- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

BALTIMORE — The Rev. Billy Graham, feeling the weight of his 87 years but still on fire with the Gospel, returned to the pulpit yesterday to urge thousands to hold fast to their faith in God in a time of war and uncertainty in a world riven with strife and danger.

“Never before have we been threatened as we’ve been threatened today,” he told hundreds who filed from the stands toward his pulpit at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, eager to make a commitment to faith and a life in Jesus Christ. “You must have faith, and faith means commitment. You may be young, you may be old [but] come and say yes to Jesus.”

Mr. Graham’s revival sermon concluded the three-day Metro Maryland Festival at the baseball stadium in downtown Baltimore.

The multidenominational services — sponsored by more than 600 churches in the area, and included music by country music singer Randy Travis — opened Friday. It had been planned for several years, dating from an invitation to Mr. Graham’s son, Franklin, to preach in Baltimore.

This was the first time that the younger Mr. Graham, 54, the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has preached in Baltimore.

The world’s most famous evangelist had held crusades in Baltimore in 1949 and 1981, as part of a worldwide ministry that has spanned decades, hundreds of countries and reached an estimated hundreds of millions at similar events and through television and other media.

He preached during the Cold War throughout Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union. He preached in North Korea in 1992, in two services in Pyongyang, where the government has since embarked on a nuclear-arms program that has put the rest of the world on alert.

“If ever a place needs prayer, it’s there,” he said yesterday of North Korea. “Unfortunately, I’m getting too old to be there.”

Mr. Graham — who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, prostate cancer and other health problems — returned to preaching in March after saying in June 2005 that a crusade in New York City could be his last.

However, he returned to the pulpit in March with his son for the Festival of Hope in New Orleans, as the city was beginning to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Franklin Graham told the Baltimore Sun that his father’s age and illnesses have perhaps made him a better communicator because he now talks “very deliberately, very carefully.” Mr. Graham, a Southern Baptist, has been an adviser to numerous presidents over the years. Like most Southerners of his generation a Democrat, he has voted for candidates of both parties and has had close relationships with Presidents Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan and both George Bush and George W. Bush.

Before the 2000 presidential election, he said of the younger Mr. Bush: “I believe in the integrity of this man. I’ve known him as a boy, I’ve known him as a young man, I’ve known him now still as a young man. And we’re very proud of him. I’m very thankful for the privilege of calling him friend, and his wife. It’s worth getting him the White House to get her in the White House. Laura is a special person, I can tell you.”

Mr. Graham was asked to officiate the state funeral of Ronald Reagan in June 2004, but hip-replacement surgery forced him to be replaced by John Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri and an ordained Episcopal minister. He led prayers at Washington National Cathedral three days after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He was honored by Congress with the Congressional Gold Medal and received the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation Freedom Award.

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