Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and real estate mogul Donald Trump will be among prominent guests at the Rev. Billy Graham's 95th birthday celebration in North Carolina this coming week, when "My Hope America with Billy Graham," a massive nationwide evangelistic effort, will also be launched.
"It will be thrilling to pay tribute to Rev. Billy Graham next week as he celebrates his 95th birthday!" Palin writes on her Facebook page. "The entire Graham family has had such a positive influence on our nation and the world. God bless them!"
Graham spokesman Jeremy Blume spoke to Citizen Times and confirmed Palin's participation at the event at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C., on Thursday.
About 800 guests are expected, among them are North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and musicians Ricky Skaggs and Michael W. Smith. Former President Bill Clinton might also join.
"It's a big event that Daddy's turning 95; I think that's a huge event," the newspaper quoted Franklin Graham, Billy Graham's son and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, as saying. "We've got some interesting people coming - some people that Daddy has known, some that he hasn't known - and that's kind of fun."
Blume talked about the former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's ties with and the Graham family. Samaritan's Purse, headed by Franklin Graham, sends aid to Russia via Alaska, where Franklin has a hunting cabin and would visit her when she was governor. Palin also visited Billy Graham in Montreat, N.C., in 2009 during a book tour.
Billy Graham's birthday will also mark the launch of the broadcast of "My Hope America with Billy Graham," a nationwide effort to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The outreach is designed for Christians, whether they be a pastor, ministry leader, or lay person, to invite guests and host a viewing in a chosen venue, possibly even a home.
The TV broadcast, and its DVD version, will carry Billy Graham's new message "The Cross," filmed from his North Carolina home. It will be released on about 120 television stations across the country.
The program is likely to be the largest evangelistic event in U.S. history. "We have about 25,000 churches participating in the programming," Franklin was quoted as saying.
"In 'The Cross,' Billy Graham delivers his much-anticipated new message… on the meaning of the cross – the same message of God's love he has faithfully preached for more than 70 years," BGEA spokesperson Brent Rinehart earlier told The Christian Post. "Woven within Graham's message are the faith stories of two popular musicians: rapper LeCrae who overcame addiction and the pull of the gang lifestyle to see his life changed by an encounter with Jesus; and former Flyleaf lead singer Lacey Sturm who fought depression, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts only to be rescued by the love of a Heavenly Father and the hope that comes through a relationship with His Son."
Billy Graham's grandson, Will Graham, has been looking forward to the launch of the program.
"This is so exciting for me as a grandson to see my granddaddy end well. He can't see well; he can't hear well. So it's hard for him to study the Bible," Will Graham told CP in March, after his grandfather started filming the message. "So he's trying to memorize and get things just right for the few minutes he will be before the camera."