Mass Evangelism

“I doubt whether we have very much longer to preach the Gospel.” Such utterances were always common with evangelist Billy Graham. Not until last month did the world take them seriously.

Stricken with a rare malady which reduced vision in his left eye to a blurry 20–70, Graham was told to slacken his pace or expect the worst. Millions fell to their knees in behalf of evangelical Christianity’s most widely accepted spokesman. Few were aware of the real seriousness of his condition.

Doctors traced the trouble to a tiny yellow spot in the most vital area of the retina. Drops of fluid abnormally released from the blood stream had caused a small swelling which clouded the line of sight. Eighteen-hour days, jangling phones, and overflowing appointment books—which most often culminate in heart attacks—had taken an unusual course in this case.

Two weeks after diagnosis, the disorder had still not responded to heavy doses of cortisone and five days of treatment at the Mayo Clinic. Even with full recovery, doctors said, remaining scar tissue could impair vision as much as 10 per cent.

Disclosure of Graham’s ailment jolted evangelicals in Australia, where revival, something the 10,000,000 “down under” have never seen, seemed closer than ever as preparations for meetings by the American evangelist reached unprecedented proportions. To give him an extra week’s rest, the opening crusade in Melbourne was delayed from February 8 to February 15. Graham will bring nightly addresses, but is under doctors’ orders not to accept additional speaking engagements.

There were fears that any sort of curtailment of Graham’s ministry might lessen the ...

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