Franklin Graham to Share Gospel in Australia 60 Years After Billy Graham’s Historic Tour
You’ll find them scattered across the Australian continent, from the Sunset Coast to the streets of Sydney. The youngest are now in their 60s; others are quite elderly but still remember the moment that changed the trajectory of their lives.
They’re known as “the 59ers,” a diverse group of men and women who share a bond that’s not of this world.
“Every person in Australia knows that when they say ‘I’m a 59er’ that means they came to faith at a Billy Graham Crusade.”
Rodney Trinidad has met these 59ers time and again as he’s traveled the continent with Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Australia. They’re part of nearly every church congregation in the nation—oftentimes serving as pastors and leaders. And they long to see a move of God like the one they witnessed 60 years ago this month.
“When Franklin Graham announced we were coming back to Australia to celebrate the 1959 Crusades of his father, so many 59ers were excited because this was such a significant moment in their life,” Trinidad said.
In some ways, this month’s events in half-a-dozen Australian cities will reflect the cultural changes that have taken place over the past 60 years. For instance, the thousand-voice Crusade choirs of the past have been replaced with rock bands like Crowder and the Planetshakers.
In other ways, the events of 1959 and 2019 have much in common. Just like the Billy Graham Crusades of the past, Franklin Graham’s events are totally free of charge and open to all. And just like his father, Franklin will share an unchanging Gospel message. That clear, powerful message of salvation is what’s uniting Australians of all ages.
“These 59ers have really been our biggest supporters, cheering us on for what Franklin is doing,” Trinidad said. “Because there’s no better way, Franklin says, to celebrate something so significant than to preach the Gospel.”
When Half of Australia Heard the Gospel
It was the middle of winter in 1959 when Billy Graham kissed his young family goodbye and embarked on the long journey to Australia. He knew he wouldn’t be back until it was nearly summer, a reality that pained him deeply.
But he had what he called “an overwhelming desire” to share the Gospel with Australia. It was a strong sense of the Lord’s leading and a remarkable display of unity from the Australian churches that led him to commit to a three-month series of Crusades in the Southern Hemisphere.
The result was astounding. In a population of about 10 million, more than 3 million people attended a Crusade event in person. Add in the vast numbers of households listening on the radio, television or over landlines, and it’s estimated that half the population of Australia heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ in 1959.
In remote regions of the country, “people were sitting in their churches, and all they had was a picture of Billy Graham and the radio on, and people were coming forward to receive Christ,” Trinidad said.
At that time, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) was just nine years old, and Mr. Graham was 40. He had made headlines for his groundbreaking Crusades in cities like New York and Los Angeles, but he was not yet a household name in other parts of the world.
“It wasn’t so much Billy Graham,” Trinidad said. “He wasn’t really well known in Australia. It was just like the churches were ready.”
1,200 Churches Taking Part in Graham Tour This Month
Many Australians believe their nation is ready for revival once again. Since Franklin Graham announced the six-city Graham Tour in honor of the 60th anniversary of his late father’s 1959 Crusades, more than 1,200 churches have joined the mission.
“Australia today is a nation in need of spiritual revival,” Franklin said. “Secularism has put down roots, and almost one in three people claim to have no religion at all.”
But in the midst of a culture that’s increasingly apathetic about God, a faithful remnant has been praying for the Holy Spirit to wake up the nation.
“The Bible says, ‘God was moved by prayer for the land’ (2 Samuel 21:14),” Franklin said. “Pray that God will touch that land and open many hearts to the life-changing power of the Gospel.”
‘They Cry for Their Friends’
As Rodney Trinidad has trekked across his massive country (roughly the same size as the continental United States) preparing for the Graham Tour, he has witnessed the passionate prayers of Australian believers.
More than 10,000 people have taken part in BGEA’s Christian Life and Witness Course, which equips Christ-followers to share their faith. About half of the Australians who’ve completed the course have committed to serve as a prayer volunteer during a tour event in Perth, Darwin, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide or Sydney.
After leading more than 80 classes throughout the past year, Trinidad has been particularly moved by the prayers of teenagers and university students.
“They cry for their friends,” he said. “The urgency to see people come to faith, to see their friends and family come to an event where the Gospel will be preached—I have not seen anything like this in Australia.”
Many of the young people Trinidad has met are the children and grandchildren of 59ers.
Trinidad himself is part of Billy Graham’s legacy for Christ in Australia. His story began two decades after the 1959 Crusades, on one of Mr. Graham’s return trips to the country.
“My dad gave his life to Christ in 1979 in the Randwick Crusade with Billy Graham in Sydney,” Trinidad said. “That was very significant to us as a family, because it changed the whole family’s trajectory for the rest of our lives.”
A friend had written Trinidad’s father’s name on his prayer list before the Crusade. He carefully planned every detail—getting dinner for the family, arranging transportation to the event—to make sure Trinidad’s father heard the Gospel.
It Starts with a Name
As the Graham Tour approaches, Trinidad has been helping his fellow Australian Christians employ the same methods that worked in 1959 and 1979. It starts with writing a name on a piece of paper—and then praying fervently for the Holy Spirit to move in that person’s life.
Across the nation, he sees believers pulling out all the stops to reach their friends and neighbors with the love and hope that’s only found in Jesus. And as they cry out to God for the salvation of their loved ones, Trinidad has faith that they will see their prayers answered.
“These are real people whose lives and souls are at stake,” he said. “There’s no greater urgency than to pray that God will soften their hearts, that God will allow us to see these people come to faith.
“I look forward with so much anticipation of what God is going to do.”
2019 Graham Tour
- Feb. 9 Perth
- Feb. 13 Darwin
- Feb. 16 Melbourne
- Feb. 18 Brisbane
- Feb. 20 Adelaide
- Feb. 23-24 Sydney