YOUNGSTOWN – Franklin Graham has never toured the Mahoning Valley and is waiting to bring his “God loves you” message here.
After being delayed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association tour will take place in Youngstown on September 27.
The free event will begin at 7 p.m. at the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheater, 201 S. Phelps Street. Music will begin at 6:30 p.m. Participants may bring their own lawn chairs or blankets.
Steve Rhoads, vice president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said Youngstown was chosen as one of the towns to visit this fall for the tour. Other towns are Allentown., Pa., Sept. 24; York, Pennsylvania, September 25; Flint, Mich., Sept. 29; Waukesha, Wis., Oct. 1; and Rochester, Minnesota on October 2.
The tour to the “Heartland of America” will give participants the opportunity to learn about Jesus and encourage believers in their faith, according to its organizers.
The evening will feature music from guest artists, including those who have been on the tour in recent years, and a message from Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, and President and CEO. of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Rhoads said the message will be “A night of hope” for people who have faced many challenges in recent years with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created isolation and depression for many people. .
“Many families have faced challenges,” Rhoads said.
Continuing the lifelong work of Billy Graham, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association supports and extends the evangelistic call and ministry of Franklin Graham by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus to the public.
“It’s a free event for families. There will be a special message of hope and live music,” Rhoads said.
“Even if someone is in uncertainty, we will let everyone know that God loves them. This is the message of the Bible. This is the message of the tour,” he said.
Rhoads said Youngstown is a city considered to be in the “Heart of America.”
“We are thrilled to be able to organize the tour after what everyone has had to deal with with COVID,” he said.
Rhoads said one of the last tours done before COVID-19 was a six-city tour of Florida in 2019.
The tours began in 2016 and included a stopover in most capitals of every state in the country for a year, he said.
A tour of towns along Route 66 in parts of the country also took place.
Graham’s plan to tour Pennsylvania and Ohio was on hold because of the pandemic.
“A lot of tours are for places to reach those where there is a need. We’ve never toured Youngstown or that part of the country,” Rhoads said.
LARGE CROWD EXPECTED
Jordan Ryan, executive director of JAC Management, which operates the Covelli Center and the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheater, said large crowds were expected for the event. Although he noted that there have been large-scale concerts and church services in the amphitheater before, it is perhaps the one that draws the most crowds.
“We are expecting an almost capacity crowd for this. We’ve had many events that have had large crowds, but this might be the biggest religious event we’ve had – which is good,” Ryan said.
Ryan said the amphitheater can hold 4,800 people. He said that in the event that there are more than 4,800 people, the Graham Foundation plans to install large movable LED screens so people can watch outside the amphitheater.
The event will take place rain or shine. Ryan said that unless there is “dangerous weather” such as a thunderstorm with lightning that would put people’s safety at risk, the event will continue. In the event of inclement weather, Ryan said JAC would discuss with Graham Foundation representatives whether to reschedule.
Graham, in a statement, said: “Through the upcoming ‘God Loves You’ Tour, I want to join churches, like yours, in proclaiming this good news and telling people in your community about the hope that the we only find in Jesus Christ. …Together we can reach our communities with the power of the gospel.
Graham said, “People across America are hurting. Many are struggling financially and others are drifting in life aimlessly. Difficulties often leave many wondering where God is – and if he is real and does he ever care?
He continued, “Jesus Christ is the only one who can heal hearts, change lives and bring lasting peace.”
The three musical performances are by the Newsboys and Christian artists Marcos Wit and Dennis Agajanian.
Rhoads said Agajanian has been on the tour before, as have the Newsboys, while Witt is new.
Rhoads said people who attended the tours in various locations around the country commented that “it was a real eye-opener” and enjoyable.
“A lot of people don’t know what to expect and then attend and are very glad they did. They tell me that they were happy to have been able to be there. People feel like there is more to life after being here. There is a sense of peace and joy for families who are truly getting to know God,” he said.
He encourages those planning to attend to arrive early.
“There will be a lot of people there. So people might want to arrive as early as possible and not wait too close to the departure time,” Rhoads said.
He said the tour brought together people from different age groups and generations.
“People are looking for answers and comfort. People are interested in being there and hearing the message,” Rhoads said.
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