Cissie Graham Lynch was standing on hallowed ground.
At the corner of Washington and Hill streets, just south of downtown Los Angeles, she stood in awe at the site of the “Canvas Cathedral.”
Back in the fall of 1949, Billy Graham’s three-week Crusade was extended to eight weeks on this corner, packing the tent with revival Gospel meetings so legendary, a bronze plaque now marks that spot.
Cissie could only marvel at what God did through her grandfather over 60 years ago, sparking a revival that is hard to imagine in today’s southern California.
“I try to think of the annointing he must have had from the Lord,” she said. “The energy and the stamina to be able to do this … to preach for eight weeks straight. It would never happen in today’s time.”
But in two months of nightly meetings, an estimated 350,000 people came to hear this new preacher, compared to “Billy Sunday” at the time.
She took a walk down her grandfather’s memory lane a few days before this weekend’s Festival de Esperanza in Carson, Calif.
It’s the first time the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association will hold a Spanish-speaking Gospel proclamation in the United States and it’s just 13 miles south of the now-famous “Canvas” Crusades.
Other spots Cissie visited included the Worldwide Pictures Studio in Burbank, opened in 1951, and Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, where Mr. Graham was recognized with a star in 1989, right in front of the Hard Rock Café.
“There’s Alan Jackson and Ryan Seacrest and then there’s Billy Graham,” said Lynch, daughter of Franklin Graham, who will be preaching on Saturday and Sunday night at The Home Depot Center. “He was just a preacher from North Carolina who has honored and obeyed the Lord.”
He was there in 1949
Augie Lopez was only 17 at the time, but he still remembers the excitement that swarmed around the 1949 Crusade.
“It was totally packed every night,” Lopez said. “He’d have a simple message but it was a message that would get through to people.”
Lopez, 79, a Los Angeles-area real estate agent, has always been involved in ministry, including serving on the National Committee in the 1985 Anaheim Crusade that drew 134,000 people.
Lopez recalls the same fire and zeal in Mr. Graham’s messages even 36 years later. But throughout his preaching ministry that spanned 26 California Crusades, culminating at the Rose Bowl in 2004, the one thing that Lopez remembers most is that faithful invitation song “Just As I Am.”
“It’s the same song. Everybody knows that song,” Lopez said. “I was so blessed by watching all the people come forward (in 1949). Just throngs of people came in to be saved.”
Please join us in praying for the Festival de Esperanza in Los Angeles this weekend. You can see how God will move by watching a live webcast from the Home Depot Center each evening. Find out more »
Other Glances at L.A. History:
A Watershed Moment
In his autobiography, Billy Graham reflected on 1949 Los Angeles Crusade: “Until then it had not fully registered with me how far-reaching the impact of the Los Angeles Campaign had been. I would learn over the next few weeks that the phenomenon of that Los Angeles tent Campaign at Washington and Hill Streets would forever change the face of my ministry and my life.”
Read the excerpt »
Into the Big Tent
To commemorate the 60th anniversary of Billy Graham’s 1949 evangelistic campaign in Los Angeles, the Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College launched an online exhibit in 2009. “This exhibit will enlighten and engage the casual visitor, as well as the person who wants to study America in 1949 and the early days of Rev. Graham’s ministry,” said archivist Bob Shuster.
Learn more »
Billy Graham Preaches at Rose Bowl 55 Years Later
Many have heard of the “Big Tent” at the corner of Washington and Hill streets in downtown Los Angeles, where Billy Graham held his historic 1949 Crusade. But fewer people know about the adjacent “Little Tent”—the prayer tent, where Christians poured out their hearts in prayer for the people of Los Angeles. Cliff Barrows, who has worked side by side with Billy Graham for 60 years, remembers well the prayer tent.
Read the “Decision” article »
A Passion for the Lost
Willie Jordan attended every meeting of the 1949 Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade. The experience fired her passion for the lost, leading her to join the Fred Jordan Mission—where she and her husband, Fred, ran ministries that are still proclaiming the Gospel to society’s outcasts.
Learn more »