Ann, along with her two teenage daughters, will return to the place she first saw Billy Graham 24 years ago. This time, she won’t just be in the audience.
Twenty-four years ago, Ann gave her life to Christ. That same year, on a stormy August day, a group of friends – including her now husband – invited her to a Billy Graham Crusade at Pilot Field in Buffalo, N.Y.
“Seeing Billy Graham is overwhelming,” she said. She could tell the Holy Spirit was with him as he preached and joked that she thought he looked “Moses-like.” She sat near the front and was sad when the Crusade was over.
This year, Ann will be back on the field – now called Coca-Cola Field – to counsel people at Rock the Lakes. The two-day event starts Sept. 22 with popular Christian artists and a message from Franklin Graham. The event sparked a front-page article in The Buffalo News on Sept. 20.
But preparation starts long before the week of the event. About 3,000 people in the Buffalo area completed the Christian Life and Witness Course, a three-session class to equip believers to share their faith – and about half signed up to be counselors at Rock the Lakes. Gary Cobb, director of counseling and follow-up for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said many of the people who didn’t sign up will still attend the event and bring their friends. They will be ready to help their friends if they have questions about Christ.
A counselor’s job is “to give spiritual counsel, to lead someone to Christ or help them if they’ve strayed from Christ,” Cobb said. Counselors might also lead someone to rededicate his or her faith, or tell inquirers how they can be assured of their salvation. Some counselors specifically counsel children.
Ann first heard of Rock the Lakes through her husband, Stephen, who will also volunteer. Their two daughters, Mae, 18, and Lynn, 16, are counselors, too. The girls are slightly nervous but excited and look forward to seeing people from their youth group. Oh, and seeing Michael W. Smith onstage.
When Ann thinks back to that August day in 1988, she sees how a relatively small gesture like friends inviting her to a Crusade made such a big impact on her life.
“I just want to be used by the Lord,” she said. She has never counseled before, but said, “no matter how insecure I might be, it’s not me, it’s the Lord. … I don’t know what to expect, but I know it’ll be fun.”
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