Today is the third and last day of the Greater New York Billy Graham Crusade. 75,000 people are expected at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens this afternoon despite the 90 ninety degree plus temperatures.
WNYC’s Karen Frillmann went and has this audio postcard.
MEGAPHONE: This way to Billy Graham—at the turnstile
REPORTER: By subway ...by car ...by Long Island Rail Road by plane. They’ve come to worship and witness.
VOICES: —if anyone has sock donations for the homeless… collecting sock donations for the homeless…
REPORTER: And they are here to help—like John Shavetta from Rochester NY. When his church group asked what they could bring to the crusade—they were told the word had been sent out to bring socks for the homeless—and so he was collecting them in a cardboard box.
VOICES: It was either collect socks or wheel people in wheelchairs and so we picked the one that was more humbling for us because we love the Lord.
REPORTER: Thousands of people have been gathering this weekend-- streaming into Flushing Meadows Park in Queens –past the soccer games and active baseball fields—to be with like minded people.
DEE PURDY: We are believers who live together…excuse me?? We’re believers who live together…amen amen…
REPORTER: The crowd looked like a cross section of New York City—very racially diverse—with an especially strong showing from Korean Christians. But it’s clear that many of the participants have come from out of town.
REPORTER: Murray Hodge is from Tyler, Texas.
HODGE: Our singles Ministry from Green Acres Baptist Church is here. We’re on a mission with NY School of Urban Ministry and we’re just here to reach out to the lost people of New York and just share the good news that god loves them.
REPORTER: A very small number of fundamentalists who think Graham doesn’t follow the word of God closely enough flew in from California.
FUNDAMENTALIST: you’re headed for hell and there’s nothing you can do about it—so have a nice day…
POLICE:please move on..move in…
REPORTER: But the faithful barely hesitate—they have come to listen to the legendary Billy Graham .
Graham: feel a little bit like I did in Philadelphia many years ago. I was there to speak at a conference. and a man got on board the elevator and he said I hear Billy Graham is here and Dr. Bernell who was the minister of the fifth avenue Presbyterian church was with me and he pointed in my direction and said yes there he is—this man looked me up and down for about 10 seconds and said, “my what an anti –climax “.
REPORTER: Graham steered clear of the politics that so many New Yorkers think of when they hear the label Evangelical Christian. But he gave a nod to an international institution that has been at the center of much partisan debate—The United Nations. He reminded the crowd that the UN first met in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens.
GRAHAM: And it was also here that the United Nations voted to establish the state of Israel…Israel was born right here.
And he pointed out that there are more Jews in New York than in Jerusalem.
But the classic moment that has come to define a Billy Graham crusade is when he invites people to come down to the front of the stage—just below his pulpit and pray with him and others to be reborn….
GRAHAM: you’ve all come—I’m going to say a word to all of you… you come—we’re going to wait as hundreds of people are making their tremendous decision…you come….
REPORTER: As the thousands of people made their way out of the park…. one mother from Queens felt it had been worth it to join the crowds.
MOTHER: When I look around and see god’s love I See kindness. Somebody just gave us a bag of cheese doodles for the baby, a complete stranger, that’s god’s love. And when I look around I just see the faces of people who are worshipping and they’re loving and they’re kind and I love that.
REPORTER: The Brooklyn tabernacle Choir will be performing this afternoon and Billy Graham will speak. Now 86, he has said this may be his last crusade. But that’s what was reported when he spoke in Wichita, Kansas last year. His spokespeople will only say this is his last scheduled crusade.
Additional reporting was done by Allison Lichter.