A crowd of 3,900 didn’t let the bad weather hinder them from attending the second stop of the God Loves You Tidewater Tour with Franklin Graham Sunday in Timonium, Maryland.
Despite gloomy, gray skies and rain, musical artists Dennis Agajanian, Marcos Witt, and Newsboys led worship at the Maryland State Fairgrounds while the audience—in a covered pavilion—joyfully sang along, praising Almighty God.
“It’s great to be here tonight even in the rain,” Franklin Graham said. “Wow, we’ve had a lot of fun.”
But quickly, the lighthearted evening turned serious.
“There are some here tonight that have this emptiness and restlessness in their souls,” the evangelist told the crowd. He read from Mark 10 about the rich young ruler whose fortune kept him from following Jesus.
“The basic desires of human beings have not changed. Money, power, sex … But none of these are enough to satisfy the emptiness in people’s lives. Something is missing—it’s God.
“God loves you, and He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, from Heaven to Earth, not to condemn you, but to save you.”
The message captivated Joe, a college-aged student who surrendered his life to Jesus Christ on Sunday evening through an unusual series of events.
He had attended a church for many years and claimed to be a Christian like all his friends in youth group. But it wasn’t until he attended the God Loves You Tour that his eyes were finally open to the truth of the Gospel.
Joe didn’t have a ride to church that morning, so he asked his friend Cody to pick him up. But as far as getting home?
“It was really weird because after church I couldn’t give him a ride back to his house,” said Cody, smiling as he recalled the events. “Then I told him, ‘You know what, you’re going to have to go to this event with me.’”
Joe couldn’t believe how God worked to touch his heart.
“It’s crazy. I didn’t know I was going to be here,” Joe shared. “Hearing the message today, I just knew I had to let go and give it all to God. I think it’s time to stop running and start representing a God who clearly keeps calling me.”
A Bold Faith
“The world is changing,” Graham said in the Baltimore suburb. “If you thought about how violent and wicked the world is becoming—people get shot, stabbed, getting cursed for just about any excuse. … The reason all these things are happening is because we’ve turned our back on God.
“We’ve taken God out of our schools, … our government.” But, he continued, “I can tell you one thing right now: God loves you.”
His words resonated with 16-year-old Nina.
At her local high school, she’s in the minority as a believer and has found it difficult to find friends to come to church with her.
“Being on fire for the Lord in the public school setting can be challenging,” the junior said. “In this area, for teens specifically, people my age are just so lost.”
Looking around the stands, she realized if her generation is going to be reached for Christ, young people like Nina need to be bold.
“I admit that I probably have to step it up a little bit and be brave enough to talk to people about Jesus,” said Nina, one of more than 300 people trained to be prayer volunteers for the event. “It can be so scary because it’s such an environment that has a lack of love for the Lord. People will laugh when you say ‘Jesus.’”
But Sunday evening, the name of Jesus was spoken with love and adoration.
When Graham asked people to stand and pray if they wanted to make a decision to follow Jesus Christ, hundreds responded, including several people that Nina was able to talk to.
Inspired to Share Christ
Nearby, 16-year-old Fatima was also challenged to be bold in her faith, finding the public school system increasingly harder to navigate as a Christian.
“I know some teenagers don’t really get impacted by God’s Word or the Gospel,” Fatima said, adding, “Some school districts right now, they’re not compliant with God’s Word.”
But the teenager hasn’t let others keep her from loving God. “I tell my friends I’m Christian,” she said. “I don’t care what they say.”
She recalled how when Graham talked about God’s forgiveness for our sins—including abortion—she thought about a friend she’d ministered to.
“A friend had an abortion and felt terrible about it. I was there for her,” Fatima said. She encouraged her “to talk to God about it, pray, and ask for forgiveness.”
Both Nina and Fatima are confident in their faith, but the Tidewater Tour has energized both to be courageous in sharing the Gospel.
“Franklin Graham was very up front, and he was very direct. It shocked me in all the right ways,” Nina said. “It made me realize I have to stop beating around the bush because people were listening tonight.
“He was very straightforward, and he spoke the truth. He said it the way it is. That just inspired me to do that in my own life.”
Giselle Seidel contributed to this report.
Please pray for the God Loves You Tidewater Tour, which continues through May 7. The next stop is in Elkton, Maryland, on Tuesday.