In six cities, from Pennsylvania to Minnesota, more than 50,000 people heard the Good News: God loves you. More than 2,600 indicated decisions for Jesus Christ, either in person or by texting. Following are reports on how God moved in each of the Tour stops.
From the ground level, it looked like every spot of every bleacher in the Allentown Fairgrounds Grandstand was filled—as were several rows of chairs between the bleachers and the stage.
This energetic crowd of more than 10,000 had come to the fairgrounds in this former mill town about an hour north of Philadelphia to attend the first stop of Franklin Graham’s God Loves You Tour on Sept. 24.
Mark Long was excited to be there. He’d been spreading the word for weeks, particularly handing out the bus card Tour invitations he’d received at prayer team training, which included the words “God loves you.”
“Those three little words are so powerful,” Mark said. As he placed the cards in people’s hands and tried to help them understand what God could do for them, some asked, “How do you know?”
“Look at those words!” he said. “God loves you! God knew you before He created the heavens and the earth.”
Franklin echoed those words during his sermon. And when he asked anyone in the audience who wanted to receive Christ to stand, hundreds responded—including a man named Phillip, who had driven six hours from Connecticut to attend the Tour. Mark made his way over to the man.
“He had never given his life to Christ,” Mark said. “He had always been religious, but as he was getting older, he began to wrestle in his spirit. Last week, something prompted him to come to the Tour event, and he knew it was time to surrender his life to Christ. So despite heavy traffic, car accidents and detours, he came and made his decision for Christ.”
Thirteen-year-old Tiarah Silva and her brother also stood to receive Christ. “I know things will be different for me after tonight, if I can really commit to Him,” Tiarah said, adding that her sinful thoughts and actions had separated her from God.
Jacqueline Angle and her husband of The Vine Church in Schnecksville, just north of Allentown, are still rejoicing about a friend from church who accepted Christ.
“She has been exploring her faith for about a year. … She was so excited on Sunday morning to rush over and tell me, ‘I stood up, Jackie! I stood up!’ She gave her heart to Jesus! We’ve all been on cloud nine ever since, especially her husband, who was serving during the event!”
Every Friday for almost two years, Pastor Jim Dinger and members of Pathway Community Church in York, Pennsylvania, have walked the three and a half blocks from the church to the York Expo Center to pray over the venue.
“We’ve been coming and laying hands on the gates of this venue, believing that we would see what is going to happen here tonight,” Jim said. So when more than 9,200 people showed up at the Expo Center on Sept. 25 for the second stop of the God Loves You Tour with Franklin Graham, the Christian community in York was encouraged as never before.
“We believe this could serve as the catalyst for revival,” Jim said. “And that’s really what we’ve been praying for.”
The crowd was swept away by guitar picking from Dennis Agajanian and songs of praise from Marcos Witt and the Newsboys. But Franklin’s Gospel message, that God loved the world so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross for their sin, is what changed lives for eternity at this afternoon event that didn’t see a drop of rain despite a forecast for heavy thunderstorms.
Hundreds made decisions for Christ in response to the invitation. Edward Rohrer, 19, from Nottingham, was one of them.
Originally from Ukraine, Edward was a recipient of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes as a child before coming to the U.S.
“I wanted to get my sins forgiven because I had never done that before,” Edward said. “Some people have asked me if I’m saved and I’ve said, ‘Yes, I think I am,’ but I wasn’t sure.”
Clayton Foster, 18, of York wanted to renew his connection with Jesus.
“I feel like I lost myself in different ideas I had learned,” he said. “Also, I felt confused and unsure of what my future would be. I stood tonight because I believed God could make me more sure of what is in front of me, like going to college. I want someone to help me through this. I need something to believe in.”
Jim Dinger, the Pathway pastor, noticed a couple standing nearby with tears streaming down their faces. The man had never repented of his sins, and his wife’s tears flowed from joy. Jim prayed with the man to receive Christ.
“It has been so wonderful to see God answer our prayers in such a big way with this event,” Jim said. “And then to be used by Him to lead someone to Christ. … It was just amazing.”
Sandi Breidenstein walked on the sidewalk next to the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre, one arm outstretched. She was spending her lunch break praying over the grounds where the God Loves You Tour’s Youngstown stop would take place that evening.
“I’m here to pray that God’s Holy Spirit falls on this community,” she said. “I tell pastors all the time that something’s going to happen in the city of Youngstown that people all over the country are going to look at and say, ‘What is going on here?’
“And it will be because of the prayers of so many people. I’m just a lowly prayer walker; I know pastors who are constantly on their face crying out to God.”
One pastor who has prayed fervently for Youngstown is Jed Hill, recovery pastor at Bridge of Hope Church. “We have been praying about this daily,” he told Decision. “We’ve been praying about this in staff meetings, in our prayer meetings, at every service—that God will ignite a revival in this valley.
“We’re called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and what better opportunity than to bring people to an event that is going to light this valley on fire?”
Many event volunteers expressed similar desires.
“My prayer is that God will lift the yokes and break burdens off people who need it,” said prayer team member Cameron Nemcik before the meeting started. “There are people here with a lot of baggage. I pray that the Lord takes it off and they receive Christ.”
God answered that prayer as hundreds spoke with prayer team members or texted their decision.
“I have a lot of anxiety and depression,” said one man who prayed to receive Christ. “Something needs to change in my life.”
A woman who rededicated her life to Christ said she had fallen away, and she was experiencing deep grief after the deaths of two family members. The prayer team member connected her with a Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplain for further help.
And as a middle-aged husband and wife prayed to receive Christ, the man broke down in tears. Trying to explain, he could only say it was “the overwhelming love of Jesus.”
More than 170 people served as prayer team members for the event at Flint’s Crossroads Village. They came ready to pray with those who would respond to the invitation, and many said they were praying as they waited for the meeting to begin.
“I want people to come to Christ,” said Holly McCarthy. “I want them to know my Savior. There’s no place we have gone where God can’t reach down and save.”
Torrence Johnson, also on the prayer team, said he was praying “that people would find that new life—that new way, the renewed mind—that they’ll become a new creature in Christ. His eternal love is the most incredible love ever.”
Other believers in the crowd were praying, too. “If He can change my life, He can change anybody’s life,” said Randy Coleman, who ministers on the streets of Flint. “If He can take me out of the sewer hole, He can take a lot of people out of the sewer hole.”
On this clear, chilly night, Franklin preached about the Prodigal Son. “Many of you,” he said, “you’ve wasted your life. … And my question to you tonight is, are you at that point? Are you broken in your spirit?”
He assured the people that God would forgive them if they would repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ: “He’ll never leave you, never forsake you, if you come to Him tonight.”
Hundreds stood at the invitation. One, a young woman from England, said she had asked Christ into her life years ago but had been partying and living a life against God. She rededicated her life to Christ.
A man from Detroit stood to commit his life to Christ. He said he knew he needed Christ, and he wanted Jesus to be his Lord. His wife stood with him in support of his decision, grateful that she and her husband are now united in their faith.
Kyle Bailey, pastor of CenterPoint Church, served as a prayer team captain. The day after the meeting, he reported: “I am hearing stories all over the place. One of our missionary couples was there, and their children rededicated their lives to Jesus. One of our members told me his grandson got saved. One of my sons rededicated his life. A woman who used to go to our church but had backslid rededicated her life to Christ. My discipleship pastor’s son rededicated his life to Christ. And many people from our recovery program stood up during the invitation as well.”
One year ago this month, downtown Waukesha, Wisconsin—a suburb of Milwaukee—was splashed across every major news station in the country. An annual Christmas parade had turned tragic when a man plowed his SUV into the crowd, killing six people and injuring 62 others. In an instant, “Comfort and Joy,” the 2021 theme of the parade, had turned to “Terror and Anguish.”
In the aftermath, Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains ministered to the people of Waukesha, offering emotional and spiritual support to those mourning. “Waukesha Strong” became the community’s rally cry in the midst of heartache and pain, and a year later, signs with this reminder are still plastered along the city’s streets.
On Oct. 1, Franklin Graham visited Waukesha for the first time to share a message of hope with more than 8,500 people at the Waukesha County Expo Center.
He shared the story of Nicodemus, a religious leader who did all the right things in the eyes of Jewish law but didn’t have a personal relationship with God.
“Religion is not enough to save you,” Franklin said. “ … You have got to … put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ and invite Him to come into your heart … and surrender your life to Him.”
When he led the crowd in a prayer of salvation, Phyllis, a prayer team member, watched as the woman in front of her mouthed the words after Franklin.
“I couldn’t hear her, but I saw her lips moving,” Phyllis said. “So I went up to her after and asked if she had just accepted Christ. She said, ‘Yes.’”
Phyllis learned that 48-year-old Sophia was legally blind and was only able to attend the event that night with the help of her sister.
“I assured Sophia that God loves her, that He has a plan for her and that her life was about to drastically change,” Phyllis said. “I then asked Sophia’s sister to read the Gospel of John to her. I know God’s Word will bless them both and will help Sophia grow in her new relationship with Christ.”
Earlier this year, a woman named Kelly prayed, “Lord, use me. I want to be a vessel for You.” Little did she know, God would use her to lead her 60-year-old mother back to Christ.
“I invited my mom tonight in hopes that God would touch her heart and she would allow Him to move in her,” Kelly said. “And it happened!”
The sun shone bright the afternoon of Oct. 2 at Soldiers Memorial Field Park in Rochester, Minnesota. Home to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, Rochester is the state’s third-largest city and welcomes thousands of patients each year seeking physical healing from their ailments.
But Franklin Graham, who himself underwent a specialized heart surgery at Mayo Clinic last year, wanted the people of Rochester to know that a person’s soul is of much more value than a person’s physical body.
“The Bible says, ‘For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’ (Mark 8:36, KJV),” Franklin said to the crowd of more than 8,000. “… The soul is not the same as the body. … You can go to the Mayo Clinic every day for the rest of your life, and one of these days, you’re going to die. But you have a soul, and that soul is going to live as long as God lives.”
While sin creates a barrier between us and God, Franklin explained, Jesus Christ offers the free gift of salvation to all who are willing to confess their sins, repent and accept Him as their Lord and Savior.
“If you would like to invite Christ to come into your life; if you would like to experience His forgiveness; if you would like to know that your soul is secure in the hands of God for eternity, I invite you to stand.”
Fifty-eight-year-old husband and wife Rick and Diane traveled over an hour from Osage, Iowa, to hear Billy Graham’s son preach. While they hadn’t been following the Lord for many years, they figured the God Loves You Tour stop in Rochester was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Franklin Graham in person. What they didn’t expect was for God to use Franklin’s message to convict them of their apathy toward God.
“Franklin saying that they need to repent and turn away from their wicked ways really struck a chord with them,” said Charlie, a prayer team member. “They realized they need an intimate, personal relationship with the Lord, and they both made the decision to rededicate themselves to God.”
Adrian, 35, wasn’t so sure about Christianity. While he had been feeling the tug of the Holy Spirit on his heart for a while, he wasn’t ready to fully commit. Yet when his friends invited him to the God Loves You Tour, Adrian decided to tag along.
And when Franklin asked those who wanted to make a decision for Christ to stand, Adrian realized this was his opportunity. He said, “I want to dedicate my life to Christ today.”
Photo: Thomas J. Petrino/©2022 BGEA