Graham Crusade Impacts Hundreds of Thousands

Last week was another “sin-smashing” week—as one 1949 newspaper ad had put it—for Billy Graham in Los Angeles, 55 years after the historic tent meetings in downtown Los Angeles which catapulted him to the world stage. The 2004 Greater Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade, which saw attendance figures surpass 312,500 over the course of four days, also became the starting point for more than 12,000 who committed their lives to Jesus Christ during the evangelistic event.

“Today I feel more like it’s been a series of Christmas days,” Dr. Jack Hayford, co-chair of the Crusade’s Executive Committee, said on the closing night of the crusade.

“Any Christian event that is vibrant with life is like Bethlehem,” said Hayford, quoting Scottish preacher Ian Macpherson. “Every Bethlehem concludes with wise men kneeling and angels singing, and we’ve had thousands kneel before the Savior and the angels of heaven have rejoiced. Let’s rejoice again with them. Hallelujah!”

According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), the Greater Los Angeles Crusade not only had an impact on people across the economic spectrum, but it was possibly the most diverse North American crusade in history.

The five counties of the Greater Los Angeles area—which includes Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Ventura—are home to 18.5 million people, representing 140 countries and 196 different language groups. Over the course of the four-day event, twenty-six language groups participated in the Crusade, and more than 1,600 people from non-English-speaking backgrounds came forward.

Augustine Dixit, a chemical engineer from Pasadena, Calif., came with a group that spoke Urdu, a language native to Southeast Asia. Out of 20 in his group, six prayed to commit their lives to Jesus Christ for the first time—including his youngest daughter, who was eight years old.

“This decision has far-reaching implications,” Dixit told the BGEA, “all the way to the throne of God. We become children of God, and heaven rejoices!”

As reported by the Graham Association, around 45,000 attended the opening night of the four-day crusade on Nov. 18; around 77,500 attended the second night of the crusade; around 18,000 attended Saturday morning’s special KidzNet program; around 90,000 attended Saturday night’s special festivities, which included the “Concert for our Generation”; and around 82,000 attended the closing night on Sunday, bringing the total estimate to 312,500.

In addition, thousands of poor and needy individuals were fed meals at “Feasts of Faith,” where more than 30,000 food boxes were distributed through the Love-In-Action program. And more than 6,000 underprivileged and needy people were fed fresh-cooked hamburgers on Saturday afternoon at what was dubbed “The World’s Largest Tailgate Party.” The participants were then honored with invitations into the Rose Bowl to sit in a special, “V.I.P.” section.

Gordon Ledford, who attended the Saturday evening tailgate party, said, “I’ve fallen off the wagon, and God has picked me up. I had to hit bottom—and hit it hard—before I woke up.

“I’m so happy I was able to come [to the Crusade],” he continued. “I didn’t want to miss this for the world.”

Even before the opening night of the Crusade, thousands of people had heard the Gospel during Crusade-related events. The BGEA reported that more than 60 meetings had been held in correctional facilities throughout the area since June, with more than 6,000 inmates attending and some 2,000 making decisions for Jesus Christ.

In addition, the Crusade’s “Love in Action” committee has held 27 “Feasts of Faith” in 20 urban communities around Los Angeles, where thousands of needy families were fed, over 10,000 Bibles distributed, the homeless received hygiene kits, and all were invited to Saturday’s program at the Crusade.

In a statement made prior to the four-day event, Crusade Director Jeff Anderson said he sees far-reaching fruit from this Crusade. “The outreach potential to impact the world as it is gathered in Los Angeles is very real,” said Anderson. “The spiritual leaders of the Greater Los Angeles area are expecting an explosion, a revolution, and a movement.”

Since 1949, Graham has held seven campaigns in the Greater Los Angeles area, and altogether, more than 75,000 individuals have made decisions for Christ. Graham has held evangelistic crusades in Hollywood in 1951, and in Los Angeles in 1958 and 1963. In 1974, he returned to Los Angeles for a 25th anniversary celebration at the Hollywood Bowl. He also held crusades in Anaheim in 1969 and 1985.

Graham’s next, and mostly likely last crusade appearance is currently slated for June 2005 in New York's Madison Square Garden. It will be Graham’s 417th evangelistic crusade in the world, and his seventh campaign in the area.