eldest son, fellow evangelist Franklin Graham, linked their religious messages to contemporary issues.
"There is a great move on in this country to take prayer out of the schools, take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance, and take down the Ten Commandments," Billy Graham said from the platform. "As a nation it seems we are turning away from God. But Jesus Christ is coming back, and that is the future of this world."
On Friday, Franklin Graham compared the crusade's efforts to the presidential debate the same evening between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry in St. Louis.
"But in Kansas City it is not a debate, it is a battle for your soul," the younger Graham said.
Billy Graham had surgeries earlier this year following two serious falls. He preached from a specially constructed pulpit where he was allowed to stand and then sit for portions of his sermon, said A. Larry Ross, the evangelist's spokesman.
Conspicuously absent from the crusade was soloist George Beverly Shea, who, for the last six decades of domestic crusades, has sung before the elder Graham spoke. Shea, who suffered a mild heart attack in May, followed doctor's orders and stayed home.
"I had some ticker trouble in May, and the heart people say it takes a good six months for a football player to get over something like that," Shea said in a phone interview with Religion News Service.
At age 95, Shea was advised that he should sit on his back-porch rocking chair rather than appear at Graham's side. The physician's ruling marks the first time since 1947 that the singer has had to miss a domestic crusade. He has been a fixture singing solos and joining the choir for such gospel standards as "How Great Thou Art" and his own composition, "I'd Rather Have Jesus."
"It's the doctor's decision," Shea said. "I asked Mr. Graham, `Do you take the doctor's advice?' He said, 'Yes, I do.'"
Both Shea and Graham hope the man's deep singing voice will return to the crusade stage at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, which runs November 18 to 21.
"We'll ask again," Shea said of a forthcoming consultation with his doctor.
But he's more hopeful about participating in the recently announced plans for a Graham crusade at New York's Madison Square Garden in June 2005.
"I trust I can," he said.
Shea said he was pleased to hear the 4,000-member choir at the Kansas City crusade sang "Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling" on the first night at the point when he would usually sing.
"That thrills me to hear that," he said. "I love that song."
The choir members were part of a total of 18,000 volunteers from five states who supported the crusade. The overall volunteer corps represented 1,200 churches and 84 denominations.
Shea was stricken with a mild heart attack on May 26, the day before he was planning to head to England for a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Graham's first crusade in London. At the time, he spent seven days in the same hospital where Graham was being treated for a fractured pelvis.
But Shea, who was visited by Graham a couple of weeks before the Kansas City crusade, said he was encouraged about his colleague's health.
"He's taking care of himself beautifully," he said of Graham.