Sunday, May 05, 2002

Billy Graham missionaries prepare to share their joy


Thousands of volunteers learn to carry the word

By Richelle Thompson rthompson@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        With two months left before Greater Cincinnati's biggest religious event in decades, thousands of volunteers are learning how to become better instruments of God's word.

        More than 10,000 Tristate volunteers are meeting at nearly two dozen churches for the five-week Christian Life and Witness Course, part of the preparation for the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Billy Graham Mission in June.

        “People don't come into the kingdom of God by osmosis,” Art Bailey told a group of 400 Saturday in the pews at Montgomery Assembly of God Church. “We have to extend the invitation.”

        The volunteers will offer one-on-one counseling for people who answer the altar calls at the five services and help new and rededicated Christians on their faith walk.

        At the last Graham mission in Fresno, Calif., last October, 15,000 people came forward for the altar calls.

        “It's up to Christians to develop relationships with those who do not know Christ,” said Venita Clay, 43 of Colerain Township.

        Mr. Bailey, director of counseling and follow-up for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, taught the people how to confess their sins and accept Jesus Christ.

        Volunteers will share the simple, Scripture-based mes sage on the field of Paul Brown Stadium June 27-30 after the world's best-known evangelist, the Rev. Billy Graham, invites people to come to Christ.

        Forty-five years ago, Therea Strasinger heard that same call. An 8-year-old, she was watching a Graham mission on TV when the evangelist's prayer stirred her heart. She prayed for Jesus to come into her life.

        “It's a desire I've had all my life, to be a part of the Graham (mission),” said Mrs. Strasinger, 53, of Mount Airy. “I've always felt indebted to Dr. Graham's ministry.”

        A friend counseled Bob Winhusen 25 years ago, witnessing God's word and feeding him Scripture lessons. Becoming a Christian kept his marriage together, and he believes God healed his wife.

        “It was life-changing,” said Mr. Winhusen, 58 of Mont gomery. “I want to do that for someone else.”

        Brittany Swallen makes the 90-minute trip each Saturday with her parents from Lynchburg, Ohio. Her father attended a mission as a child and wanted Brittany and her siblings to share the experience.

        “I like to share Jesus with my friends at school,” said Brittany, 12. “I want to make sure they're Christians so they can join me and my family in heaven.”

        E-mail rthompson@enquirer.com

       



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