Hearts Changed in the Heart of America

By Kristen Burke & Bob Paulson   •   November 29, 2004

Nick Basham had been praying for months, but now he was praying harder. He had brought three friends to the Heart of America Billy Graham Crusade, at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, so that they could hear the Gospel. It was the Saturday evening “Concert for Your Generation,” and hundreds of young people had received passes to go down on the field for the concert. Basham and his friends didn’t have passes, but one friend had slipped past the ushers. Now he was down on the field, goofing around.

Basham prayed that his friend on the field would turn to Christ. Later, when Billy Graham invited people to come forward and give their hearts to Jesus Christ, Basham himself went down to serve as a counselor. As he was talking with two people who had responded to the invitation, his friend ran over and jumped on Basham’s back. “Dude, I just got saved!” he exclaimed.

That same evening, a woman was praying for her husband. In fact, for years she had prayed that her husband would let Jesus into his life. He had attended church with her several times but didn’t seem interested. She was about to give up on him, but then she decided to invite him to the Crusade. To her surprise, he agreed. On Saturday evening he went forward to accept Jesus Christ. “Billy Graham’s message was so simple,” he said. “I understood for the first time that I am a sinner. I didn’t understand that when I went to church.”

These are just two examples among many of the amazing ways God worked in people’s hearts during the Heart of America Crusade, held Oct. 7-10. As Christians in Kansas City realized that human strength is unable to lead someone to Christ, God drew people to Himself even in situations that looked hopeless.

At one point, the Crusade itself appeared to be hopeless. Many people wondered if Billy Graham really would preach in Kansas City. He had been scheduled to come in June, but a fall, a broken pelvis and hip-replacement surgery postponed the Crusade. Many wondered if an 85-year-old man could recover sufficiently to preach at a major Crusade just four months later.

At a pre-Crusade meeting with Christian leaders in Kansas City, Cliff Barrows paraphrased the Apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthians. Barrows said that Mr. Graham would be a little weak when he came to Kansas City and that he would not come with wise or persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.

Mr. Graham did come and preach in Kansas City. But again and again, God made it clear that this Crusade wasn’t about Billy Graham or any other person. It was about God drawing people to Himself as His people proclaimed the Gospel to the heartland of America.

“Five years ago,” Mr. Graham said in his opening remarks Thursday evening, “I began to have a burden to come back to Kansas City, trusting that God would have His timing and provide. I believe it is an answer to prayer that we’re here.”

Marilyn Lake Griffin, the Crusade’s prayer co-chair, said, “We all know that these things are accomplished only by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Hungry Hearts
The Spirit clearly was at work. Some people were so desperate to receive Christ that they needed no prompting. Crusade supporter Margie Chinn was stopped at a traffic light one day when a man in a pickup truck behind her noticed her Crusade bumper sticker. He jumped out of his truck and ran to Chinn’s car. “Tell me about that bumper sticker,” he said. Chinn explained that Mr. Graham was coming to tell people how to be born again, to which the man replied: “That’s it! That’s it! I want to do that born-again thing.”

A church in Kansas City went door to door handing out fliers for the Crusade. One couple ended up in a different neighborhood from the one they had been assigned, but they decided to distribute the fliers anyway. They worked their way down one side of the street. As they came back on the other side, a woman called to them from across the street.

“I’ve messed my life up so much, and I know I can’t straighten it out,” she said. “I know I need God, but I don’t know how to get to Him.” The couple sat down and shared the Gospel with her, and she prayed to receive Christ.

After sitting in the rain on the first evening of the Crusade, a group of counselors from Rivers of Living Water Church, in Sugar Creek, Mo., was ready to go home. All they needed to do was to find one church member who had been sitting in the handicap-accessible section. Three or four times they spotted her but then lost sight of her. By the time the group was reunited and ready to leave, they were the last ones in the parking lot. As they walked to their vehicles, a desperate-looking man walked up to them.
“I’ve got to get saved!” the man said. “I drove all the way from Branson, but I’m too late. This might be my last chance.”

Pastor Larry Kuhl and another church member told the man that it wasn’t too late–he could accept Christ right there. The group even had an extra packet of counseling materials with them. While the other counselors prayed, the two men led the latecomer in a prayer to commit his life to Christ.

By His Spirit
On the final day of the Crusade, Billy Graham spoke about Christ’s return and the Day of Judgment. Mr. Graham said that all who turn from God and ignore the Gospel of Jesus Christ are on a spiritual death row. But he also explained the hope that Christ brought to the world.

“Jesus came for the purpose of dying in your place and in my place,” Mr. Graham said. “You need to turn from your sin and turn to Jesus and say, ‘Lord Jesus, forgive me of my sin.'”

Mr. Graham continued: “God loves you. Jesus died on the cross for you and rose again so that you could have everlasting life.”

Hundreds came forward to commit their lives to Christ, including one man who said that his life was a mess. He explained that he was struggling with alcohol and was having marital difficulties. But his wife stood at his side and put her arm around him as he put his trust in Christ.

With tears streaming down her face, a woman hugged her best friend, who had brought her to the Crusade. “I feel awesome,” the woman said. “I feel the Spirit in me.” Her friend added: “I’ve been looking forward to this for the past year. I’ve been praying like crazy for my best friend. I’m so happy.”

Thousands more came to Christ as God moved through His people, using them to reach the hearts of people in the city, in the surrounding states and in America’s heartland with the life-changing message of the Gospel.

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