Graham draws 70,000 total in 7 Northwest
events; Zayas rally in Hillsboro sees 6,000
By JOHN FORTMEYER, CNNW publisher
It’s been an unusually busy summer for mass evangelistic events in the Pacific Northwest, attended by tens of thousands — and it’s not over yet. On the heels of Andrew Palau’s stadium event in Eugene July 28 that drew nearly 10,000 people, and only weeks before evangelist Chris Overstreet’s outreach this month in Portland (see story elsewhere on this website), Franklin Graham drew about 70,000 total at seven Northwest events last month and Oregon evangelist and pastor Jose Zayas saw almost 6,000 at his Aug. 12 stadium event in Hillsboro.
At each gathering held to date, a clear invitation to faith in Jesus Christ was given by the featured speaker, with many hundreds of hands raised in response throughout each venue.
Graham’s Oregon events
Three of Graham seven evening events in the Decision America Pacific Northwest tour took place in Oregon, and the remainder in Washington. The first Oregon gathering was Wednesday, Aug. 1, at the Jackson County Fairgrounds and Exposition Park in Medford, with an estimated 8,700 attending despite a thick haze in the air due to wildfires in both Oregon and northern California.
According to the Medford Mail Tribune newspaper, Graham described himself as “not a politician,” and said he is not involved with either major political party. He said Republicans and Democrats are both incapable of solving the nation’s current divide. and that only God can heal the rift, but that His people must pray.
Speaking about the wildfires, Graham said the all-hands-on-deck mentality that was combatting them was an example of how Americans can work together despite their differences.
Two days later, Graham moved on to Central Oregon, with an appearance at Christian Life Center’s Life Amphitheater in Bend. Crowd estimate there was 5,100.
Graham told the gathering that Jesus Christ is the only true source of beauty, hope and freedom. Focusing on the Old Testament story in Daniel 5 of King Belshazzar’s idolatry and Daniel’s purity, Graham noted that idolatry continues today as modern culture elevates sports, celebrities and relationships over God.
But God hates idolatry, Graham emphasized. He called young people today to commit to moral purity.
Graham’s Portland-area rally took place on a hot, muggy night Aug. 5 at the Clackamas County Fair and Exposition grounds in Canby. About 12,000 attended.
“I love Oregon,” Graham told the crowd, “But most of the time I’ve been in Oregon there’s been rain. Even though it was hot today, it’s nice to be here on such a beautiful evening.”
As he did during the other meetings, Graham started by pointing out the political divide in the nation, and said the influence of people of faith is needed in the political process, not only through voting but through those willing to run for office.
“We need some Christian political activists,” he said. “If not, the world that I was born in is not going to be here for my grandchildren, and for your grandchildren.”
Graham also took a moment to focus on Oregon’s current leadership, and specifically to pray for Gov. Kate Brown.
“Wouldn’t it be something if she got saved?” Graham said. \(Prompted by Graham’s comments that evening, news reporters later that week asked Brown whether she follows a certain faith. She replied that she believes every person is a spiritual being, and said yoga and meditation are her religious practices.)
Graham’s talk in Canby centered on God’s judgment.
“You might say, ‘Franklin, that’s kind of a depressing thought.’ Well, it is if you don’t repent. That’s why we’re here tonight.”
Graham cited the Old Testament account of Sodom and Gomorrah and the rebellion and arrogance that ultimately led to God’s judgment there. He also spoke of his own time of rebellion in his youth, when he avoided anything to do with God.
“There was an emptiness in my life, and I couldn’t fill it,” Graham said. “He forgave me when I was 22 years old, and He’ll forgive you tonight … The Holy Spirit will help you live that life that will be holy and pleasing to Almighty God.”
Guitarist Dennis Agajanian, who has performed for decades at events for both Graham and his late father, Billy, played at the Oregon events. Popular contemporary Christian singer Jeremy Camp also performed in Medford and Bend, while the featured performers in Canby were The Afters.
Graham’s Washington events were Aug. 7 in Richland, Aug. 9 in Spokane, Aug. 12 in Tacoma and Aug. 13 in Monroe. Of those four events, Spokane saw the biggest crowd, with 14,000 estimated.
Zayas’s Hillsboro event
Lead pastor at 26 West Church in Hillsboro, Zayas also has been an international evangelist for 25 years. His evening event at Hillsboro Stadium, titled Good News Today, began with a prayer from the city’s mayor, Steve Callaway, as well as brief comments from Kevin Palau, president of the Luis Palau Association, and also a videotaped message from Palau’s father, famed Portland-based evangelist Luis Palau.
“We’ve worked together over 20 years, and I’ve heard him proclaim the Gospel so clearly,” the elder Palau said of Zayas. Noting that his birthday occurred that week, Zayas thanked those attending for making the stadium gathering “a great birthday party.”
Zayas said organizers gave the event its name because there is too much negative news these days. “We thought, what if we got together and spoke a word of hope to those who need it?” he said.
Zayas said many people today are suffering anxiety, depression, or despair from broken relationships. He pointed out the recent suicides by celebrities including TV chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade, and the attempted suicide of singer Demi Lovato.
“I know there are thousands of us who aren’t on the cover of a magazine, but who feel what they feel,” Zayas said.
Jesus talked a lot about people when they are down, he said, citing as examples such parables as the Lost Sheep and the Prodigal Son. Zayas said that’s because God extends love and hope to all who will accept it.
“You are valuable…. You are important to the one who made you — God Himself,” he said.
It may not be politically correct in the Portland area to state that Jesus is the only way to salvation, but it’s the truth because of His sacrifice on the Cross, and it represents good news for all, Zayas emphasized.
“Jesus can uniquely and only cure us of our sin-sickness because He became like us,” he said. “it works 100 pecent of the time. If you come to Him, He will never push you away.”
Also on the program were Grammy-award winning recording artist Lecre and musicians Phil Wickham and Hollyn. Good News Today was a collaborative effort of local churches and businesses, including Chick-fil-A Tansbourne, Northwest Events and Interstate Special Events. While the event was free, those attending were encouraged to bring non-perishable food and cash donations for the Oregon Food Bank. The event collected 2,195 pounds of food and $493.65, which will provide 3,310 meals to those in need.