Monday, June 24, 2002

Graham greets mission workers

By William A. Weathers,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Anthony Munoz said he was so in awe of being in the presence of the Rev. Billy Graham Sunday afternoon that he cut short his introduction of the celebrated evangelist.

        In fact, this is all Mr. Munoz — chairman of this week's Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Billy Graham Mission — was able to get out at a private reception at Paul Brown Stadium:

        “It's my pleasure to introduce Billy Graham.”

        About 140 members of the Mission General Committee, their spouses and some office staff attended the reception, which was closed to the public.

        It was the first opportunity for committee members to meet the Rev. Mr. Graham, who arrived in town Saturday for his four-day mission that begins Thursday at the stadium.

        A host of local pastors led the group in prayer Sunday, said Rick Segal, local spokesman for the mission.

        The 83-year-old evangelist's visit to the Queen City — which experienced rioting last year and is facing an economic boycott in its aftermath — is very timely, Mr. Munoz said.

        “I think it's really what the city needs,” he said. “We're thrilled to see what God's going to do here through Billy Graham.”

        The Rev. Mr. Graham arrived in Cincinnati quietly, taking a walk Saturday and encountering one of the mission volunteers who were handing out 1,000 cold drinks to passersby.

        “He was moved” by that effort, said Graham spokesman A. Larry Ross. “He usually likes to slip into a city. He said the city has changed a great deal since the last time he was here” in 1977, during the last crusade here.

        On Sunday, workers were erecting a stage inside the stadium, which the Rev. Mr. Graham wants to transform into “a great cathedral” with upward of 200,000 worshipers.

        The Rev. Mr. Graham's messages will be topical, Mr. Ross said. “He doesn't come in with canned sermons. He'll be speaking with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other, if you will,” he said. “This city has been on his heart and mind. It's safe to say Cincinnati will be the most prayed for city this week.”


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