From cotton-rich Lubbock and the oil fields of Midland in West Texas to the East Texas pines of Longview, Franklin Graham proclaimed Jesus Christ as the answer to humanity’s universal problem during Decision Texas: The Lone Star Tour.
In all seven cities of the tour, Oct. 11-19, Franklin called on audiences to pray out loud for America’s president and vice president, then he led them in prayers for their state leaders and law enforcement officers.
In Lubbock, Franklin prayed for the family of a police officer who was slain two days prior to the event. In all the cities, he mentioned the victims of Hurricane Harvey, many of whom are still dealing with the aftermath of the storm.
Expounding on Luke 13 each night, Franklin’s words echoed Scripture’s call to repentance from sin. Crowds ranging from 5,000 to more than 10,000 attended the events—drawn to hear the music of David Crowder and Franklin’s message—with hundreds giving their lives to Christ each night. In all, 3,022 people registered spiritual decisions during the tour, with 704 receiving Christ as Savior.
Franklin’s voice resounded through the crowd at Mackenzie Park South on Oct. 11 in Lubbock as 5,650 people stood shoulder to shoulder from the front of the venue to near the pond at the rear. The water softly rippled in the cool evening air as people waved away pesky mosquitoes and gave their attention to Franklin.
“Repent,” his voice rang out, echoing what Jesus told the crowd in Luke 13. “If you don’t repent, there’s no hope.”
Franklin said he had been asked if a slew of recent natural catastrophes—namely the wildfires in California and the hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico—could be Christ’s warning for America. Franklin said whatever God’s reasons are, God’s message is the same for everyone: repent or you too may perish like the people mentioned in Luke’s Gospel.
His words fell on ready ears. Hundreds began making their way to the front during the invitation, and as they did, the audience started clapping. As more came, the applause grew louder. Seven-year-old Eli Morales was eager.
“Come on,” he said to his parents, bidding them to move from their seats. Betty and Martin Morales, both followers of Christ, were not planning to go forward, but Betty quickly followed her son.
Eli had been talking about God a lot lately. At his school, his class keeps a folder of each day’s infractions. And just that morning, he had looked at the folder and come to his mom with this statement: “Mom, I want to get baptized because I want God to wash all my sins away.”
Betty wasn’t certain he had even been paying attention at their seats in Lubbock, and as she followed him to the front of the venue, she thought: He just wants to see Franklin Graham.
When Franklin started praying, she couldn’t hear Eli repeating the prayer, so she put her hand on his chest.
“I could feel the vibration in his chest, so I knew he was praying, and I knew he was serious,” she said.
Counselor Elsa Rodriguez watched Oct. 12 as Jenna Cox made her way to the front of the crowd of about 5,100 at Horseshoe Arena Amphitheater in Midland.
“She was walking up here, and with every step she took I knew God was breaking a stronghold in her life,” Elsa said. “She was crying. The tears were just pouring down her face. And as I started to talk to her, she started praising God, even before she prayed to receive Christ.”
Jenna’s decision was made before she left her seat.
“I’m just ready to not be broken anymore,” she said.
A bride for only three months, Jenna lost her husband in a car accident in 2015. Their two children were 18 months and six months.
She tried to fill the void, first with drugs, then with promiscuous sex, and finally with a relationship that became abusive.
“Nothing was helping,” she said. One day as she was driving along, the scanner on her radio stopped at the local Christian station and she heard David Crowder singing Come Just As You Are. Something happened inside of her that she couldn’t explain.
“I believed God was real,” she said, “but I had never trusted Him and repented of my sin.”
She left her boyfriend and fled to a battered women’s shelter, where she was able to receive counseling. She continued to think about God, and even started attending a Bible study group. So when she came to the Decision Texas Lubbock event, and Franklin asked anyone who wanted to turn their life over to Christ to come to the front of the amphitheater, she pushed back a lifetime of anxieties and rushed forward.
“When I was walking to the front, I was trying not to have a panic attack and trying not to let my anxiety win over me,” she said.
She made it, and Elsa was there to pray and rejoice with her.
“I decided I wanted to do this to the full extent,” Jenna said. “Not to a half extent and not to a once in a while; I want to make my walk with Christ a daily journey. So I prayed to trust God completely.”
In Corpus Christi on Oct. 14, a crowd estimated at 5,375 packed into the Whataburger Field baseball stadium, home of the Hooks, the Double-A affiliate of the World Series champion Houston Astros. As a soothing breeze brought some relief after an unseasonably hot day, 141 people found the ultimate spiritual relief by receiving Christ’s offer of forgiveness of sin and everlasting life.
In all, following the music of Crowder and the Gospel preaching of Franklin, 428 people made spiritual decisions.
Jesus’ clear message, Franklin explained, is repent of your sins and follow Christ, or perish. As Franklin urged at all seven Texas stops, “If you are not sure that your sins are forgiven, you can be sure.”
That message resonated in the heart of 12-year-old Barett Hobart, who when asked if there was anything in Franklin’s message that caused her to respond to the invitation, said, “That we are all sinners.”
She left with an assurance that her sins were forgiven and that she had eternal life.
Her 15-year-old brother, Asher, also went forward, telling a counselor that he was already a Christian but that he wanted to follow Christ more closely. Asher’s mother, who had accompanied him down to the field at the invitation, wiped tears from her eyes as Barett and Asher prayed with counselors.
Afterward, Barett marked the occasion by posing for a photo with her dad, who had walked down the aisle with her to show his support.
Across the River Oaks Community Amphitheater on a hillside in San Antonio, a crowd of some 10,200 people brought blankets and lawn chairs to hear live music, to pray and to hear Franklin’s Gospel message.
Tony Rios of San Antonio came to the Oct. 15 event with his heart heavy for his nation, he told Decision before the event began, mentioning political and racial division and the recent rash of hurricanes. “It’s for a reason,” Rios said. “I believe God is calling us back to Him.”
He had no idea Franklin was going to address those very things that night.
“We are living in times of great division,” Franklin told the crowd minutes later. “And I know a lot of you voted for Donald Trump and you think he can turn it around. He cannot turn it around. The Democrats can’t turn it around. The only one who can turn this nation around is God.”
“God,” Franklin repeated for emphasis.
A counselor who prayed with an 18-year-old named Joe said the young man, who came from a family of Christians, made a decision to receive Christ as his Savior.
“He seemed very excited. All smiles,” the counselor said.
Grayson, a 6-year-old boy who came to the event with his grandmother, also received Jesus as his Savior.
“He was telling me that he knows who Jesus is, but he wanted to make sure that Jesus is in his heart,” his counselor said. The little boy said he’d been having trouble in school, and the counselor explained to him that he now has God the Holy Spirit, whom he can always call on as a helper and comforter.
In all, 392 people indicated they made spiritual decisions, with 106 of those receiving Christ as Savior.
The music of David Crowder echoed across several acres of baseball stadium parking lots packed with people and across the rolling hills on the outskirts of Round Rock, Texas, the night of Oct. 16.
A 38-year-old man came to the Decision Texas event after he heard about it on a Christian radio station. He said he arrived late for the event outside the Dell Diamond ballpark, and as he made his way in, Franklin was already preaching, giving examples of sin and explaining how each of us has transgressed God’s perfect standard. The man said he knew he was where he needed to be when Franklin mentioned one sin in particular: adultery.
The man, with tears streaming down his face as he talked and prayed with a counselor, said he felt “relief” after receiving Christ as Savior. He had been listening to a Christian radio station lately and heard about the event in a radio ad. He said he felt like he needed to be there, and his attendance proved providential.
Brett Krienke and his wife, Lauren, a journalist in the Austin area, were among those who attended the Round Rock event.
“I think when you have a gathering of believers all in one setting in a public place, it’s encouraging,” Lauren said, “especially when you think about all the troubling things that are occurring in our world. It’s awesome to see this.”
The sixth stop of the Tour on Oct. 18 drew 7,200 people to Touchdown Alley on the campus of Baylor University, with the school’s football stadium as a backdrop and the Brazos River winding around the venue.
A strong youth presence was evident, with numerous churches bringing student groups for the Wednesday night event.
Those making decisions included a 13-year-old girl named Leea, who received Christ as Savior after hearing that Jesus could forgive her sins.
Debbie Little, a prayer counselor at the event, said she was able to pray with three people who received Christ. They included two 12-year-old girls, Peyton and Elizabeth, and a 22-year-old woman named Alyssa. They were among 123 people who trusted Christ as Savior.
“Both of the younger girls said they had attended church but had never asked Jesus into their hearts or followed through in faith,” Little said. “So I was so proud to see so many young people down here tonight. It really warms your heart.”
The 22-year-old woman, Little said, wasn’t emotionally able to talk about her struggles, but signaled she was ready to turn her life over to Christ. “I just prayed for her, explained that God had forgiven her and that she could start her new life walking with Christ.”
Alyssa then prayed to receive Christ.
In the East Texas town of Longview on the final night of the Tour, Franklin shared with the crowd how as a young man he had attended nearby LeTourneau College before being expelled for a pattern of misbehavior.
Saying the school should have kicked him out much earlier, he added, “But it was really a spiritual issue. I was running from God. I didn’t want God in my life.”
Among the 9,300 who gathered outside on the grounds of the Maude Cobb Convention Center on Oct. 19, there were some who were running from God before they arrived, only to find the same peace Franklin found several years later in God’s love and forgiveness.
Among those was Israel Adams, a freshman at the University of Texas at Tyler, about 30 minutes west of Longview. He said Franklin’s story of running from God in college resonated with him. Even though he has just begun his college journey, he said he needed to recommit himself to Christ.
“You have tons of different people, roommates and other people, pushing you in different directions. You kind of have to choose for yourself what you are going to follow and what you are going to do. It’s just really difficult if you don’t keep yourself grounded in God.”
Among 107 people that night who received Christ as Savior was Maria, a college student who was invited to the event by a Christian friend. Maria said an aunt of hers who died last year had been born again, and she knew it was time for her to trust Christ to do the same thing in her heart.
An area pastor, Richard Jones, said he counseled a middle-aged married couple, four of their grown and teenaged children and a boyfriend of one of the children; all said they had prayed to receive Christ.
Jones said several family members told him they thought they were Christians before hearing Franklin’s message, “but tonight they meant it and they nailed it down,” he said. ©2017 BGEA