1990s Decade Highlights
Crusade crowds continued to surge. More than 250,000 people gathered to hear the Gospel Sept. 22, 1991, in Central Park—declared the “largest religious assembly in New York City history.” And record-breaking attendance was recorded at Crusades in Cleveland, Minneapolis, Atlanta and Toronto. Popular Christian artists and bands helped attract teenagers and young adults to specially designated Youth Nights, during which Mr. Graham preached the Gospel. Satellite technology enabled Mr. Graham to present the Good News to local audiences in London, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires and Essen, Germany, then reach an expanded audience throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe, respectively. In March 1995, Mr. Graham became the first person in history to give a global invitation, as he preached to 55,000 people in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and by satellite urged a worldwide audience of hundreds of millions to make a faith commitment to Jesus Christ.
Throughout Billy Graham’s global ministry, the evangelist displayed a passion to reach the lost in New York. That was especially true from 1988 to 1991, when he held an extensive statewide campaign, holding Crusades in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany and Uniondale (Long Island), as well as in nearby East Rutherford, N.J.
Mission New York State was capped off by a mammoth evangelistic rally on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in late September 1991. Police estimated that 250,000 people heard Mr. Graham preach on the Great Lawn in New York City’s Central Park.
The mayor at that time, David Dinkins, described the gathering as “perhaps the most multicultural revival meeting the world has ever seen.”
Crowds were swelling at other Crusade meetings as well. Increasingly concerned about the spiritual plight of younger generations, Mr. Graham changed his Crusade schedule, instituting Youth Nights on Saturdays. Musicians such as Michael W. Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman, and bands that appealed to youth, were recruited, and young people flocked to Crusades in such cities as Atlanta, Minneapolis, Cleveland and Toronto. But they listened intently to the evangelistic message by an older Mr. Graham—and many responded to his call to surrender their lives to the Lord.
Mr. Graham returned to the Korean Peninsula in March 1992—but this time to North Korea, becoming the first foreign-born evangelist to preach in the communist nation. North Korea held special affection for Mr. Graham since Ruth Bell Graham and her sister Rosa attended high school in Pyongyang.
Later that year, one of Mr. Graham’s longtime prayer requests was answered. While visiting Moscow in 1959, Mr. Graham had prayed for the day when the Gospel could be proclaimed in a public arena in Russia. After the fall of the Soviet Union, God granted that request in October at the Renewal ’92 Crusade with Billy Graham.
Some 155,000 people attended the three-day event in Moscow’s Olympic Stadium, with more than 42,000 making decisions for Christ. At the final service, 50,000 people jammed into the stadium meant to hold only 38,000. Another 20,000 to 30,000 stood outside in the cold, watching the Crusade on large screens.
Mr. Graham viewed technology as his friend, “someone” who could enable him to tell even more people about how they could know God personally through Jesus Christ. From radio to television to global satellites—and eventually the internet—Mr. Graham embraced technology in order to extend the reach of the Gospel.
“Mission World,” an innovative outreach that fused “high tech and high touch,” allowed Mr. Graham to preach to a live local audience and also to an expanded regional audience via satellite.
First, three of the 1989 Crusade services in London were relayed by satellite to almost 300 locations in 30 countries in Africa. The following year, from Hong Kong, he preached to people in 30 countries throughout Asia. Next was Buenos Aires, Argentina, to almost all of Latin America. And in 1993, he blanketed the continent of Europe with the Gospel from Essen, Germany.
This worldwide strategy culminated in the Global Mission in March 1995. Mr. Graham conducted a local Crusade before a record-setting crowd of 55,000 people in the Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Through Global Mission, three of those meetings were interpreted into 116 languages and extended by satellite to 3,000 mission locations in 185 countries. Millions more heard his message on the cross of Christ, broadcast the week of Easter in prime time on national television networks in 117 countries.
In addition to evangelism, Mr. Graham was committed to helping laypeople study and apply God’s Word. On a rainy May day in 1993, he and Ruth dedicated the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, in Asheville, N.C.