By Judy Ryder
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16 (b)
Fifteen years ago “America’s Pastor”, Billy Graham, now nearly 98, bequeathed an incredibly successful evangelistic ministry spanning some sixty years to his son, Franklin Graham. Thus, Franklin Graham became responsible not only for the day-to-day activities of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), but also for overseeing the work of Samaritan’s Purse, a massive world-wide disaster relief organization which also conducts the annual “shoebox“ministry, Operation Christmas Child. On August 31st, Franklin came to Providence to conduct the 40th Rally of the Decision America Tour 2016 visiting all 50 State Capitols. The previous day he’d been in Boston; the next day in Hartford. The Tour began January 5th in Des Moines and wraps up October 13th in Raleigh.
Speaking first to invited guests at a pre-Rally reception, Franklin Graham opened with an encouraging observation. Despite the cultural and spiritual decline sensed by so many Christians, the Internet has apparently given a new paradigm to evangelization: audience participants using cell phones can now text a number indicating they have just said the Sinner’s Prayer and would welcome gospel literature. Momentarily, the literature is sent to their phones electronically, while Graham receives instantaneous data about how many were directly impacted by his message. At the Boston Rally, out of an estimated 3,800 attendees,128 made decisions for Christ. At the Providence Rally, out of an estimated 2,100 attendees, 122 were saved. Evangelizing through the Internet also enables the Word to go into places where it cannot safely go otherwise, such as Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Every 19 seconds someone comes to faith through the Internet. God is always at work.
Wherever he travels, Graham’s message is: “There is a desperate need for Americans to pray for their States and their Country.” To illustrate the awesome power of prayer, he told two mesmerizing stories at the pre-Rally reception, both involving Operation Christmas Child’s “shoebox” ministry. [In 22 years, over 122,000,000 shoe boxes have been distributed by churches to poverty-stricken children in more than 100 countries. After receiving their gifts, many sign up to participate in The Greatest Journey, a 12-lesson discipleship program teaching them how to follow Christ faithfully, and tell family and friends about Him. Since 2010, more than 7.4 million children have enrolled; 3.3 million have accepted Christ as their Savior.]
Graham’s first story was about a little boy from ID who, many years ago, was packing a shoebox with his mommy. The instructions said to pray for the recipient and to include one’s picture and address, if desired. So the little boy and his mommy prayed, and then he dressed up in his new cowboy outfit complete with spurs, hat, boots, and scarf. His mommy snapped his picture, and they placed it, with his address, in the shoebox of toys. The box wended its way to a church in the Philippines, which delivered it to an absolutely delighted little girl. Thrilled with everything, she even pinned the picture of the little boy on her wall and wrote a thank-you letter, but… it was never received. Meanwhile, grateful for the happiness the box had brought to their little girl, her family began attending that church, and eventually her father became a minister. Fast forward a few years, and the young lady thought of trying to contact her young benefactor on Facebook; her effort was successful, and a pen-pal friendship ensued. Before long, the young man flew to the Philippines to meet her. It was love at first sight. They returned to the U. S., her father officiated at their wedding and, on their honeymoon, they stopped by Boone, NC to thank Operation Christmas Child for being an integral part of blessing them through the Lord.
The second story involved a shoebox that landed at an orphanage in Israel after all instructions re: prayer and pictures had been faithfully followed by the donors. Not accustomed to getting gifts, the orphans were overjoyed to unwrap their own boxes of toys — all except for one little guy who sat forlornly, uninterested in opening his. When approached to learn what was wrong, he could only blurt out, “I don’t want presents; I want parents.” “Well, let’s just see what’s inside,” coaxed the kindly Staff member, so together they opened the box and lifted out the candy and colorful toys. “Oh,” said the Staff, “look here in the bottom – it’s a picture of the nice couple who sent this. Let’s write to thank them.” The little boy, still upset, let the counselor do most of the work, but agreed to sign it. However, everything suddenly changed when, six weeks later, a reply arrived from the couple, the first letter the child had ever gotten. Six months later the couple flew to Israel and adopted that little boy. Parents had been in his box, after all…
At the Rally, because he recognizes the efficacy of prayer, Franklin Graham emphasized the great need for Christians to pray for our State and Country. He believes God may be slowly removing His hand of protection from our nation because we have collectively turned our backs on Him, aborting His creatures and denigrating His plan for one-woman, one-man marriage. (To allay any concerns that his message might be political, Graham stated he had “zero hope in either the Democrat or Republican parties, but only in Almighty God.”) He cited the example of Nehemiah, the King’s cup bearer, who wept over the destruction of Jerusalem, mourned, fasted, and confessed to God the sins not only of the nation Israel, but also his own, and those of his father’s family (who were slave-owners and alcoholics.) Graham told how God heard Nehemiah’s prayer and honored it by showing him favor: the King sent Nehemiah back to Jerusalem to build up the walls and, within 52 days, the task was completed.
Modeling Nehemiah’s prayer pattern, Graham asked Rally participants to join hands with someone nearby and confess aloud first the sins of our nation, then their own sins, privately, and finally the sins of their fathers. Graham ended with prayer for RI State employees and officials, asked for protection and wisdom for our law enforcement officers, and for salvation for each. He also prayed for the Holy Spirit to come into RI residents. Stressing that “God loves you”, he explained how our problems are caused by sin, which separates us from God. All of us have sinned, the penalty for which is death. But because God is holy, He cannot abide with sin. However, He loved us so much that He sent a sinless Jesus Christ on a rescue mission from Heaven down to earth, where He voluntarily died in our place on a Cross, and felt God’s fearsome wrath when all our sins – past, present, and future, were poured onto Him. After dying and being buried on account of our sins, Christ was raised on the third day, is now alive and, Graham said, was right there with us, adding that our only hope is if we are willing to accept what Christ has done for us on faith and trust Him, for no one else on earth has done this for us. Quoting Jesus’ amazing claim: “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6), Graham persisted: “Have you invited God into your heart? If you’re not sure, pray this prayer with me.” Then he recited the Sinner’s Prayer of faith, belief, and repentance that ends with an invitation for God to take control. Afterward, Graham invited those who had prayed with him and had cell phones to dial 21777, text the word “Decision”, and receive gospel information electronically right away.
Following the invitation, Graham said the only way to turn things around is for Christians to VOTE! He did not advise for whom to vote, but said to let God lead us to vote for candidates who stand for Biblical truth. He urged everyone to find out where candidates stand morally and spiritually. Secularism has crept into our State Houses, municipalities and schools, taking over our nation. Describing secularism as “the same thing as communism”, Graham said Christians MUST take a bold stand about putting God back into the schools. He urged Christians not to withdraw, but to run for office, and help find committed men and women to run and be elected. He explained away any objections about this involving the issue of separation of church and state by referring to our Founding Fathers’ determination not to allow any State-mandated religion, as in Europe, but to ensure instead that Americans had freedom of religion and would not have to leave their faith outside their spheres of public activity.
Graham recommended that those unhappy about voting for either Trump or Clinton should study the Democrat and Republican Party Platforms, which are diametrically opposed, and may be accessed at http://www.decisionamericatour.com. After learning what the Platforms stand for, Christians must, “even if you have to hold your nose, make a choice and…VOTE!” In the last election, 20 to 30 million Christians sat it out, thereby abandoning their civic duties to unbelievers. This enabled passage of bad laws such as NC’s that allows transgender bathrooms. Now “men pretending to be women may go into restrooms with our granddaughters,” he said. But Christians serving as judges, County Commissioners, and School Board members would change everything, Graham believes, pointing out that “school boards decide curriculum; progressives and atheists need to be told their suggestions for bad books are no good. Don’t retreat – stand up to them!” He suggested forming prayer groups with friends to pray for their communities and seek out good candidates for public office. Commenting on close votes in NH and MN where stay-at-home Christians had permitted progressives to win, Graham strongly urged, “Become a Community Organizer for God! YOUR VOTE COUNTS – GO TO THE POLLS AND VOTE!” (Note: deadline for registering to vote in RI is October 9.)
In conclusion, Graham asked people to repeat after him pledges to honor God and Country: to God, by honoring Him at home, in public, and with their votes. To Country, by praying fervently, voting in every election, and offering to serve themselves, if necessary. He said to do this for your grandchildren and children. “America is changing into such an evil place, our only hope is God. Our job as Christians is to make Jesus part of every part of our life – but not in our personal strength — in God’s. We need to be able to say truthfully, ‘In God We Trust’”.
The behind-the-scenes story about how the crowd was mobilized to attend the Providence Rally was revealed in a recent interview with Bruce James, Director of Evangelism and Men’s Ministry for the Baptist Convention of New England (BCNE). Five years ago, he had begun partnering with BGEA (with BCNE’s full endorsement) through its “My Hope” program, and then was named BGEA’s field rep for RI and MA.
While 5,000,000 decisions were made for Christ during the sixty-year era of the Billy Graham Crusades, in just the 14 years since “My Hope” started in Latin America, spread to 57 countries, and then to the U. S. in 2011, there have been 10,000,000 decisions. Obviously, “My Hope” is a powerful evangelistic tool, well-suited to many venues. It produces a 30-minute evangelistic DVD for showings in small groups at churches, in homes, prisons, and nursing homes. For months leading up to the showings, people are encouraged to pray that the hearts of specific viewers will be touched. The 2015 DVD, “Value of a Soul”, depicts testimonies of four people whom the Gospel saved out of difficult circumstances. This year’s DVD, “Decision”, presents strong and effective testimonies of people saved at this year’s Decision America Tour rallies, including two from New England.
Last year when Franklin Graham felt the Lord’s leading to call off all Crusades in 2016, and tour every State Capitol with Decision America, James began mobilizing the N. E. churches and church plants, assisted by BGEA’s database of 400 churches. By Rally day, 182 RI and MA churches had registered to participate, six buses were chartered, information had gone to many other churches of various denominations including Catholic, and mobilizers had called every church in the database informing them of an initial meeting at Woodlawn Baptist Church to determine who could help. Hispanic churches comprised a large component.
Follow-up to the Rallies features a plan to give a free DVD, “Decision”, to the 182 registered churches in RI and MA (and the others throughout the country). These churches will be asked to participate in “My Hope” to help evangelize families and friends using this persuasive DVD, due out about October 1st. Soon, 90-minute “My Hope” evangelistic training sessions will be scheduled in key area churches to which other local churches will be invited. Several excellent materials will be distributed free to participating churches including 10 “Decision” DVDs. Adults attending the trainings will receive BGEA prayer cards to pass out among their friends at church and elsewhere. On the back is space for listing unsaved friends who need prayer before being shown the DVD. Prayer, the key to saving souls, is also the key to saving America.
“And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Matthew 21:22