Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1
I grew up watching Billy Graham crusades on TV, and developed the same reverence for him that many mainstream evangelicals around the world living from the 50’s through the turn of the century did. So when I had the opportunity to participate in one of his crusades while living in Columbia, South Carolina I did so with excitement.
It was the spring of 1987. I had met with hundreds of others weekly from January through April to prepare and to pray for the big event. My job was to be a “second tier” counselor on the field. When people came down on the stadium field to pray after Billy preached, they would meet with a counselor. If that counselor got ‘in over their head,’ encountering something that they couldn’t handle, such as talk of suicide or any other complicating issues, they would raise a red card and that’s where the second tier counselors would step in.
One night there was a big thunderstorm and he didn’t get to preach, the choir didn’t get to sing, etc. But Billy did get up to say that if people came wanting to accept Jesus as their Savior that they could still come. We stood down on the field in the rain waiting and over 3000 people came forward without him even preaching. It seemed that the prayers that we had prayed and the power of the Spirit were way stronger than the thunderstorm and blackened skies.
But that’s not my profound memory. I was in Columbia attending Bible School. I was also waitressing at the Cracker Barrel. My co-workers treated me like I was an anomaly throughout my time there. I wasn’t like them, not smoking pot during breaks in the parking lot, not cussing up a storm, not partying after work…But we became fast friends and they were interested in my faith in Jesus. They were super excited when Billy came to eat one afternoon at the restaurant, even though several admitted they didn’t know who he was.
A waitress friend went with me one of the nights. I had been telling her about Jesus for a year and a half and she had been listening with interest. But it seemed like there was a wall that kept her from accepting Him into her life, like it couldn’t be for her. No matter how I explained it to her, nothing breached the wall. Until that night. When Billy finished preaching and began to invite people to make their way to the field if they wanted to know Jesus as their Savior, she asked, “What would happen if I went down on the field?”
I explained that someone would talk to her, asking if she would like to invite Jesus into her life. I asked if that’s what she wanted to do. She responded, “No, I want to talk to you.” I told her that because there were about 50,000 people there it was going to take a good two hours to make it through the traffic. I suggested we talk in the car. For the next two hours, the wall that I could not bring down previously was brought down by this very evident power of the Holy Spirit that was impacting my friend Jan.
She poured out how she had been listening to everything that I had been sharing with her about Jesus and wanted it. But she knew Jesus couldn’t love her and she couldn’t tell me about it because she didn’t want to lose me as her friend. She told of how she had an abortion five years earlier and how she deserved every bad thing that had happened. There in my car I was able to explain how Jesus’ blood covered even her abortion and that if she repented of it, He would forgive her and wipe it out permanently. She did that night, and she was set free.
Just as I am, without one plea…