Fayetteville was Ground Zero Oct. 1 for the launch of Franklin Graham’s eight-city Decision America Tar Heel State Tour across North Carolina.
But his Gospel message to the more than 9,000 people attending at Festival Park could have global reverberations for a city that is home to the world’s largest military base, with more than 50,000 active duty personnel.
“There’s a good chance that the majority of the folks that were here might be at another military installation in a couple of years,” said Tony Soignoli, Manna Church’s multisite pastor overseeing six locations across the Fayetteville/Fort Bragg region. “And they’re carrying this message wherever the Department of Defense sends them. Our senior pastor said that the Department of Defense is one of the largest mission-sending organizations on the planet.”
Preaching from 2 Kings 5 about Naaman, the pagan general of the Syrian Army, whom God healed from leprosy, Franklin said that Jesus can heal anyone from the terminal effects of sin.
“You have an incurable disease called sin,” Franklin preached. “You are a sinner, and you cannot save yourself. Only Jesus can save you. If you want to be forgiven, just stand right where you are.” He then led the people in a prayer of repentance and commitment.
Gabriel Smutz, a 20-something soldier, stood with tears filling his eyes in response to the invitation. Smutz shared with counselor Alex Aurio how he prayed with Franklin to trust Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord.
Aurio, a member of Rockfish Church in nearby Raeford, moved to the area from his native Hawaii with his wife a year-and-a-half ago. He beamed with excitement while describing his first experience helping to lead someone to repent of their sins and trust in Jesus. “I told him, ‘Congratulations, today is a new day.’”
Soignoli, a 30-year Army veteran who deployed on seven combat missions and is a Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplain alongside his wife, Tiffany, said Franklin’s message resonates with the military community partly because his son Edward was stationed at Fort Bragg as an Army Ranger.
“When they hear that one of Franklin’s boys was in a Ranger regiment for years … that means something. It’s kind of a qualifier, if you will, that will allow you to speak into our life.”
More than 600 people indicated decisions for Christ either at the Fayetteville event or through the livestream.
Above: Jeremy Camp led the crowds in worship at each Tour event.
Photo: Paul Sherar/2019 BGEA