Proud warriors from another era gathered in Chicago to celebrate their worldwide movement.

Last month’s Youth for Christ International (YFCI) Celebration of Hope reunion featured plenty of gray hair and bulging waistlines. But a common concern flavored the exuberance and nostalgia of the four-day event: passing the fervor of one of this century’s most dynamic youth movements to a new generation of Christian leaders.

Delegates came from 47 states and 37 countries—whole contingents from such places as South Korea, India, Africa, and Australia, as well as from the Caribbean and the Americas.

Officially, nearly 800 were registered at the hotel where most sessions took place, though at times attendance there surged to 1,100. And there were easily as many stories as individuals at the gathering. “Everywhere I go I see the product of Youth for Christ,” said Ted Engstrom, president emeritus of World Vision and a former YFCI president.

A Friday night dinner addressed by founding president Torrey Johnson drew 1,500, and Billy Graham, YFC’s first full-time staff member, spoke at an “old-fashioned” Saturday-night rally at Chicago’s Moody Church. The rally was a bath in nostalgia: Cliff Barrows led a popular World War II chorus, “God Bless Our Boys,” Merrill Dunlop played the organ, George Beverly Shea sang “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” the choir rendered popular rally songs of the forties and fifties, and musicians Jan Sanborn, Kurt Kaiser, Hilding Halverson, Helen McAlarney Barth, and Bill Pearce and Dick Anthony all participated as well.

Why Yfc Worked

The desire to “pass the torch” to a new generation often included conjecture on the reasons for YFC’s success. Frequently, prayer was mentioned. According to Johnson, “We understood ...

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