It’s over 60 years since I sat in the stands at Claremont Showgrounds to hear Billy Graham.
I remember the swelling excitement prior to his address and the powerful, compelling message he delivered. Even as first-year high-schooler I was drawn to accept the call to go forward and commit my life to Christ. Instead, I simply progressed through Confirmation in the Presbyterian church I attended.
That was my introduction to evangelism and it was pretty impressive! So I was enthusiastic to read a gift of the latest book on Billy Graham, Hear My Heart – What I would say to you.
As I read the chapters on evangelism, the book assumed a special relevance because of the mission about to be undertaken by pastor Samuel Ojulu and two elders from St Philips Kalobeyei, a settlement for refugees in Northern Kenya. These three men are en route to Boma State in South Sudan with the express purpose of sowing the seed for a new church in what was once their homeland. They plan to evangelise in a region which has been beset by civil war, insecurity, lack of any government services and famine for almost 30 years.
The trio plan to acquire land for a church, to preach the Gospel and train suitable local countrymen who will help to establish a church in Pochalla County, close to the border with Ethiopia.
How brave. . . what courage. . . what faith!
Billy Graham has much to say on the subject of evangelism in such circumstances. He recognised the urgency of revitalising Christianity in nations which had almost completely abandoned their Christian roots as a result of being the targets of aggressive proselytising by non-Christian religions.
He reminds the skeptics that the messages of God are immutable – that the supreme, unchanging, omnipotent Creator of the universe loves humanity and wants us to know him in a personal way; that humankind has strayed from him and, as a result of sin, is alienated from God. But He has bridged the gap between himself and sinful humanity by coming to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, and there is hope for the future because Christ rose from the dead and will reign victorious over all the forces of evil and death and hell!
As probably the most significant religious figure of the 20th century, having preached to over 215 million people in 185 countries, Billy Graham taught that the Gospel is relevant to every individual, beyond all the cultural, ethnic, social, economic and political differences that separate us because the deepest needs and hurts and fears of the human heart are the same for everyone.
The Gospel is still “…the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
So, isn’t it astounding that our Sudanese brothers and sisters, in response to Christ’s commission to the Church to “Go into the world and preach the good news to all creation“ (Mark 16:15), are sending a team to join the host of other missionaries and evangelists down the centuries to take the message of God’s love in Christ to the farthest corners of human civilisation!!!