The Rev. Billy Graham preaches on the first night of his three-day crusade at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in the Queens borough of New York Friday, June 24, 2005. (Gregory Bull / AP)
NEW YORK -- Despite illnesses that have diminished his once powerful voice and left him frail, the Rev. Billy Graham vowed to preach each night of his final American crusade. He kept that promise Friday night, the start of a three-day event at a city park that marks the completion of his six decades of mass meetings.
Before a crowd of about 60,000, Graham took the stage using a walker and leaning on his son and successor, the Rev. Franklin Graham, who stayed nearby in case his father was unable to go on.
But the ailing Graham, 86, was able to stand during his nearly 30-minute sermon. It was slightly shorter than expected and he appeared to tire at the end, yet he spoke clearly, mixing his message of salvation in Jesus with anecdotes and humor.
Noting the struggles of the New York Yankees and Mets playing that evening, he even asked the crowd to pray for them both....