In a venue better known for football than fundamentalism, 78,000 people crowded inside the Rose Bowl this past Friday night — not to see a rock star, but 86-year-old Reverend Billy Graham, recovering from a broken pelvis, who many fear they won't get to see again.
"I think a lot of people, like myself, know that it’s gonna be a lifetime event, so I'm glad to be here," said Lynn Lewis of Palm Springs, Calif.
"I think that it’s just gonna be an amazing experience," echoed Kyle who made the trip from Dallas.
Billy Graham was born during World War I and raised in the depression. He has spoken — live — to more people than any other person in the world — an estimated 200 million people in 185 nations. This is his 416th crusade.
In the early days, it was mostly old-fashioned revival meetings — tent shows, usually in the South. But then Billy Graham came to Los Angeles in 1949 in the crusade credited with launching his career. It was scheduled to go three weeks, but it lasted eight.
Dawne Smith was at that first crusade, and returned, in her wheelchair, for this last one.
"I was 17-years-old at the first tent crusade in Los Angeles in 1949," says Smith. "My mother was terminally ill and at that time it was a source of inspiration seeing this man come with a message of Christ and people came in droves."
Rev. Graham agreed to a rare interview, to talk about what he sees as the greatest need for spirituality in his lifetime.
"I feel very strongly about the moral situation in America, and the values that I think in the election people said they voted for," says Rev. Graham.
Friday night at the Rose Bowl, more than 2,000 people came forward to accept Rev. Graham's invitation to turn over their lives to Jesus Christ.
That's something the current president says he did during a now-famous talk with Billy Graham, at a time when drinking and carousing threatened to lead George W. Bush astray. It’s an encounter that gets an interesting reaction when Rev. Graham is asked about it now.
"I've heard others say that, and people have written it, but I cannot say that," he says. "I was with him and I used to teach the Bible at Kennebunkport to the Bush family when he was a younger man, but I never feel that I in any way turned his life around."
He's lived a life beyond his dreams. And he now knows he's seeing members of his flock for the last time.
"This one moment in history may never come again for you!" preached Rev. Graham Friday night.