Sitting on the widest part of the Mississippi River, Memphis is chock full of music, history and barbeque.
Memphis is also known for one of the saddest events in American history. Nearly 50 years ago, civil rights leader and pastor, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel downtown.
For many in America, hope grew dim that tragic day. And some are still searching for it.
On Sunday, an estimated 4,400 people from Memphis and surrounding areas were encouraged with a living hope for all people—the hope of Jesus Christ.
This past week, Franklin Graham traveled to four cities across Tennessee—first Chattanooga, then Clarksville and Jackson, and ending with Memphis—on the Decision America Tennessee Tour. In all, more than 22,500 people gathered for the evangelistic events to proclaim God as America’s hope.
Speaking at Tiger Lane at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and Fairgrounds, the evangelist told them where hope comes from.
“I want the world to know there’s Christians here tonight and they’re calling on the name of God,” said Franklin Graham.
A Hunger for God
Seventy-eight-year-old Paul Jeter and his sister, 76-year-old Sally Borchert, have seen a lot of good and a lot of bad in their time.
“People have gotten so mean and hateful. They don’t know what [hope] is,” Sally said.
Paul and Sally grew up with everything Billy Graham. They have scrapbooks of all his Crusades and have “a closet full of his books.”
“Mama loved him,” Sally said; her mother went to 10 Billy Graham Crusades, and as soon as the children were old enough, she towed them along.
Paul and Sally saw him preach at the Liberty Bowl in 1978.
“It was as close to heaven as you can get. You could feel God all over. … Right there in your heart,” Sally grinned, her blue eyes sparkling at the memory.
Nearly 40 years later, when Paul and Sally found out his son was coming to town, they knew they had be there.
“Franklin Graham’s just like him [Billy Graham], and when I see him, I cry,” Sally said.
“I’m thankful that Franklin did a 50-state tour [last year] that brought Christians together, that never would have otherwise,” said Paul. “The only thing that’s going to bring this nation together is a great revival.”
Paul shares the hope of Christ with people whenever he can.
“There’s a hunger out there,” he explained. “People don’t know what direction [to go]. There’s so much hate, bitterness, resentment.”
Hope for America
Even with all its problems, 69-year-old Laverne Freeman and her grandson Johnathan don’t believe America is hopeless.
“[God] said, wherever we are, He is. And I’m in America. You’re in America. And all these people are in America. So God is going to take care of America,” Laverne said.
A rising college sophomore, Johnathan said the world is a mess and rattled off a few reasons why: “Shootings going on, terrorist attacks,” he began.
And the same race issues America faced in the 1950s and ’60s haven’t gone away.
“Racism is still a huge issue in this country. That doesn’t please God,” Franklin Graham told Memphis.
Yet, just as the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. inspired people toward hope and unity during some of America’s most disturbing times—often using his faith as a foundation—Franklin Graham shared hope for America Sunday night.
Watching the sky explode in color later on, Paul and Sally were as excited as little kids. Not because of the fireworks but because of how God showed up in Memphis—and gave them hope for their country.
“It’s so exciting to see all those people holding hands and being united,” said Paul.
“You could feel the power of the Holy Spirit going down the line,” agreed Sally. “I feel so clean, so happy. I can feel [God] all over me.”
Just like back in the Billy Graham days.
By the end of the four-city Decision America Tennessee Tour, there were changed lives and newfound hope to celebrate.
“All of heaven is rejoicing right now,” artist Jeremy Camp said, leading the crowd in one final worship song.
How can finding hope in Jesus Christ change your life? Find out.