Nearly 36 years ago, Billy Graham preached to a crowd of 590,000 people in Rio de Janeiro. More than 30,000 responded to the invitation to accept Christ during that five-day Crusade. Mr. Graham also preached in São Paulo, Brazil, in 1962 and in 1979.
In 2001, Franklin Graham preached in Recife, Brazil, and in 2008, more than 840,000 people from some 53,000 churches across the nation participated in the My Hope World Evangelism through Television project.
As the BGEA team in Brazil prays and prepares for the May 27-29 Festival, we thought it would fun to return to those first Brazilian Crusades and hear Billy Graham’s memories, which he shared in his autobiography.
Billy Graham’s account from Just As I Am:
“We opened on September 25 with a six-day Crusade in São Paulo, Brazil. The city–named, I could not help but recall, after Christianity’s greatest evangelist, the Apostle Paul–had some 350 Protestant churches giving support to the Crusade. The closing meeting, with a 200-piece orchestra accompanied by a 1,000-voice choir, drew 65,000 to the city’s main stadium.
“I have always remembered the São Paulo meetings for another, more personal reason. Less than a month before, on August 28, my father had passed away, and this was my first public ministry since his death. He had suffered declining health for several years due to a series of strokes. His death was not unexpected, and yet I felt his absence very keenly even a hemisphere away from home.
“My father was always so proud of me. In his last days, he sat in the S&W Cafeteria near their home in Charlotte and greeted people. The owner, Mr. Sherrill, considered my father something of an attraction. He was glad for him to sit there for a couple of hours; people knew him and would come in to say hello. There was something about this picture that appealed to me, probably because I felt that my father was a man of love.
“My mother cared for him during his declining years, but Melvin, Catherine, and Jean, all of whom lived in Charlotte, also took major responsibility for his care.
“When he died, the New York Times printed an obituary with a photograph of that humble and loving man, and to this day I thank God for all he meant to me.
“In 1974 we returned to Brazil for a five-day Crusade in Rio de Janeiro. A quarter-million people gathered for the concluding meeting in Maracanã Stadium, a record for that facility.
“During the service, I could hear people beating on the locked doors as tens of thousands more tried to get in. The closing meeting was televised on all the networks across the country on the orders of the president; Crusade director Henry Holley was told that up to 50 million people saw the program.”
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Please join us in praying for the city of Belo Horizonte—that thousands here will accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
Pray for Franklin Graham as he prepares his message, and for Festival logistics and finances.