Billy Graham to return to Los Angeles for 7th crusade

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (BP)--Returning to where he first attracted national attention, evangelist Billy Graham will hold his seventh crusade in the Los Angeles area July 29-Aug. 1 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

Nostalgically, Cliff Barrows read a letter of acceptance from Graham during an "Announcement Celebration" Feb. 9 in the Henrietta Mears room of First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. Barrows pointed to a photo of Graham and Mears, director of religious education at the church years ago, above a fireplace in the room. Mears had opened her home for prayer, encouragement and personal invitations to many actors during that first crusade in 1949 in Los Angeles.

"Billy loves Los Angeles," Barrows told Baptist Press. "His desire before his time is over is to hold a crusade on the West Coast and one on the East Coast."

On Jan. 8, Barrows announced Graham's first 2004 crusade will be held at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium in June.

At the age of 25, Graham, then president of Northwestern Schools, held his first large crusade in a tent in downtown Los Angeles. The crusade extended into eight weeks, drawing 350,000 people and registering 3,000 decisions for Christ.

"It is overwhelming to receive an invitation to once again come to Southern California to proclaim the Gospel -- I never dreamed I would still be preaching at the age of 85," Graham wrote in the letter Barrows read. "But the call the Lord has laid upon my heart to share the Good News is as strong as when I was much younger. God has granted me renewed strength, energy, freedom and determination to preach the Gospel."

Graham was released Feb. 1 from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., where he had been recovering from a partial hip replacement. He will undergo outpatient therapy for several weeks after which doctors expect a full recovery, according to Larry Ross, Graham's media director.

"Because God has specifically placed Los Angeles on our hearts recently, it is with great excitement that I make plans to return to the Los Angeles area in a few months," Graham wrote. "I feel somewhat like the Apostle Paul in wanting to go back to places where we have 'preached the Lord to see how they are doing.' More important, however, there is a new generation that needs to hear the Gospel since our last crusade here in 1985. And now, Lord willing, I am looking forward with great anticipation to the Greater Los Angeles Crusade."

After his initial crusade in Los Angeles, Graham returned to the area in 1958, 1963, 1969, 1974 and 1985. More than 75,000 decisions for Christ have been recorded during Graham's L.A. efforts.

Overseeing the upcoming crusade as honorary chairman will be Lloyd Ogilvie, former chaplain of the U.S. Senate and pastor emeritus of First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood. Co-chairs will be Jack Hayford, pastor of The Church On The Way in Van Nuys and Bishop Kenneth Ulmer, pastor of Faithful Central Bible Church, which meets at the Los Angeles Forum.

"We want to love L.A. to life," Hayford said during the Feb. 9 gathering. "We are so sure God ordained this moment in history. The Billy Graham campaign sets a historic moment before our city, as spiritual lightning has struck L.A. in his former crusades and I believe it is about to again. We expect positive impact across the spectrum of human need and hurt ... from practical good to 'amazing-grace-happenings in individuals, homes and families through the power of the Gospel."

Graham will be joined in the Los Angeles outreach by Barrows, who has been with Graham for more than 50 years, and 95-year-old singer George Beverly Shea.

Greg Laurie, who leads Harvest Crusades annually in Anaheim and San Diego, has scaled back this summer's outreach from three nights to one night to support Graham.

"The last thing I want to do is compete with Mr. Graham," Laurie said at the event. Instead of canceling his 14th annual crusade, Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., has decided to make it "a launching pad to rally the army to support the [Billy Graham] crusade."

Graham, who suffers from Parkinson's disease while averaging two crusades a year, "has no plans to retire," Ross said. "He is still strong in the pulpit but makes fewer plans with shorter commitment times."

Traditionally, a crusade is planned 12-18 months in advance, Ross said. "Now we have five to six months from the time he accepts them to the actual crusade," Ross said. "Mr. Graham wants to make sure he can fulfill his commitments."

Local organizers issued the invitation to Graham late last year, anticipating the involvement of 1,000 churches from 50 denominations.


(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: LOS ANGELES CO-LABORERS.

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