For each of the last three years, June and Jim Bigham have packed a microwave and three suitcases in a frosted-tan Fleetwood sedan and spent up to 306 days away from their home in Oklahoma City. Their destinations ranged across the continent: Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Hartford, Connecticut; Anaheim, California; and Washington, D.C. In each place, they settled into a motel room or apartment for two or three months, at their own expense, and helped coordinate the thousands of details that produce a Billy Graham crusade.

To veterans of American evangelical church life, those crusade meetings flow with all the familiarity of an annual family reunion. George Beverly Shea sings “How Great Thou Art,” a choir several thousand strong rises for a harmonized hymn, and then Billy appears at the podium. Most of the people attending a Graham crusade experience it essentially as a solo performance, with the spotlight on one particularly gifted preacher.

But when June and Jim attend a crusade meeting, they see much more than that. They watch a full orchestra of volunteers tune up for a variety of tasks as “inquirers” come forward at the end of the meeting. “When the invitation is given, I can see the mechanics start to work,” June says.

During the two months preceding a crusade, the Bighams help prepare local church people to assist new believers into the community of faith. Before a springtime crusade in Washington, D.C., June answered telephone queries at the reception desk of the crusade office. Jim supervised mailings to local church volunteers, tinkering with a recalcitrant folding machine.

At the crusade meetings, they handled “counselor problems,” such as replacing lost or forgotten badges ...

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