Greater Billy Graham Crusade Begins in New York Tonight

( [email protected] ) Jun 24, 2005 11:25 PM EDT

NEW YORK - Tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out to what is declared as Billy Graham's last crusade. The Greater New York Billy Graham Crusade will embark on a three-day event tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

The weekend was initially planned for the Madison Square Garden, where Rev. Graham held the his triumphant rally in 1957, but organizers moved the event to accommodate the anticipated crowds. Seating will be available for 70,000 and room to overflow.

Rev. Graham, now 86, is suffering from fluid on the brain, prostate cancer, and Parkinson's disease. He uses a walked due to pelvic fracture and stays mostly at his home in Montreat, N.C.

In the light of his final crusade, Rev. Graham vowed to preach every rally this weekend. Behind the pulpit is a movable seat to allow Rev. Graham to sit if he feels uneasy. Franklin Graham, his son and successor, will stand by to preach if Rev. Graham is to become unable.

For six decades, Rev. Graham traveled across the world preaching to more than 210 million people in 185 countries. Respected by U.S. presidents and world leaders, Rev. Graham has become the icon of the American evangelical movement.

Thousands of volunteers from more than 1,300 New York area churches have helped organize the event. It will be free admission and translation will be provided in several languages.

It's confirmed that for roughly half an hour each night of the three-day crusade, Billy Graham will preach a different message from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Megan Mifflin, 18, traveled from Kansas City, Mo., with a mission group to volunteer, helping direct people who accept Christ but don't speak English find counselors who speak their language. Mifflin and her friends stuck labels on chairs marking a section for Cantonese speakers. Graham's address will be translated in 20 languages.

"I think it's amazing how he can speak in such a short time and so many people come forward," Mifflin said.