Wednesday, June 20, 2001

He's slowed, but steadfast

Graham ready for crusade in Louisville

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

Billy Graham
Billy Graham in Louisville Tuesday
        LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Slowed by age and illness, Billy Graham said Tuesday he puts faith in God to help muster the strength for a crusade to deliver his powerful message of repentance and redemption.

        America's best-known preacher acknowledged that his age is showing, and said friends around the world have prayed for the four-day Louisville crusade, his first since last fall in Jacksonville, Fla.

        Crusade organizers expect about 150,000 people to attend the crusade Thursday through Sunday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

        “I come here to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Graham, 82, told reporters at the stadium. “I can do that with God's help. I have been preparing my messages and trust that God will use them.”

        Graham said he feels as good as is possible but acknowledged he has trouble standing for very long. Graham, who has preached to more than 210 million people in the past half-century, said he intends to do the Lord's work as long as he lives, adding, “I don't know how long that will be.”

        “I am grateful for the privilege of having the strength to be here,” Graham said. “I wasn't sure that we could do that. But we've put it in God's hands, and I think the Lord has allowed me to have the strength.”

    Directions: Take I-71 south to I-65 south in downtown Louisville to Crittenden Drive Exit 132.
    Buses and cars with passes travel 300 yards south on Crittenden Drive to Central Avenue; turn right on Central to Floyd Street (first light); right on Floyd; bus parking is on the left near Stadium Gate 3; car parking is on left near stadium Gate 1.
    Buses and cars without passes continue 100 yards south on Crittenden Drive and turn left into fairgrounds at Gate 4. Cost $3. Shuttle buses will be available.
    Dates: Thursday-Sunday.
    Times: 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Sunday; 10:30 a.m.-noon and 6:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday. Doors open 90 minutes before start of each program. Parking lots open four hours before each service.
    Cost: All seats free; no tickets required. Donations will be accepted with tax-deductable receipts provided.
    On the Net: Louisville crusade:
        Another Graham crusade is planned this year Oct. 11-14 in Fresno, Calif.

        Graham has been weakened by Parkinson's disease and a brain condition that kept him from giving the invocation at President Bush's inauguration in January. The evangelist said he underwent several operations in the past year and has been at the Mayo Clinic for most of this year. He said he was released from the hospital about two weeks ago.

        Graham rode in a golf cart onto the football stadium field to meet with reporters. A cane remained in the cart as the angular evangelist climbed out to speak. He then got back inside the cart to conserve strength under a beating sun and answered a couple of questions.

        Graham said he plans to stand while preaching and can hold onto the podium. If he feels too weak to stand, he can sit down and preach.

        “I've done that before and would be happy to do that again if that's what the Lord wants me to do,” Graham said.

        A doctor will be close by, as will Graham's son, Franklin, who is prepared to carry on with the sermon if his father can't.

        As Billy Graham spoke, workers bustled in the background to put the finishing touches on his massive stage.

        The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the crusade will have a tremendous impact on thousands of lives.

        “It is the answer to many prayers, and it is the affirmation of many hopes, and now the fulfillment of those hopes that brings us to this very important week,” said Mohler, who headed an organizing committee.

        It will be Graham's first crusade in Louisville in a generation, but the evangelist has ties to the city. The seminary features a school bearing Graham's name that prepares ministers for evangelism and missions work.

        Graham, an ordained Baptist minister, spent four weeks in Louisville in 1956, attracting nearly 500,000 to his crusades. He returned for a one-day crusade in 1964.

        Mohler said this week's crusade will unite people across denominational lines. He counted more than 600 churches representing 54 denominations as crusade participants.

        Services are scheduled each evening during the four days, along with a Saturday morning service. Both events Saturday are geared toward youth; and Graham will not speak at the Saturday morning event.


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