Despite long, intensive preparations and a healthy spirit, Billy Graham’s five-day crusade in Rio de Janeiro this month proved hard to get off the ground. The evangelical community in Brazil has been growing faster than that of any other country. Brazilian believers welcomed the Graham team with enthusiasm. The government went out of its way to help. All the potential seemed to be there for a series of meetings that would rival those conducted by Graham in Korea last year. Yet the crusade was no exception to the historical pattern in Brazil: evangelicals have repeatedly had to rely on miracles to overcome obstacles.

During the five days the air was warm but the overcast sky threatened rain every day. It did rain once, and the crowd was down to 30,000 that night. But Maracana stadium, largest in the world, is a beautifully designed structure with a large pillarless roof overhang that kept the people in the stands from getting wet.

The stadium is located in the heart of the city and is therefore quite accessible, except that parking is minimal and traffic maximal. Most people apparently came by public transportation.

The stadium’s sound system, thought inadequate, was set aside in favor of a special hookup using more than 150 speakers. Many in the audience still had trouble hearing, and to make matters worse vandals knocked eight of the speakers out of operation. Radio stations seized the opportunity to broadcast the proceedings live. But would the people come to the stadium if they could hear Billy Graham at home?

A crowd estimated at 85,000 attended the first service, on Wednesday night, October 2. The next evening the turnout dwindled to 50,000. On Friday, the rainy night in Rio, the total plummeted again.

Graham himself must ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.