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Christians who made a difference by Rosemary Dawson: Billy Graham (b 1918)

The 12-week crusade attendance exceeded 1.5 million

SIXTY years after Billy Graham’s Greater London Crusade, John Capon remembered the scale of the campaign. In an article for the Church Times in May 2014, he wrote: ‘When the redtop Sunday papers feature religion, it is generally for the wrong reasons. But that was not the case 60 years ago … “Britain’s biggest religious meeting of all time” screamed the News of the World in Gothic type on its front page. “Billy Graham – amazing finale” echoed The People, adding: “Drama at Wembley: 10,000 converts surge forward in the rain.”

John recalled being among those who attended an extra afternoon rally at White City, the culmination of the 12-week crusade by the American evangelist. Estimated crusade attendance exceeded 1.5 million, with 38,000 people moving forward to receive salvation. Almost two thirds of them were under 18.

During the next 35 years, Billy Graham held further UK crusades at various venues, attracting millions more people.

Billy grew up during the Great Depression on a dairy farm in Charlotte, North Carolina, and only grudgingly attended church with his family. When local Christian businessmen held an allday prayer meeting on his father’s land in May 1934, one man prayed that the Lord would lead someone out of Charlotte to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. ‘At that time … it certainly wasn’t obvious that someone might be me,’ Billy later wrote.

During an 11-week series of revival meetings by evangelist Mordecai Ham, Billy’s curiosity was stirred enough to go along only when students planned a demonstration against the preacher. But he later said: ‘I have no recollection of what he preached about. I was hearing another voice … the voice of the Holy Spirit. For the first time in my life, I got down on my knees without being told to do so. I really wanted to talk to God.’

A few weeks later at one of the meetings, he went forward in response to the invitation to accept Christ. A family friend approached him, explaining God’s salvation in a simple way, and prayed with him. Having someone help him through this decision was pivotal for Billy. Trained counsellors later became a crucial component of his crusades.

Billy’s extensive worldwide campaigns – plus regular television broadcasts – have taken God’s message of love to countless millions.

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