There was more than one home run in the L.P. Frans Memorial Stadium in Hickory, North Carolina, on Thursday night.
As a pastel sunset faded beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains, bright lights shone on the thousands completely filling the baseball stadium for the sixth stop of the Decision America Tar Heel State Tour.
Stepping onstage, Franklin Graham pitched far more than a winning game ball—he shared the Good News of Jesus Christ that lasts for eternity.
“Maybe some of you here tonight asked the question: Will God forgive me for what I’ve done? Will God forgive me for my sins?” the evangelist asked Hickory, a city located just an hour from his home in Boone.
“We live in the South where many attend church but don’t have the Lord in their hearts. I was one of those,” Graham continued, sharing his own story of accepting God’s forgiveness. “I was 22 years old when I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, and got down on my knees one night.”
‘I Don’t Wanna Just Exist’
In the audience, Sheila Corn reflected on her relationship with God.
“I need a little bit of a spiritual awakening,” Corn said. She grew up attending church, but did not actually commit to Christ until decades later, during a revival when her kids were teenagers.
“I’ve never been to an event like this and thought I needed to go,” Corn said. “Everyone started bowing out on me, but my car started driving me here, so here I am.”
Desiring change in her life more than being comfortable, Corn came determined to find her purpose.
“Now with both of my children grown and gone, I’m wondering what to do next. I get up, go to work, go home—so I’m just out looking,” Corn explained. “I feel like I’ve just been existing. I don’t wanna just exist. Something’s got to hit.”
And hit it did.
The crowd of 9,200 was silent as Franklin Graham preached on the significance of God’s forgiveness—a pardon that flies beyond any ballpark and into the depth of one’s soul.
“God will forgive you tonight,” the evangelist said. “He’ll take that guilt and shame and set you free tonight.”
‘God Had His Hand on Me’
To the right of the audience, Terry Thrift thought about the sins that had overpowered much of his life.
Growing up, Thrift heard about the Lord in church and thought he was saved, but he didn’t actually have a personal relationship with Him. Then, his life quickly turned worse when he got addicted to drugs.
“It took my whole soul out of me,” Thrift said. “I just became a completely different person.”
Still, the Lord made Himself evident in Thrift’s life.
“I tried rehab, and different things kept on running me into the Lord,” Thrift said. Like Franklin Graham, he eventually got down on his knees and gave his life to Christ.
“No doubt, God had His hand on me,” Thrift said.
Still, as Thrift returned to the stadium on Thursday—this time for a night of worship instead of a baseball game—some sins lingered in his life and weighed heavy on his heart.
“I’ve been in tears the whole time I’ve been here,” Thrift said after the message of God’s forgiveness stirred his soul into a position of surrender.
Choosing to rededicate his life to God, Thrift stood among dozens who made decisions for Christ that evening—decisions many local churches have been praying for and desiring.
“There’s a drastic spiritual need here,” said attendee Ryan Turner, who serves as the student ministry coordinator of a nearby congregation.
Over the past few years, the 24-year-old has witnessed his small-knit community face a spiritual drought.
“When you look at yourself in the mirror and see the reflection and don’t like it, you want to change it. Hickory needs to look in the mirror and realize the changes that need to happen.
“But I sense revival coming, you know?” Turner said.
Have you received God’s forgiveness? Surrender your life to Him today.