The world thought it heard the Rev. Billy Graham preach his last sermon and make his final altar call at the Greater New York Crusade last summer, and then again in the still-devastated New Orleans two months ago. But the 87-year-old evangelist is coming back to the stage alongside son Franklin Graham to give his timeless message of the saving power of Jesus Christ.
This will be Graham's second appearance at a Franklin Graham festival, following his visit to the Gulf Coast in March. The Metro Maryland Festival and 648 local churches are expected to welcome the two Grahams on July 7-9.
"When leaders in this community asked me to join them in bringing this event to Maryland, I wanted to come and tell anyone that feels desperate and without hope that we all have a chance for a new start in life," said Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and president of Samaritan's Purse, in a news release.
This is Franklin Graham's first festival in the area. The elder Graham held a crusade there in 1981.
According to his spokesman, Billy Graham is making future speaking engagements at the evangelistic festivals on a "case by case" basis, depending on his health. Graham made his first public sermon since the New York event when he stepped onto the pulpit for the Celebration of Hope in New Orleans this past March. He told the thousands of hurricane-affected festival attendants that it would probably be his last.
But his heart has proved stronger than his body.
"I know that Baltimore has also been on my father's heart and he too wants to encourage this area," said the younger Graham.
The Grahams will also be joined by long-time Billy Graham musicians George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows along with a line-up of award-winning artists including American Idol finalist George Huff, Israel Houghton and New Breed, FFH, Newsboys, and Joy Williams.
Evening messages will be given by Franklin Graham with words of hope to the community offered by the elder Graham.
Billy Graham was recently awarded the 2006 George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service. Called "America's pastor" and the "conscience of our nation," Graham has spoken live to an estimated 200 million people in more than 185 countries and territories - more than any other person in the world - for six decades. While the beloved evangelist slows down yet keeps going, the younger Graham is making no pauses preaching at eight cities worldwide this year.