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Franklin Graham shares message of his father at amp

The Rev. Franklin Graham speaks to followers at the Youngstown Foundation Ampphitheatre Tuesday evening...by R. Michael Semple

YOUNGSTOWN — The importance of the message “God Loves You,” a theme of his famous father’s crusades over the decades, remains just as vibrant today, evangelist Franklin Graham said downtown Tuesday night.

Graham, 70, the son of evangelist Billy Graham, was the keynote speaker Tuesday at the Graham Foundation’s “God Loves You” tour at the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre.

Thousands of people gathered at the amphitheater, and despite the threat of rain, the skies soon parted as the sun shined for the start of the program.

Graham said since the days when his father was an evangelist, the world has changed.

“The world is changing so quickly. We see how violent and corrupt the world is becoming. We see the division in our country. We see families worrying how they will make their budgets stretch to the end of the week with gas prices and food prices. For many people they are discouraged about life. They want to know what the future holds. If you don’t remember anything else tonight, remember God Loves You. He has not forgotten you … The only one who can solve the problems in almighty God. He is the one who can fix it,” Graham said.

He said to fix things, God starts with each individual by fixing their hearts.

“We have souls that live as long as God lives. We were made in the image of almighty God. But sin is what separates us from God. Tonight God is willing to forgive sin and cleanse us. We can have a new life and new beginning with him,” Graham said.

Graham said many people feel they and their lives are insignificant and wonder why would God pay any attention to them.

“You are important, and he loves you. The message to all is ‘God Loves You,'” he said.

FIRST-TIME VISITOR

Graham said he was excited to visit the Mahoning Valley for the first time.

Youngstown was part of a six-city tour of 1,000 miles in five states including Ohio.

”I have never been to Youngstown before. I was told this was the Rust Belt, but it is a beautiful part of the Rust Belt.

“I love your town. It is good to be here with all of you. This is a pretty city and a beautiful day,” he said.

He selected Youngstown, Graham said, because he tries to go to cities he has not been to before and indicated he has plans to come back.

“God laid it on my heart to come here,” he said

As for his famous father, Graham said he shares the same message that his father always shared.

“You don’t change God’s message. His message is the same yesterday, today and a millions years from now.. I want to reach people and let them know God’s love is there for them. The hope for this country is not the Democratic Party or the Republican Party but God,” he said.

Graham said he is concerned by the division in the country, which he feels is getting worse, but God can help heal that divide.

He said he also is concerned with violence in many cities and worries when people want to defund and not support the police.

“We have got to support the men and women who defend us, protect our streets and keep us safe. These are good men and women, and we need to be backing them,” Graham said,

He said as part of his message he wants people to know they can have a relationship with God which is through faith with his son, Jesus Christ.

Graham said his father’s legacy for his generation “preached to more people face to face than any other person probably in history” starting after World War II.

“The world has changed since then but the message of God’s love has not changed,” he said.

THE CONGREGATION

People from various communities filled the amphitheater and surrounding area.

Peggy Foster of New Castle, Pa., who was part of the prayer chain, said the event was a way to bring people to Jesus.

“When I got here, the sky was black, and now the sun has come out. It is watching God move,” said Susan Jackson of New Castle.

Joyce Morucci of Youngstown said the event is a way for people to be touched by the Lord.

“A lot of us have been down here praying for safety and this area. It was supposed to rain, and now the sun is shining,” she said.

“This is wonderful to have here. It is a blessing for our city and for all the people to be here and be part of that blessing,” said Jackie Chorey of Poland.

Chorey said she and Morucci have heard Billy Graham and his ministry in person.

Shirley Lisk of Warren said she hopes the event helps change the attitude of many people in the Valley.

Lisk, who was part of the prayer team, said, “This is an area inundated with darkness and events like this help bring some light.”

“I am excited to see lives changed by hearing the word of God,” said Jacquelyn Smith of Hermitage, Pa.

Pastor David Natale of the Church at Warren in Bazetta said he hopes those who do not have a church will hear Graham’s message of the real truth and want to be part of one.

“Right now, so much of our world is in turmoil and up and down. We need to hear messages like this,” Natale said.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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