Garbed in full Native American headdress with a bead medallion around his neck that read "Jesus Loves Me," the great-grandson of Apache chief Geronimo told a crowd of more than 14,000 New Mexicans that the words of an old Bible he was about to toss into a wood stove brought him new life.

Reynard Faber, a recovering alcoholic, left his life as a tribal medicine man to become one of the few Native American evangelists to 150,000 New Mexican Native Americans. He says, "I'm seeing Native people come to Jesus like never before."

Faber shared his testimony on "Native American night" at the beginning of the five-night Festival '98, May 6-10 at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

The event marked the first time that Billy Graham and his son Franklin shared preaching responsibilities at a U.S. crusade. Franklin preached the first three nights, Billy the two weekend services, to a total of 103,369 people. Franklin had preached in Farmington, New Mexico, in 1996. The elder Graham held crusades in Albuquerque in 1952 and 1975.

RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION: Native Americans find themselves torn between two cultures when they become Christians. "We want to be part of our community, but sometimes we just don't fit in," says Lorraine Galegos of the Santa Ana pueblo, one of 19 in the state. "We're kind of outcasts in our village, because we belong to another church." Only Roman Catholics have a church on the Native American land.

Christianity is viewed as an Anglo religion and a threat to Native American traditions. Darren Vicenti, a member of the Jicarilla Apache tribe, is the only Christian in his family. "There is a lot of pressure among those that have accepted the Lord." He says other tribe members say, " 'You're just trying to be a white man.' "

Faber agrees that animosities toward whites persist, but he thinks it is an excuse for a "defeatist" lifestyle. Instead, Faber promotes Christianity while affirming Native American cultural heritage. "I tell them, 'You are Apache and you need to be proud of it.' But then I tell them about Christ and how he changed my life."

Native Americans in New Mexico have reason to think twice before joining a Protestant church because of the dire consequences. Faber says those in a pueblo who convert may be banished by the leaders. He says similar action is taken by the two Apache tribes and Navajo nation within the state.

Galegos is thrilled that her brother-in-law and seven-year-old son accepted Christ at the crusade, but she acknowledges the challenges they will face. Galegos says that three years ago the Santa Ana pueblo revoked her family's burial rites because of their Christian faith. She says there is a high number of "underground Christians" who, in fear of being discovered, sneak over mountains to attend church. "We live like in a glass fishbowl. Everything we do or say, people are watching."

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BUILDING BRIDGES: Fifteen area tribal leaders were invited to join Franklin Graham on the platform for Native American night. Christian country singer Dennis Agajanian sang in Apache. "He might not have the perfect pronunciation, but people love that," says Skip Heitzig, vice chair of the local crusade committee and pastor of the 10,000-member Calvary Chapel in Albuquerque. "It's like you're saying, 'You're important to me and your culture is important to me.' "

The neutral university location of Festival '98 and ecumenical appeal of the Grahams attracted an ethnic cross section that churches in New Mexico struggle to achieve.

The crusade also helped break down barriers between Protestant and Catholic churches, which historically have not worked together. "The Catholic diocese here has been very much in favor of what we are doing and even wrote a letter to every one of their parishes recommending they get involved," says festival director Herb McCarthy. "If we're really honest, the things that divide us are small in comparison to the things we hold in common."

RECOVERY EVANGELISM: The diverse audience responded to Franklin Graham's messages of sin and God's forgiveness, as well as God's power to stop addiction. Many of the testimonies each night included accounts of recovery from substance abuse. Heitzig, who became a Christian in 1973 while watching a Billy Graham crusade on television, admitted to dealing drugs in a church choir loft during his pre-Christian days.

Alcoholism is a significant social problem in New Mexico. "Alcoholism is to the Indian nation what aids is to the African nations," says Terence Kelshaw, ministerial vice chair for the crusade committee and bishop of the Rio Grande diocese of the Episcopal Church. The state is regularly among the leaders in per capita deaths related to drunken driving.

PASSING THE TORCH: In 1995, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association tabbed Franklin as his father's successor. While the historic joint appearance of father and son evangelists in Albuquerque may symbolize a transition of leadership, Billy Graham is not done preaching, even though he has Parkinson's disease.

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"The doctors said 'slow down.' They didn't say 'stop,' " Graham, now 79, told reporters. "I'm going to retire when the Lord retires me." He has solo crusades scheduled this month in Ottawa and in October in Tampa. No further joint appearances are scheduled.

"Franklin and I preach the same gospel," says Billy Graham. "We approach it a little bit differently. He's not a clone of me." Stalwarts Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea joined the elder Graham at the crusade.

The message may be the same, but the men and the methods are different. Franklin, at 45, appeals to a younger generation with his "rebel with a cause" testimony. "Kids can relate to someone that rides a motorcycle and started out rough," says Pamela Faux, a counselor supervisor. "He wasn't an angel."

Of the 5,719 who made decisions for Christ during the crusade, 55 percent were under 18 years of age.

They may relate to Franklin, but they revere Billy. On the weekend, when the elder Graham preached, the Pit arena filled to its 18,000-seat capacity within minutes, forcing thousands of people into an outdoor overflow area.

On the final night, Graham's international stature drew Curtis Onco, 44, who is Kiowa-Cheyenne. Six months ago, Onco found himself homeless when his house burned down. The Bible that a friend had given him was among the few items not consumed. Yet, instead of turning to the Scriptures, Onco returned to alcohol.

He says, "Temptations are out there all over the place—people saying, 'Let's go drink, I'm buying. Let's go party.' "

Onco, who stopped drinking four months ago, says belief in God presents no problem for most Native Americans, but joining a church is a step few, including himself, are willing to risk. In the meantime, his Bible has become a steady companion. "I always like to come back to it," he says. "Now I'm trying to go ahead."

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