In 1997, South Africa was just three years into a new era of democratic government. Nelson Mandela, who had served 27 years in prison for his fight against undemocratic, white minority rule, was now the nation’s president, leading the effort to overcome the legacy of apartheid and racism.
That year, hundreds of churches worked together to bring Franklin Graham to Cape Town and Johannesburg. More than 150,000 Christians were mobilized to pray for the meetings. Franklin appeared on television, preached on radio, distributed Operation Christmas Child gifts to needy children and held meetings with business leaders and clergy.
On the first evening of meetings in Cape Town, the Newlands Cricket Grounds filled to capacity with thousands more outside, unable to get in.
“I’ve been preaching the Gospel for 51 years,” said one local pastor, “and this is the first time that we have had this kind of response. We’ve never had a campaign like this—never ever.”
In Johannesburg a few days later, Christian leaders talked about God’s timing for the meetings. “Franklin Graham has come at the right time to help us as the church to find our position in the new South Africa,” said David Thebehali, pastor of Faithways Bible Church in Soweto. Over three days, thousands indicated decisions for Jesus Christ.
“South Africa will never be the same,” said campaign coordinator Abner Mariri. “The church is empowered, ministers are being trained. People now have a vision of what South Africa can truly become.”
Photo: BGEA Archives