Billy Graham Accepts Invitation From San Diego Churches to Return For May Mission

Jan 10, 2003 12:08 AM EST

MINNEAPOLIS – Plans and leadership for Mission San Diego were unveiled today in a mission “Kick-Off” event at Qualcomm Stadium, where the NFL Superbowl XXXVII will be held later this month. Former San Diego Chargers kicker Rolf Bernischke will serve as chairman, overseeing the five months of preparation for the May 8-11 event at Qualcomm.

“I am so honored to be asked to serve in this capacity,” Bernischke said. “To help bring such a positive message to the community I love, by the man who has had such an influence on my life and countless others, is indeed a privilege. I look forward to the spiritual impact this event will have on San Diego, that it will become America’s Finest City, not because of its climate and worldly appeal, but because of its caring and compassionate residents who have worked together to bring this mission to all of our neighborhoods so that everyone can experience the true fulfillment that comes only through a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

“My burden to proclaim the Gospel is as strong as ever,” Mr. Graham said in a statement read at the event. “Therefore, health permitting, my associates and I will be glad to accept the invitation to come to California to join hands in proclaiming the Gospel.”

Last October Mr. Graham indicated that he would consider other missions following the Metroplex Mission in Dallas/Fort Worth, during which he said he would continue his evangelistic ministry as long as he felt led by God to do so. An invitation to conduct the San Diego mission followed on the heels of that pronouncement, and Mr. Graham – with a heart for sharing the message of God’s love and forgiveness in Southern California – subsequently accepted. That began the most compressed preparation process of any Billy Graham mission.

At the age of 84, Mr. Graham expressed surprise at continued opportunities for ministry. “I am overwhelmed to receive an invitation to come to San Diego to preach at an evangelistic mission this May,” Mr. Graham continued. “To be honest I never expected to continue receiving invitations into my 80’s.”

The “Kick-Off” was attended by numerous religious and community leaders, who have committed to working together toward a successful mission. An executive team of 30 members will work alongside the Billy Graham mission team to mobilize an expected 750 volunteers from more than 20,000 churches representing 45 denominations.

Larry Turner, BGEA vice president for Crusade Ministries, said, “Ministers and community leaders in the San Diego area were convinced this was the time for Mr. Graham to return, and they have shown an unprecedented commitment to unity for this region, which will be imperative for the coming months of preparation. We look forward to joining together with them to impact Southern California.”

“Although these past several years of planning have at times caused us to wonder whether his health would hold out, there is no question God is miraculously preserving and sustaining the life of Mr. Graham for the work He desires to accomplish here in San Diego this coming May,” said local pastor Bob Botsford of Horizon North County Church. “This is a gift from Heaven and I pray every heart would be open for what God desires to do.”

Other pastors echo these sentiments. “This city is very much in need of an event like this. Mission San Diego will be one of the highlights of this new year for the city, churches, and every person who attends the event,” said Dr. Abel Ledezma, senior pastor of Centro Familiar Cristiano. Bishop George MicKinney of St. Stephen’s Church of God in Christ added that “San Diego will gain great spiritual benefits from the personal ministry of Dr. Graham, who for more than 50 years has been a consistent witness for Christ around the world.”

“Billy Graham’s Mission in San Diego is an answer to prayer. Our whole church is energized as we anticipate this great opportunity for evangelizing our community,” said Dr. David Jeremiah, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church. “The military presence in this city has made all of us highly sensitive to the world’s tensions, which, in turn, causes people to search for life’s deeper meaning,” commented Dr. Jim Garlow, senior pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, referencing the need in the community. “San Diego has only four months to plan what most cities do in nine months to a year,” he added. “But everyone I have talked to has responded with a resounding ‘yes, count me in.’”

“The Billy Graham Mission in San Diego will change the lives of thousands of people in a positive way,” said Mike MacIntosh, senior pastor of Horizon Christian Fellowship. “Mr. Graham’s influence on me in his 1976 crusade in San Diego has led me to help hundreds of other young men find their way in the ministry, and I am excited to think of the potential impact of this on our community.”

“Dr. Graham’s coming to San Diego is an answer to the prayers of many, as we have cried out to God for our children who are being shot in the streets and in their schools, for those lost in domestic violence, for the old and the lonely, for the young and searching,” continued Jane Crane, co-chair of the National Day of Prayer for San Diego County. “I believe that God heard our cries and is now sending Dr. Billy Graham to show us the answer to those great needs.”

Mr. Graham’s most recent mission in California was Oct. 11-14, 2001, in Fresno, with attendance of 201,000, of which 14,731 made commitments to Christ. Mr. Graham’s previous San Diego campaigns include 1958, when 55,000 attended over a two-day period in July; May 1-10, 1964, with 180,000 in attendance and more than 8,600 decisions; and Aug. 13-20, 1976, attended by 254,800 individuals, of which 10,215 responded to Mr. Graham’s messages.

Mr. Graham’s ties to California are strong, as he’s held more missions there – 24 – than any other state. In 1948 in Modesto, Calif., he and his team adopted a set of standards that have led them to be models of integrity to this day. His Los Angeles campaign in 1949 is the one that first launched him to national prominence.

Mr. Graham held missions last year in Cincinnati, Ohio, in June, and Dallas/Fort Worth in October. Both efforts saw increased attendance each evening, with a high attendance of 65,600 at the final meeting in Cincinnati, which saw 11,200 individuals make faith commitments. The Metroplex Mission set a new stadium attendance record of 83,500 for Texas Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, and more than 11,100 decisions were recorded over the four-day event.

By Billy Graham Evangelical Association