At times, the five-day gathering in Toronto's Skydome last month resembled anything but a Billy Graham crusade.

Nightly visitors to the Skydome's Level 500 might have mistakenly thought they were at a conference for Cantonese speakers. Crusade mainstays Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea were barely visible. More than once, Skydome sported a rock concert atmosphere, its field teeming with energetic young people. And until the last two evenings, Graham himself was missing.

Mission Ontario may go down in crusade history as the most unconventional crusade to date, and only partly due to Graham's three-day hospital stay. Yet while concern ran deep for Graham's health, crusade leaders saw benefits from his well-publicized collapse, which occurred the day before the crusade began.

"Except for Dr. Graham's own personal discomfort, I saw nothing negative about his absence," says Brian Stiller, executive director of Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and honorary cochair of Mission Ontario. "In fact, his health condition turned the press's attention toward us. They finally looked at what was going on with the crusade."

On June 6, Graham, 76, addressed a luncheon gathering of Toronto business and civic leaders, admitting at the outset that he had been experiencing "a hard couple of hours physically." Partway through his talk, he apologized, gave a summary statement, then collapsed. As he recalled June 11 in front of the final evening crowd of 62,000, "All of a sudden, I didn't even know where I was. That's never happened before. I began to realize how quickly life can end."

BLOOD LOSS: Graham never lost consciousness, but he was taken to Toronto East General Hospital nevertheless, where doctors discovered he had lost a significant amount ...

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