Hunger Grows as Billy Graham's Mission in San Diego Nears
- Wednesday, March 12, 2003
People are stunned: San Diego has 20,000 people in Christian Life and Witness classes. 20,000. And in 15 different locations simultaneously? The town is buzzing. The Mission San Diego volunteers are giddy.
In just one week, enormous, unexpected and overflow crowds streamed into churches from Oceanside to El Cajon. For only the fourth time in Billy Graham Mission history, the CL&W signups exceeded 20,000 people for the three-week classes. The pre-Mission estimate had been only 10,000.
At Horizon Christian Fellowship (San Diego) on March 8th, 2,600 people filled the gym, auditorium, choir room, classrooms and part of the cafeteria. "The excitement and joy of this crowd is contagious," said Horizon Pastor Mickey Stonier, "Look at that crowd. They are focused, interested and listening. This is almost electric. They even ignored the TV crew that was here."
Only Portland (OR-1992), Cleveland (OH-1994) and Anaheim (CA-1985) ever topped 20,000 CL&W participants in past Billy Graham Missions. "The signups for the Christian Life classes is a barometer for the excitement of the community," said Pastor Jim Garlow of Skyline Wesleyan Church (La Mesa). "This response tells us San Diego is eager to hear Billy Graham on May 8-11."
Garlow's large church was nearly overwhelmed when they held their class last week. Despite continuous rain, Skyline lost count after 1,600 people arrived. After filling the main auditorium, people filled the classrooms and pastors offices.
Consider the experience at Maranatha Chapel on the I-15 corridor: The sanctuary was packed with over 3,000 people (including a Fire Marshall on site to make sure it didn't get too big). Excitement was palpable. Traffic lined up for 10 miles to get into the church.
Maranatha Chapel Senior Pastor Ray Bentley said, "Overwhelming response. There is a built in expectation that something very special - something very rare - is about to happen in San Diego."
A teenage girl, Cara, of Penasquitos Lutheran, said: "There are so many more people here than I ever expected. This is awesome. I'm getting so much information about how to share God's love with my friends in High School."
At Calvary Baptist Church (San Diego), 480 enthusiastic people packed-out their first lesson in the three-part series. "We would call it 'excellent,'" said Pastor W. James Smith. "We had to use our overflow balcony area. People were excited and paying very close attention to the material. We can hardly wait for Dr. Graham to come to San Diego!"
The classes run for three successive weeks. Each week, a new segment is taught as an aid to understanding the Christian life and witness. They are also a prerequisite for individuals wishing to serve as counselors for the Mission.
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