Billy Graham brings his evangelism back to Los Angeles

Friday, November 19th 2004, 8:23 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Fifty-five years after a tent revival here that helped him become one of the world's most recognized religious leaders, Billy Graham opened a four-day crusade before a 45,000-stong Rose Bowl crowd by doing what he's devoted a lifetime to _ calling people to give their lives to Jesus Christ.

Graham, 86, was brought into the stadium Thursday on an electric golf cart out of view of most in attendance, then raised to the stage by a hydraulic lift. As he moved to his chair with the aid of an aluminum walker, the crowd rose to its feet in a crescendo of cheers through the 93,000-seat stadium.

Graham looked frail but smiled, and gained strength as he called on his audience to confess and repent for their sins.

``Do you feel your life has been a failure? Is your life turned upside down? Do you wonder which way to turn? The choice you make tonight will affect your whole life. It will also affect where you spend eternity,'' Graham said. ``Where will you be 100 years from now? You won't be here. ... The cross guarantees a future life.''

In response to the sermon, about 2,500 people, some smiling and many in tears, came to the stage to be connected with local churches.

Graham preached from a pulpit that allows him to sit, if necessary, because of injuries suffered earlier this year in two falls that broke his pelvic bone in three places. The crusade was originally planned for last July, but was rescheduled for this week when doctors said Graham would take longer to recuperate from a fall in May.

The crusade is Graham's ninth in Los Angeles and his 416th worldwide. Graham's staff says that since he began preaching in the late 1930s, he has spoken live to more people than anyone else _ 210 million people in 185 countries. He has been a friend and adviser to presidents, prime ministers and kings.

The opening night of the Greater Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade marked his return to the area that hosted one of his most important appearances _ a 1947 tent revival in Los Angeles that Graham expanded into a worldwide ministry.

Larry Ross, a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said crowds were likely to grow as the crusade moves into the weekend.