Organizers of the NYPENN Franklin Graham Festival prayed for months for a transformed community, and by the end of the fest on Sunday, at least one of them said their prayers were answered.
The three-day festival in Binghamton, N.Y., brought award-winning Christian artists and rock bands like Point of Grace, Sonic Flood and Building 429 to New York's Southern Tier, where over 27,000 people raised their fists and heard the renowned evangelist for the first time in the city that calls itself the "carousel capital of the world."
"We prayed for a new [Christian] community and God has answered that prayer," said John O'Neil, chairman of the executive committee of volunteers, according to The Ithaca Journal.
The long-awaited festival came a year after massive floods destroyed homes and at least 20 lives in central and upstate New York. Five days of torrential downpours in June 2006 produced the worst flooding in the area and called for an evacuation in Binghamton – a city which FEMA representatives say is at risk for flooding no matter where a person lives.
Hundreds of victims were sheltered at the Binghamton University Events Center and 97 chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's Rapid Response team were dispatched and ministered to more than 500 people throughout the city.
One year later, the same events center opened its doors to thousands to renew their faith and learn about the saving power of Jesus Christ.
More than 5,000 people were trained to share their faith and counsel with those who chose to accept Jesus Christ this past weekend in the city best known for its collection of historic carousels.
Within the same city on the same weekend, the Binghamton Pride Coalition celebrated Gay Pride month. Miller Jen Hoffman, pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of New York and a member of the coalition expressed the value of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community saying, "We add to the diversity and to the richness of the community and contribute to the community in any number of ways," according to the local Press & Sun-Bulletin.
While LGBT members joined a gay Pride Palooza on Saturday, Franklin Graham festival organizers had opened the door to the community to attend the evangelistic event, including gays and the unchurched.
"I want people to come who are just curious. I want the un-churched," Graham told the local newspaper just before the event opened Friday. "I want people at the bottom of the barrel of life who see no hope for themselves."
Overall, the Graham festival was considered a success with hundreds coming forward to make decisions for Christ.
As O'Neil had said, even one person forming a relationship with God will make the long-planned event successful. He and the executive committee are scheduled to meet Tuesday to chart a future course on following up with those who responded to the altar calls.
Correction: Wednesday, June 13, 2007
An article on Monday, June 11, 2007, about the NYPENN Franklin Graham Festival incorrectly stated that 97 chaplains from the Billy Graham Association's Rapid Response team were ministering to flood victims at the Binghamton University Events Center. The Christian Post confirmed with Gail C. Glover, director of media relations for Binghamton University, that the Red Cross was the primary agency at the events center. The chaplains that were dispatched by the BGEA were not in the center but were ministering to people throughout the city.