Wait for Franklin Graham’s ‘God Loves You’ tour ends for Youngstown
YOUNGSTOWN — Franklin Graham has never had a tour in the Mahoning Valley and has been 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’s tour will be in Youngstown on Sept. 27.
The free event will begin at 7 p.m. at the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre, 201 S. Phelps St. Music will begin at 6:30 p.m. Those attending can bring their own lawn chairs or blankets.
Steve Rhoads, vice president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said Youngstown was chosen among cities to visit this fall for the tour. Other cities are Allentown., Pa., on Sept. 24; York, Pa., on Sept. 25; Flint, Mich., on Sept. 29; Waukesha, Wis., on Oct. 1; and Rochester, Minn., on Oct. 2.
The tour to the “Heartland of America” will give attendees an opportunity to know Jesus and encourage believers in their faith, its organizers say.
The evening will feature music by guest artists, including those who have been part of the tour in past 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 “A Night of Hope” for people who have faced many challenges in recent years with the COVID-19 pandemic, which created isolation and depression for many people.
“Many families had faced challenges,” Rhoads said.
Continuing the lifelong work of Billy Graham, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association supports and extends the evangelistic calling 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 has uncertainty, we will let each person know God loves them. That is the message in the Bible. That is the message of the tour,” he said.
Rhoads said Youngstown is one city that is considered to be in the “heartland of America.”
“We are excited to be able to have the tour after what everyone has faced with COVID,” he said.
Rhoads said one of the last tours done before COVID-19 was a tour of six cities in Florida in 2019.
The tours had begun in 2016 and included a stop in most of the capitals of each state in the country during one year, he said.
A tour of cities along Route 66 in parts of the country also took place.
Graham’s plan for a tour of Pennsylvania and Ohio was on hold because of the pandemic.
“Many of the tours are for places to reach those where there is a need. We have never had a tour in Youngstown or in this part of the country,” Rhoads said.
BIG CROWD EXPECTED
Jordan Ryan, executive director of JAC Management, which manages the Covelli Centre and the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre, said a large crowd is expected for the event. Though he noted there have been well-attended, large-scale religious concerts and services at the amphitheater before, this may be the one that brings in the largest crowd.
“We are expecting a near full-capacity crowd for this. We have had many events that have brought in large crowds but this may be the biggest religious event we have held — which is good,” Ryan said.
Ryan said the amphitheater can hold 4,800 people. He said in the event there are more than 4,800, plans by the Graham Foundation are to have large mobile LED screens set up so people can watch outside the amphitheater.
The event will take place rain or shine. Ryan said unless there is “dangerous weather” such as a thunderstorm with lightning that would put people’s safety at risk, the event will go on. If there is severe weather, Ryan said JAC will speak with Graham Foundation representatives on whether to reschedule.
Graham, in a statement, said “Through the upcoming ‘God Loves You’ tour, I want to join churches, like yours, to proclaim this Good News and tell people across the your community about the hope found only in Jesus Christ. … Together we can reach our communities with the power of the Gospel.”
Graham said that “people across America are hurting. Many are struggling financially and countess others are adrift in life without purpose. Hardships often leave many wondering where God is — and if he’s 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 with the tour before as have the Newsboys, while Witt is new.
Rhoads said people who have attended the tours in various places across the country have remarked that “it was a real eye opener” and enjoyable.
“Many people do not know what to expect and then attend and are very glad they did. They tell me they were glad they were able to be there. People feel there is a sense there is more to life after being here. There is sense of peace and joy for families who get to really know God,” he said.
He encourages those planning to attend to arrive early.
“There will be a large crowd there. So people may want to get there as early as possible and not wait too close to the starting time,” Rhoads said.
He said the tour brings people of different age groups and generations together.
”People are seeking answers and comfort. There is interest from people to be there and hear the message,” Rhoads said.