On a rainy evening in New Zealand, Richard and Donna Hatch reminisced about their teenage years when they attended a Billy Graham Crusade in 1969.
Neither teen believed in God at the time, and neither thought much about the event, but they came with their youth group nonetheless.
“I’ll never forget the impact of the simple Gospel message,” Donna said about that night in 1969. “I had gone to Sunday school all my life, but that was the first time I fully understood what it all meant.”
The Crusade marked a new beginning for Donna: “That was the night it happened. I made the decision in my heart to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.”
Now—53 years later—she and Richard are gearing up for another evangelistic event led by Franklin Graham—the God Loves You Tour across New Zealand in November, with stops in Christchurch, Wellington, and Auckland.
They recently gathered with other believers in West Auckland for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s Christian Life and Witness Course (CLWC).
The CLWC training equips Christians to effectively share their faith and serve as volunteers who pray with those making a decision for Christ at the God Loves You Tour.
One CLWC leader shared the story of a local pastor who heard Billy Graham preach in the South Island of New Zealand at his first Crusade there in 1959. The pastor gave his life to Christ that night at only 5 years old.
“That’s where his journey started,” the leader said. “And wherever you are in your own journey, tonight is about deepening your relationship with God and allowing Him to use you to bring people to Christ.”
Richard didn’t know who Billy Graham was when he tagged along with his youth group to the Crusade five decades ago. He confesses he went because he had a crush on a different girl who was going.
“The message really impacted me, and when Billy Graham gave the invitation, I knew I had to go up there,” Richard said. “As I stood up, my mates grabbed my shirt and tried to pull me back, asking where I was going, but I knew I had to go!”
Richard calls it his first encounter with the Holy Spirit. He hoped to win the heart of a girl that night, but instead his own heart was won by Christ.
In the years since, Donna and Richard got married and have been following the Lord’s leading. They’re thrilled Franklin Graham will share the same message that transformed their lives so many years ago. They believe their country is in dire need of a revival.
“People are searching here. There is no hope to them. But we know there is hope, and it’s Jesus Christ,” Donna said.
The couple is planning to attend the God Loves You Tour stop in Auckland on Nov. 19, where they’ll bring friends and family who don’t know Christ.
“Hearing the Gospel message that night in 1969 impacted my life forever,” Donna added. “And I want that to be the same for my friends and family.”