Winnipeg Free Press
October 22, 2006
People who have had abortions, homosexual relationships, affairs
or any kind of a void in their lives were called to the altar
Saturday night at the MTS Centre where an overflow crowd of 13,980
people gathered for the Franklin Graham Festival.
"You may be in your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s or 70s -- maybe you're a
teenager -- it's not too late," Rev. Franklin Graham urged the
crowd at the climax of the evening, the call to come forward,
accept Jesus and get saved. "Come on."
The second night of the festival was dedicated to those under 25,
featuring BMX bicycle trick riders and Christian rock bands Tree63
and Newsboys. The festival and its musical acts were such a big
draw that close to 700 people were directed to "overflow" --
Calvary Temple downtown.
The man with top billing was the son of Rev. Billy Graham. He
carried on his father's mission to bring people to Jesus Christ.
"Going to church is not going to save you," he said. "Your parents
cannot make that choice for you... If you come and stand before
this platform, God will set you free."
"If you're here and guilty of abortion... God loves you, will
forgive you, set you free and cleanse you of your shame."
He said to the roaring cheers of the crowd that those guilty of
adultery, sex outside of marriage and homosexuals should answer the
"God will forgive you, take the guilt and shame out of your
Close to 500 people answered the call, crowding the floor of the
MTS Centre in front of the stage. They were met by "counsellors" --
some of the 1,000 volunteers from more than 200 churches who've
helped organize the weekend-long event.
Volunteer Camillia Layne, 17, said the opening prayer at Student
"It's a huge deal. I've waited for this a long time," she said.
Camillia grew up in a Christian home, but when she started Grade 7,
she said religion felt more like an "obligation of life" than
faith. She started hanging around with kids who were drinking and
doing drugs and she didn't care about school anymore. Camillia said
she's not sure what happened but she had a change of heart. She
said something came over her and she just started to take her faith
to heart and "take it seriously."
"Now I go to church as my own choice. I want to go. God's changed
Camillia said she has new friends -- Christians and non-Christians
-- who have similar values. The Grade 12 student plans to go to
university and earn a business and information technology
Dick Stephens, 60, was at the festival as a believer.
"I'm here because I'm excited to see God work," said the
soft-spoken environmental consultant. "God's a God that changes
people." He attends Grant Memorial Baptist Church, where there are
1,400 or so people on a Sunday morning. Last night he said he was
glad to see close to 15,000 people together worshipping and hearing
"God's message of love."
For Stephens, that message is a very personal one. He was saved in
more ways than one when he was 33. He was a heavy drinker. "I just
sort of partied my way through university," he said. At 22, his
father died. "We weren't very close, but he was my rock."
Stephens started having crippling anxiety attacks and a
psychiatrist was barely helping him keep at bay between weekly
Stephens tried to have a normal life with a good job and he got
married. The anxiety attacks didn't go away until after his wife
joined a Christian women's group and they met other couples with
faith, he said. One day he had an epiphany, he said. "I realized
how much God loved me and forgave me for all the stuff I had done.
I was transformed immediately." His anxiety attacks
"God gave me an allergy to alcohol." Now that he's retired,
Stephens is helping as a volunteer with his church.
"I don't hit people over the head with my Bible. I try to have a
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada