Shining the Light of Christ in the Pacific Northwest

From Medford, Ore., to Monroe, Wash., the Franklin Graham Pacific Northwest Tour made its way through seven cities Aug. 1-13. Not many churches can be seen along this breathtaking stretch of the country, with its tall mountain peaks, peaceful river streams and quiet forests. But at each tour stop, crowds came by the thousands to hear a Gospel message, enjoy Christian music and see what God would do. Close to 26,000 attended the meetings, where they held hands and prayed for their city, their state and their country. More than 1,000 accepted Christ.

MEDFORD, ORE.

Sixteen-year-old Mae and her good friend Madison found their way to seats near the front of the Bi-Mart Expo Amphitheater in Medford Aug. 1. They had come to the first stop of the Pacific Northwest Tour with their church youth leader Karen Smaw and several other members of the youth group.

Mae and Madison rose to their feet to toe-tapping bluegrass songs from Dennis and Danny Agajanian. Madison raised her hands in worship as Jeremy Camp sang, but Mae held back as she had been dealing with a lot of anger lately and wasn’t exactly sure where she stood spiritually. Then Franklin came to the platform and started talking about God’s love and how God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for her sin. He talked about all different kinds of sin, and by the time he gave the invitation, Mae had to respond.

“I didn’t know if I could just let the anger keep on boiling inside of me,” she said. So, with the Tommy Coomes band singing Just As I Am, Mae walked nervously to the front of the Expo and stood in front of Franklin, along with about 200 others who also wanted to make decisions for Christ.

“I was really scared when I walked out into the aisle,” Mae said. “I was debating turning around and going back. But I wanted to be sure of what my relationship with God was. I didn’t want to be half anymore. I just wanted to be fully His.”

When she came back to her seat, she went right into Madison’s arms. The girls clung to each other in a tight embrace, with unstoppable tears.

“I don’t know if she knows this, but I’ve been praying for her,” Madison said, barely able to speak. “I wanted her to experience the same love and joy in Christ that I’ve had for my life. I’ve seen her hurting, and I wanted her to come to Christ, and just to know that He loves her and cares for her, and that He has always been there for her.”

Karen had only heard about the Tour a couple of days earlier.

“I’m so glad we were able to make it,” she said. “We’ve been praying for Mae.”

BEND, ORE.

Chase Bales graduated high school last spring. And during this last summer of his youth, the 18-year-old decided to accompany his family on Aug. 3 to the picturesque town of Bend, about 40 minutes away from his hometown of Prineville, Ore., to hear Franklin Graham speak and Jeremy Camp sing.

Chase grew up in church. His dad was the music director. He knew all of the songs Jeremy sang.

He also knew the story of the prophet Daniel and King Belshazzar, whom Franklin preached about that night. He’d sat in church since before he could remember, hearing what seemed like the same old stories and the same old songs Sunday after Sunday. But tonight, it all sounded so different.

He couldn’t explain what caused him to do so, but when Franklin gave the invitation on this beautiful evening that had turned almost chilly, Chase stood readily to his feet, with no prodding from family and friends.

A counselor appeared at his side, and after he prayed to receive Christ, he was overcome with the weight of his decision. He couldn’t stop crying, or hugging his family, who had been praying for this day. And as Jeremy Camp began to sing again, Chase heard the words in a new way: The same power that raised Jesus from the gravenow lives in him.

He sat for a moment before standing up with the rest of the audience, savoring the joy and to his surprise, relief.

“I’ve been feeling like this for a little while,” he said, catching his breath between sobs. “Like, it’s time. So I thought, Why not do it now?It’s not like I was a terrible kid or anything … But now I know I’m gonna live for Him. That’s what I’m gonna do.”

CANBY, ORE.

The audience sat spellbound Aug. 5 as Franklin Graham read the story of Sodom and Gomorrah from the Book of Genesis at the Clackamas County Expo in Canby, just outside Portland. Then he told it in his own words.

“The storm clouds of judgment were gathering over Sodom,” Franklin said. “The day of their Armageddon was near.”

Abraham’s nephew Lot had settled in sinful Sodom, which God was about to destroy. Two angels appeared and told Lot to flee with his family.

“God is going to burn this city,” they said. “Take your family and go. And whatever you do, don’t look back.”

But Lot’s wife, before they reached a place of safety, turned back. And the wrath of God was poured out on Sodom and on her. “It seemed like just a small thing,” Franklin explained. “A quick glance back over her shoulder. But it represented something far deeper. It represented unbelief over many years. It represented rebellion against God on many occasions. And God, in His mercy, was giving her another chance.

“Tonight, God is giving you another chance,” Franklin told the crowd of more than 12,000. The mid-90-degree temperatures had dropped into the cool, pleasant 70s, as families had settled in—some on blankets, some standing. Outside the Expo gate, one man sat alone in a pickup truck. A couple sat nearby in another.

“It’s your choice,” Franklin said, looking across the crowd. “Remember, Lot’s wife was almost saved. She was at the gates of Zoar, the city of refuge. Just a few more steps … but she looked back. She was offered salvation. Tonight, you’re being offered salvation. Christ is the place of safety. He’s the place of refuge.”

Mike Hurtado had known refuge in Christ for some 29 years. His wife, Molly, also knew the Lord. But, when Franklin invited those who wanted to make a commitment to Christ to stand, Mike, Molly and their 12-year-old daughter, Maci, found themselves on their feet.

“This is a family recommitment,” Mike said. “It’s to say that we’re trying to do our best to obey God. We’re trying to do the everyday things we need to do to make sure that we show others that, yeah, there’s something different about us, so they can ask us, ‘Why are you so different? Why are you not offended by a lot of things that most people are offended by? Why are you so happy?’”

Franklin’s message clearly spelled out that sin is sin and it is serious.

“We can’t say, ‘Well, everyone else is doing it.’” Mike said. “Just because that’s what’s being said in the world doesn’t make it the truth. We really have to focus on God and not make excuses or cut corners. That’s what got to me.”

TRI-CITIES, WASH.

Though the Tri-Cities region in south-central Washington has been parched and dry this summer—an area that receives only about eight inches of rain per year—the Holy Spirit poured down His blessings Aug. 7 at the Columbia Point Marina Park in Richland.

Temperatures hovering around the 100-degree mark didn’t deter a crowd of 13,400 who came to hear Franklin Graham proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ during his first of four Washington stops on the Decision America Pacific Northwest Tour. More than 900 people rose to their feet in the park, nestled along the Columbia River, when Franklin invited those who wanted to make a decision for Christ to stand at the end of his Gospel message.

“Because the Holy Spirit is here, His mighty power is going to do some great and amazing things in this community, in this region, in this state and in this nation,” said Ivy Enneking. “I’m just so pumped to see it and be a part of it.”

Ivy had just talked with and given Bibles to a family who had driven about an hour from northern Oregon to attend the event. Harold Enick; his wife, Dana; their oldest daughter, Mishayle; and a family friend, Sandie, stood and prayed to recommit their lives to Christ.

“We’ve been listening to Billy Graham, and so when we saw his son was coming, we wanted to hear what he had to say from the Lord,” Harold said. “We do things together, and now we’re going to carry God’s message back to our area.”

Sherri Odegard, who attended Mr. Graham’s Seattle Crusade with her mother in 1976 as a pre-teen and whose granddaughter Samantha prayed to receive Christ watching him on television, is glad Franklin came to the Tri-Cities. “This is needed in our state and every other state,” she said. “It’s going to have a great impact.”

SPOKANE, WASH.

When Kathryn Keith was 25 years old, she attended Billy Graham’s 1949 Los Angeles Crusade with her mother-in-law under a big white tent—the series of evangelistic meetings that launched Mr. Graham into worldwide prominence. Kathryn had an opportunity that night to walk forward and give her life to Jesus Christ. But she hesitated and stood still.

“I always regretted that,” Kathryn said just before Franklin Graham’s second Washington message on Aug. 9. “I’ve since made a decision privately to receive Christ and I know I’m forgiven. But when I heard Franklin was coming here, I asked Jesus to keep me alive till then so I could publicly confess my faith in Him.”Kathryn came to the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center with Cindy Crago, a longtime friend and someone to whom she’s been witnessing. “My husband and I have known her for about 15 years,” Cindy said. “She doesn’t have much family here, so we’ve adopted her as our grandma. She’s been telling me about Jesus, and I’ve gone to church with her a couple of times. She and I are both excited to be here.”

Despite the stifling heat, at the age of 94 and with some help from Cindy, Kathryn got up from her chair when Franklin invited the 14,600 people in attendance to stand, repent of their sins and trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

While Kathryn recommitted her life to Christ, Cindy asked Him to come into her heart. They rejoiced together.

Also celebrating new life in Christ was Mary Covington. She had come seeking God’s peace and grace. “I’ve gone through a lot of trials, which I know are bringing me to the Lord,” she said.

Franklin’s message resonated with her when he said: “Whatever is wrong, whatever mountain is in front of you, Jesus Christ is the answer. God will cleanse you and will heal your heart.”

Mary stood and prayed. And left trusting Jesus because each day is in His Hands.

TACOMA, WASH.

As brothers Gabriel and Seth Headley of Auburn, Wash., arrived at the parking lot of Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, where the third Tour meeting was to be held, they opened up their folding chairs and scanned the audience that was building toward 7,800 people. They were fired up.

“We came because we want to pray for our state,” Gabriel said. “Things look a little bit dark right now in Washington and in America in general, but we know God can change anything at any time when we pray.”

His older brother Seth quickly agreed. “What excites me about this event is God’s people are coming together in unity to pray,” he said. “Statistics are often quoted that we’re the most unchurched part of the state. We’re excited to see what will happen in our city, our state and our country based on what happens here tonight.”

That sentiment was also held by Helen Horton, who traveled about 30 miles with two church friends from Carbonado. Helen helps lead a Sunday night and Tuesday morning prayer meeting with women from her church.

“We’re praying for our community and for our nation as well,” she said. “Prayer must be a priority, and we’ve been praying for Franklin Graham and this event, that God will turn hearts toward Him.”

The Lord certainly answered that prayer on Aug. 12. A man named Tony had been evaluating his wayward life and his need to surrender everything to God. After Franklin’s message on the Prodigal Son, he stood to turn from his sins, ask God for forgiveness and trust Jesus Christ as his Savior.

Standing next to him was Victoria, who has liver cancer; her doctors give her about a year to live. “Victoria is a believer, and tonight she came back to Him,” said a volunteer who prayed with her as they shed tears together. “She’s not afraid.”

MONROE, WASH.

Each time Franklin repeated his invitation for people to come down in front of the stage at the Evergreen Speedway to cede control of their lives to Jesus Christ, they responded in waves.

“‘For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?’” Franklin said, quoting Mark 8:36. “There are a lot of you here in danger of losing your soul. But tonight, you can be forgiven, but you have to come to God through His Son, Jesus Christ.”

They kept coming. Finally—after his sixth appeal—Franklin told the crowd of 8,300 people on Aug. 13, “This is my last call. Anyone else?”

Out of the stands came 17-year-old Katrina Hanford of Monroe, accompanied by her father, Kevin. Joining the hundreds of others who came forward, Katrina prayed to accept Jesus Christ as Savior.

“I wasn’t planning to, but when Franklin said our sins can be forgiven, I sensed something in my heart telling me to step forward, so I did,” Katrina said.

Kevin, who committed his own life to Christ during Billy Graham’s Crusade in Seattle in 1976, was elated. “This is very special,” he said. “Very special.”

Katrina said she looks forward to trusting God as she enters her senior year in high school. “I want to walk in His light,” she said.

Many other students who attended the fourth and final stop—and seventh of the entire Pacific Northwest Tour—can identify with that very same wish. “I enjoy asking my non-Christian friends questions, hoping to share with them about Jesus,” said Nicole Torbett, a 15-year-old sophomore. “Some are skeptical, but other friends are pretty open.”

Faith Stanley, who is 13 years old and an eighth-grader, said, “I love Jesus and hope other students will find Him. I hope this is the beginning of a revival.”