787 youth leaders converged on the Roosevelt Hotel in midtown for the Square One breakfast Saturday morning. Evangelistically speaking, that’s eight hundred. Youth leaders. From the New York metro area.
There are 298 public high schools and alternative high school programs in the five boroughs. Hmm. 800 youth leaders. 300 high schools. Those schools are still in session until three days after Billy Graham’s “Get Real” youth campaign is over. You do the math.
Coalition co-chairs Dimas Salaberrios and Jeremy Del Rio hosted the morning. As Jeremy prayed about how best to begin the program, he was reminded of how God stretched the prophet Ezekiel’s faith by taking him to the Valley of Dry Bones and asking, “Can these bones live?” But that wasn’t the message for the Committee. Nor was the passage from Isaiah that speaks about the “new thing” God is doing to bring rivers to the desert and pathways in the wasteland.
Instead God directed Jeremy to Elijah’s 40-day funk. You know the story: 24 hours after the pinacle of his ministry, when he literally called fire down from heaven, Elijah was ready to end everything. He moped around the desert for 40 days asking God to take his life until finally God led him to a mountain. The earth shook, lightning flashed, but God’s voice was not in the physical manifestations of his power. God’s voice spoke softly, in the stillness of a whisper. And as he spoke, God surprised him.”Elijah, you’re not alone. I have reserved 7,000 just like you.”
For those of us who have felt like solitary voices in the spiritual wildernesses of our communities, Square One was one of those moments where God spoke softly and said: “You are not alone. I am with you, and so are 786 others, at least. Those are just the few (a tithe perhaps?) that made the sacrifice to be here at 9:30 am on a Saturday morning.”
According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Saturday’s breakfast was the largest gathering of youth leaders for a crusade in the ministry’s nearly 60-year history. Ron Hutchcraft, the keynote speaker and a youth evangelist in his own right for over 30 years, said it’s the largest gathering of youth leaders he’s ever addressed.The energy in the room was electric, and the commitment was to a common cause.
There are 2 million young people ages 18 and under in the five boroughs (25% of the city’s overall population of 8 million). 1.1 million of them are enrolled in the city’s public schools. (FYI, 1.1 million represents, by itself, the 10th largest city in America!)Extending those numbers to the greater NY region, where 20 million people reside within a 20 mile radius of the city, there are approximately 5 million youth 18 and under.
So what’s our takeaway from the breakfast?
The cause we have embraced is simple. (Not easy, but simple.) Give every one of those 5 million kids a credible opportunity to come and hear a real man present real answers to real life issues. And stay connected to one another beyond the event so we can properly preserve and expand the harvest.
At 86, recovering from hip and pelvis surgeries and battling Parkinson’s disease, Billy Graham is physically weaker than he’s ever been before. But spiritually, he’s stronger than ever, because in our weakness we experience God’s strength. We want every young person in the region to have a legitimate opportunity to experience God’s anointing through the world’s foremost evangelist. In God’s providence, he has brought Dr. Graham to our city one last time, for what might possibly be the final crusade of his distinguished career. As the Psalmist wrote: “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.” (Ps. 71:18)
Read the Mobilization Strategy for next step instructions on how to stay engaged.