— MATTHEW 28:20

Seventy-five thousand people have gathered in Charlotte's immense new Ericsson Stadium. The weather is mild on Sunday afternoon, September 29, 1996, as Cathy Wood, a team associate, leads Ruth and me over the stadium's perforated flooring. It is the closing day of Billy Graham's Carolina crusade, and Cliff Barrows and his choir are filling the air with the strains of Handel's Messiah.

    On reaching the far side, we enter a tunnel under the stands that leads to a covered driveway. There by arrangement we wait, and in a few minutes a car arrives, and Billy Graham steps out.

    Somehow he seems more fragile than the man who for seventeen years was my employer. Yet there is still the old magnetism, now with a fresh touch. To my quixotic mind he might be King David, the ancient Hebrew warrior, arriving in his iron chariot to meet with the leaders of his "mighty men." Or perhaps he is the venerable Joseph of Arimathea, bringing the precious grail of the Last Supper (as legend has it) to English soil after many hardships and presenting it to the congregation of the Glastonbury chapel. Or he could even be the evangelist George Whitefield arriving on Boston Common in defiance of the entire Harvard College faculty, ready to preach the everlasting Gospel of Christ to the colonists gathered by the thousands to hear him.

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    Now Billy is speaking to the crusade chairman and a few friends. He pauses, looks up, and utters one word: "Sherwood." If I am stirred, it is with good reason. I remember hearing Dale Carnegie say years ago, "The most beautiful sound in the world is the sound of one's own name." In due course we approach and shake hands with Billy. I mention our recent visit to one of his closest associates, Walter Smyth, now recovering from a stroke in southern California. Billy says, "I miss him," and adds quietly, "just as I miss you."

    That is all, but it is more than enough. We emerge from the tunnel onto the stadium floor exhilarated, and after crossing to the music of "How Great Thou Art," we find our seats. The crusade closes on a high note as over 3,000 persons respond to Billy's invitation to come to Christ. But that is not the ending; it is only the beginning. The Holy Spirit now goes to work in many a convicted heart on a September afternoon in Ericsson Stadium.

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— ISAIAH 42:8

Spirit, who from age to age

raised up poet, seer, and sage,

pointing us beyond the shore,

saying life is something more,

something past all human sight,

past the everlasting night:

Spirit, whom the Savior sent

to restore the joy He meant,

grind me with Your granite pestle,

then make me an open vessel,

and with treasures of Your dower

fill me with enabling power.

I would write the truth, no less,

truth to tell and truth to bless,

of a life which, as a token

of Your favor, You have broken,

saved, and healed, and through it spoken.

                                 — S.E.W.

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