Saturday, June 29, 2002

Mission Moments

Stadium only one mission location

        Tempo columnist Jim Knippenberg will spend the weekend wandering Paul Brown Stadium, talking to visitors and workers, looking for the lighter side of the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Billy Graham Mission.

        Not only is the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Billy Graham Mission the only game in town right now, it's a game happening in a whole lot of places.

        On stage, sure. But also on the streets. On the plaza surrounding Paul Brown Stadium. At impromptu prayer sessions in the parking lots. Even on the river, where a few boaters drop anchor and soak up the message.

        Among the players besides the Rev. Billy Graham ...

        Sean Jarman, a 17-year-old junior at Amelia High School, sat at a wrought iron picnic table, carefully watching the stadium entrance that choir members were using. A neatly wrapped bouquet of three carnations and a rose sat in front of him.

        Girlfriend, eh?

        “I'd like her to be. These are just to let her know I'm thinking about her.”

        Becky Mooney arrived, beamed, accepted the flowers, then listened as Mr. Jarman told his story.

        “I grew up with an abusive parent, then got sent to military school for discipline. I got stabbed there in a fight. When I got out, I started drugs and alcohol and got into some trouble. I went through a therapeutic program, graduated and backslided into the same old thing.

        “I went to jail for stealing cars. There I talked to the chaplain. She said, "I can see things inside you. Good things.' I started crying and got on my knees, asked God's forgiveness and to come into my heart. That was nine months ago, and I've been walking with Christ ever since.”

        George Gelber, 55, of Morrow, also was sitting in the sun. Almost all the way at the top of the stadium, the lone soul in the third tier when there were still plenty of shaded seats closer to the stage.

        “I had the same seat last night on the other side,” he said Friday. “I'm up here for the perspective, so I can take in the view of all the folks here.

        “Anyway, the acoustics are better up here.”

        Mr. Gelber will be back again tonight and Sunday. Look for him in the top row.

        Capt. Greg Snider, District One Commander, wouldn't say how large the Cincinnati Police detail was Friday: “We never release that for security reasons, but it's a mix of uniforms and plain clothes,” he said.

        But it's a happy detail, he said.

        “This is such a nice crowd, the officers really enjoy working an event like this. They get a lot of support from the people, and that really means a lot to us,” he said.

        Anyone who doubts that this is a big deal should take a look at the hundreds of credentialed press covering the event. Forty out-of-town media outlets are here from as far away as Texas, Florida and Minnesota, says spokeswoman Barbara Cain in the mission press office.

        Locally, there are more than 20 credentialed media outlets, some with more than 20 reporters and photographers.

        Jayne Sterne has been making a lot of comparisons this week: “People think I'm crazy, but this is the fifth mission I've been to since 1991. Or maybe it was '92. All of them run smoothly, but this one, wow. Did you notice it started at exactly 7 p.m.”

        Ms. Sterne, a 51-year-old homemaker, drove up from Louisville Wednesday, did a little sightseeing, then settled in to her seat Thursday to take notes.

        “His message is so amazing and so universal, I think about it every day in one way or another. Ultimately, my goal is to live it every day, but that's not always an easy thing.”


Click through photo gallery
Audience relishes chance to witness historic giant
Excerpts of Graham's sermon
What you need to know about today's services
Young people find a welcome
Slow donations threaten shortfall
Star of Christian music hurts for her hometown
RADEL: Don't limit your prayers to stadium
Mission Memories
- Stadium only one mission location
Bengals stadium shop does brisk business
Liquor stores, bars slow despite crowds
Complete Mission details in our special section