Billy Graham’s message hit home later

Photo, dated 01/06/66, of US evangelist Billy Graham
Photo, dated 01/06/66, of US evangelist Billy Graham

I was 23 when I attended the Billy Graham crusade in Windsor Park, Belfast, in 1961.

I went along out of curiosity as my head was full of youthful idealism, trendy ideology, atheism, and humanism.

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I had the New Statesman and Manchester Guardian stuffed in the left hand pocket of my shabby, worn-out gabardine.

Windsor Park was full to capacity and there were hastily-improvised walkways from the terraces on to the playing pitch.

There was a massed white-clad choir from churches in greater Belfast and in the musical build-up to Dr Graham’s sermon George Beverly Shea sang: “He’s got the whole world in His hands.”

Billy Graham’s message was simple, direct and eloquent.

During his sermon a hand-shaped cloud appeared in the sky and briefly covered a sinking sun.

Dr Graham asked us to observe the silver lining, a metaphor for Christ’s example in our troubled world.

When the choir sang the Lord’s Prayer the very hairs rose on the back of my neck.

I resisted Dr Graham’s call to walk forward from the Spion Kop on to the pitch and commit myself to Jesus Christ.

It was years later in life that I realised that Christ’s example is the perfect paradigm for my troubled soul.

Last July I visited Israel and followed in Christ’s footsteps with a Bible in my hand to his pre-ordained sacrificial destiny in Jerusalem.

I had ignored Dr Billy Graham’s message in Windsor Park, but it caught up with me in the Garden Tomb of Jerusalem, resounding with the clarion call of certitude and absolute truth.

George McNally, Limavady Road, Londonderry