HED:Officials: Graham crusade exceeded expectations
By John Armistead
Wednesday morning in a makeshift office at the Executive Inn in Tupelo, Pam Shuck of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association stood in the midst of half-filled cardboard boxes. She still had to pack the fax machine, copier, plastic mail trays, laptop computer and stacks of paper.
"I'm always the last one to leave," she said. "I have to make sure everyone gets to the airport and the hotel is taken care of. Then I'll go to Memphis and fly back to Minneapolis."
She was up until 2 a.m. after the final night of the three-night Franklin Graham crusade "slapping together sandwiches for the tech guys after they'd loaded up the semis."
It was all part of wrapping up what Graham Association officials and local organizers said was a crusade that exceeded expectations.
With Shuck in the office was Amanda Konoke, also of Minneapolis. Konoke is an assistant editor with "Decision," the flagship publication of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. She was in Tupelo covering the crusade.
"All of Franklin's crusades get a one-page article in the Decision,'" she said. The article about the Tupelo crusade will appear in the May issue.
By noon, virtually all of the team had scattered, homeward bound.
A busy schedule
Franklin Graham flew himself out of Tupelo Wednesday about 9 a.m. in his Mitsubishi MU2 twin-engine prop plane, destination Boone, N.C., his home. His next preaching engagement is a "mini-crusade" in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Good Friday.
The first week of April he will be in San Antonio for his father's crusade, then he'll go to South Africa for two weeks of preaching. Joining him will be the team members who were in Tupelo.
Early in May, he will go to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., to attend his oldest son Will's graduation. Billy Graham will speak at the commencement.
"Franklin loves doing smaller cities where his father hasn't gone and aren't on the trail for everybody who speaks and preaches," said Graham's spokesman Mark DeMoss. "And no matter what's down the road, he'll always do cities like Tupelo."
Graham Crusade directors were surprised and pleased with the results at Tupelo.
"The rule of thumb we use to determine attendance didn't apply here" said Lewis Blanchard. "All indications were that we would have 6-7,000 a night."
The Tupelo average was 8,977 per night.
Attendance also exceeded the expectations of crusade director Danny Little, who was in charge of children and youth work.
"We only planned to feed 1,500 kids Monday night," he said of the youth pizza party. "We ended up feeding 5-6,000."
Tupelo pastors the Rev. Robert Jamison of New Providence Missionary Baptist Church and the Rev. Gayle Alexander of First Baptist served as ministerial co-chairmen of the crusade.
"When you look at the results, the decisions and many men in their 70s doing first-time decisions - that speaks for itself," Alexander said. "Many of these people may never have come to the Lord if it had not been for the crusade."
Jamison was also pleased with the results.
"I think the long-term effects are going to have a tremendous impact on Tupelo and the surrounding area," he said. "The fellowship among the churches will be long-lasting."
Harry Martin was chairman of the Northeast Mississippi Franklin Graham Crusade. "We are highly pleased with the response and the spirit of cooperation that came into place at the right time," he said. "The only thing I regret is that we had to turn some people away."
John Smith of Tupelo, crusade treasurer, said he is confident that the $295,000 budget will be fully subscribed by the end of the weekend. Contributions are still coming in and the local office is busy sorting through the envelopes.
"We will publish in the Daily Journal a total review statement and the total costs," Smith said. By Monday night, 93 percent of the budget had been met.
Wednesday morning, the crusade team office at the Executive Inn released the total three-night crusade attendance and commitment figures. The Graham Association breaks down commitments into categories of "salvation," "assurance," "rededication," "inquiry," and "other."
Attendance figures were: Sunday - 9,130, Monday - 10,000, and Tuesday - 7,800.
The cumulative total of commitments was 771, of which 393 were for salvation.
At the children's rally held at the Coliseum Saturday, the attendance was 3,000 with 231 commitments, 172 of which were for salvation.
One of those who walked forward making a commitment for salvation Monday night was 13-year-old Kala Collier of Belmont. She went down by herself.
"They had a counselor come talk to us about the decision we made," she said. "I felt that I was a new person. I felt a load off my heart."
She said more than half of her 30-member youth group went down during that service.
"We got together and talked and we hugged a lot and cried a lot," she said. "Since this happened, I've been very open-hearted and if anybody hasn't gotten saved, they need to go to the cross and ask the Lord. He'll help you get through it."