Ten years ago on June 24-26, Billy Graham stood in front of thousands to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ at a public Crusade for the last time (although, he would preach alongside son Franklin Graham at the 2006 Celebration of Hope in New Orleans and in Metro Maryland Festival in Baltimore, and shared a video message for the 2013 / 2014 My Hope programs). New York was always special to Mr. Graham after his 16-week Crusade in 1957, and after 2005 it held even more meaning.
New York City, called the crossroads of the world and the city of neighborhoods, was Mr. Graham’s favorite Crusade location because he reached people from almost every nation, language, ethnic group and religion imaginable. Billy requested his last crusade be held there because he could feel the impact it would make, and over three days, he reached 242,000.
“What moves and shakes New York often moves and shakes the world. So, in a way, when we pray for the Crusade here, we are praying for the whole world,” said David Epstein, pastor at Calvary Baptist Church to Decision magazine in 2005. “Flushing Meadows probably has more languages in that zip code than any one place in the world. I think that’s going to be a great symbol of the love of God for the world.”
Prayer surrounded the Greater New York City area weeks before and after the Crusade. Prayer walks were held inside the city, and prayer groups were praying worldwide. Barbara Yovino, vice president of a prayer ministry called Christian Hope Network, was involved in prayer in Brooklyn, “We want to see revival in New York. We want to see people saved, healed, set free. We want to see hope; we want to see joy in their hearts. We are believing that God is going to move powerfully.”
Mr. Graham’s voice of hope was heard, “It’s my prayer that here, in New York, people of all denominations will start praying day and night that God will continue to speak to us. This should not be the end of anything; it should be the beginning of a new day with the Lord in New York and in this tristate area,” he said. It ended up being the beginning for more than 9,400 who responded to the invitation over the three days.
Bob Paulson recorded two stories in Decision magazine of God touching lives through Billy’s words. A 12-year-old girl who accepted Christ said, “I’ve been doing a lot of sins and I want Jesus to come and forgive me so that I won’t go to hell. I want to go to heaven and stay with Jesus, and I want Him to come to my heart, so that I can be like Pastor Billy Graham when I grow up and preach the Word of God. Something in my heart told me I have to be born again, and I have to be different.”
Another account stated that a Crusade counselor felt a tap on his shoulder to turn around to a woman asking, “Do you remember me? You invited us to the Crusade on the subway, and we both accepted Christ tonight.”
These stories kept the Spirit of the Lord strong in the city of New York and all around the world. His daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, wrote her words about her father’s last public Crusade in his book, “Living in God’s Love: The New York Crusade.”
“You might expect that the last Crusade, held in June 2005 at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, New York, would bring me some pleasure. Or relief. After all, I adore my father. And now our family gets Daddy back. But instead of being glad that this was reportedly the last Billy Graham Crusade, I’m fighting tears wondering…. What will it be like for him to never again stand in front of thousands of people and tell them… God loves them?”
“Daddy’s message – God’s message – is a message of hope for the future. It was this message, which Daddy carried to the world, that dissolved any potential resentment in my heart over his absences and created in me a personal, passionate resolve to communicate it myself to as many people as possible,” she wrote.
“This is a chapter that is coming to an end. He was born for this,” Franklin Graham said, “When he stands at the pulpit, God created him and I think made him for such a moment. When he’s standing at the pulpit, I’m not worried one bit.”
Billy continued to follow God’s call on his life by preaching again at a Franklin’s Festivals in March of 2006. After not seeing an arena crowd in nine months, Billy preached his message of sin, repentance and spiritual salvation to a packed New Orleans Arena. Again in July, the 87-year-old evangelist joined Franklin in Baltimore.
His ministry goes on today, growing larger and impacting more people every day. At the age of 96, Mr. Graham continues to faithfully pray that the Gospel will continue to go forth around the world.
To see unique memorabilia and rare photographs from his historic New York City Crusade, and many more, make plans to visit The Billy Graham Library.