Monday, June 03, 2002

900 pray for Graham visit

By Steve Kemme,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        About 900 people gathered Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium to pray for the success of the Billy Graham Mission that will take place there later this month.

        For 1 1/2 hours, they lifted their voices in prayer, sang hymns and listened to inspirational speakers. Most of the people there will be volunteer workers at the mission, which is scheduled for June 27-30 at the stadium.

        Called the “Tri-State Evening of Prayer,” this was the first major event in preparation for the Rev. Mr. Graham's visit to Cincinnati.

        Sunday's crowd sat in the lower sections on the stadium's west side.

        Kellie Brown of West Chester Township will be one of the counselors who will assist those who walk onto the field during the mission and declare their newfound commitment to the Christian faith.

        “We'll help them and let them know they have somebody they can talk to about God,” she said. “There is so much the Lord can do for us, and I just want to share that.”

        She said she decided to volunteer for the mission partly as a tribute to her deceased father, who was a minister.

        Nathan Franckhauser of Amelia attended Sunday's event with his fiancee, Sarah Burke of Williamsburg. They also will be counselors.

        “Today is just a time to focus and ask God for help,” Mr. Franckhauser said. “We can't rely only on our own strength. We have to rely on God's strength.”

        At the more exuberant moments Sunday, the people stood and swayed as they sang and clapped their hands to the recorded church music. In the quieter moments, they held hands and bowed their heads in prayer.

        During Sunday's service, former Bengals great Anthony Munoz, the local chairman of the mission, led the gathering in prayer.

        After Mr. Munoz finished, the Rev. Taylor Thompson, pastor of Quinn Chapel AME Church in Forest Park, evoked laughter when he remarked: “He moved to the best team in town when he moved from the Bengals to God's team.”


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