The elephant in the room had moved outside to the speedway parking lot.
It has been 18 months since Franklin Graham had done what he’s felt God has called him to do—share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to large crowds.
In this COVID era of masks and temperatures and quarantines, the question on many people’s minds is will people still gather together, will Christians still assemble as one body to proclaim the name of Jesus.
And will anyone bring their friends out to hear the one message that will save them. Especially in an age of living in fear.
“Many people are afraid. Many people are scared,” Franklin Graham addressed that elephant right off the bat Sunday afternoon. “Many people don’t know what to do.”
The issue has polarized our nation, our churches, turned our world upside down.
And we’re all searching for answers.
“Twenty years ago, 9/11 changed the world,” he said. “In 2020, the pandemic changed the world.”
But in a small way, the answer came in the form of a big crowd—8,700 people who braved 90-degree heat on an asphalt parking lot on a Sunday afternoon to hear Marcos Witt, Newsboys and Franklin Graham proclaim the Good News and the goodness of God.
“I’m here to tell you,” Franklin Graham said, not missing a beat, “God loves you.”
And with that, the 14-day, 8-city, 2,000-mile road trip for Christ is underway.
And the Holy Spirit has already moved in unmistakable ways. Hundreds making decisions for Christ in person at the Speedway. Hundreds more committing their lives to Jesus through online and text response in English and Spanish. Tens of thousands watching around the world online.
“Jesus Christ isn’t dead,” Franklin Graham said. “He’s alive right here in Joliet, at this Speedway.”
Welcome to the Route 66 God Loves You Tour.
Bringing the Neighborhood
Angel Rocha is a natural evangelist. Not in a Billy Graham, preaching-around-the-world sort of way. But she’s a neighborhood evangelist.
Already, she’s seen four people come to Christ on her street in Aurora, Illinois. She brought nine others to the God Loves You Tour on Sunday, interpreting Franklin Graham’s every word into the ear of her Spanish-speaking friend.
“I wanted to make sure that I said everything very clear, so my friend could understand and God, through His Spirit, could touch his heart,” Angel said.
And that’s exactly what happened. The friend made a decision to follow Jesus, as well as another one of the other nine that came.
Angel was beaming afterward. Hugs all around.
“When you understand the love of God, you don’t want to stop telling other people,” she said. “It’s the only thing you’re going to take to heaven.”
Peace, Joy and Google
Rafael was driving along the highway one day when a billboard caught his eye.
“I saw the sign that said God Loves You and the date,” he said. “So I Googled it. Franklin Graham. God Loves You.”
Turns out, it was only about 25 miles away from his home in Markham, Illinois, and Rafael’s “been following Billy Graham on YouTube,” he said. And since it was on a Sunday afternoon, he could still go to the Spanish-speaking church he’s been attending for a couple years since he found a relationship with Jesus.
Rafael also made sure his wife, Carmen, and 14-year-old son came to the event that included integrated worship from Hispanic artist Marcos Witt. The family left overcome with a sense of joy from worshipping with other believers in both languages.
“This makes me feel like God is working,” he said. “I feel a sense of peace and joy.”
Mother-Daughter Road Trip
Lori is an evangelist at heart. And she’s been faithful to this call, including volunteering for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s (BGEA) Search for Jesus online ministry.
But, you know, life happens. “I’ve just gotten busy,” she said.
Then she heard the news. Franklin Graham was coming to Joliet, just 15 miles up the road. And there was a training for anyone who wanted to be a counselor. A friend had just challenged her, if God is opening a door, you run through it.
Did she ever.
“I decided at the first training, I’m going to go on the whole tour,” Lori said. “It’s time to get off the sideline and into the game.”
Lori and her 20-year-old daughter McKenna are going to all eight God Loves You Tour stops on a Holy Spirit road trip, heading to St. Louis next.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am,” she said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’m humbled that God entrusts us to share our faith with others. And it’s priceless to be able to do it with her.”
They’re still working out their traveling itinerary, but one thing that has been settled—Lori is counting on her daughter to pull her weight behind the wheel.
“I’m traveling with a 20-year-old. I’ll sleep in the car.”