This day in Juneau history: Franklin Graham preached his first evangelical sermon - Must Read Alaska
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Thursday, April 15, 2021
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This day in Juneau history: Franklin Graham preached his first evangelical sermon

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Franklin Graham preached his first solo evangelical sermon on March 7, 1989. It was in Juneau, Alaska, and it was the only the beginning.

Before doing so, Graham had to overcome his rebellious past, as well as the enormous pressure of following in the footsteps his father Billy Graham.

His first attempt at evangelism went badly. At an event in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan a few years earlier, when he gave the invitation for people to come forward to be saved, not a single person came.

But in Juneau, he was on fire, preaching one of his father’s favorite sermons, the story of the blind man Bartimaeus, whose sight Jesus restored.

According to his friends, the people of Juneau responded well. “They packed the place, drunks, divorcees, and prostitutes,” said his friend John Wesley White, who had convinced him to give it another try. “He gave the invitation and they poured down. It was a miracle and he knew it.”

Graham is the president of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian disaster relief nonprofit, and his organization has a lodge at Lake Clark to help veterans heal their marriages and relationship with God.

Since that day in Juneau in 1989, Graham has preached to more than 7 million people in cities around the world. “For more than 60 years,” said Graham, “our calling at BGEA (Billy Graham Evangelical Association) has been to ‘preach the Gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power’ (1 Corinthians 1:17). Wherever I go, whether to a modern city in Europe or Asia, or a rural village in Africa or South America, I always proclaim Jesus Christ as ‘the way and the truth and the life’ (John 14:6).”

Graham returned to Juneau in 2016 and preached at Savikko Park on Douglas Island as part of his 50-state campaign to reach every capital city in America.

“The only hope for this country is God,” Graham told the 750 people gathered in the drizzling rain. “And the most important thing we can do is pray.”

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Thank you for this story. John Wesley White was preaching God’s word when I made my decision back in 1964. Later Samaritan’s Purse helped fund my summer missionary trip to Cameroon, Africa. That same year I met Franklin Graham while I was working on an airplane that he used. It was good to see him back in Juneau.

  • Alaskans are dying for a savior. Poor Dunleavy! He just not passing the test as the savior his voter supporters thought him to be. He has been such a disappointment to many, But Dunleavy was never supposed to be a Savior. He doesn’t have the qualification.

    The Alaskans living then and still Alaskans today, our family, friends, neighbors are literally dying for God’s love. The best thing you can do for your suicidal friend is pull out the bible and you read it loud to your friend until they fall asleep. Start reading the entire Psalms, and if the two of you are still awake finish reading the New Testament to them. Make it a nightly routine, and attend a Bible teaching church together. The companionship and the teaching that will come out of the Bible by regular reading will save their life better than any corny suicide hotline.

  • Thank you so much for commemorating this milestone. I was one who responded to his altar call that night. (Well, one of many.)

  • Good read, Suzanne, and a nice change of pace. By the way, Franklin preached an evangelistic sermon, not an evangelical sermon.

    • Graham needs to get back to Juneau and clean-up the liberal filth that currently occupies.

    • Ellen: There are still Juneau churches open. Where are they? We got the world asking where is the church in all this evil going unchecked!? The world doesn’t know how to fight against evil. But, the church possesses the appropriate tools for fighting evil and we are not using those tools.

      • ??

      • Jen, I am the church, you are the church, we are the church. The church is no man-made organization. Nor is it a building (where members may meet from time to time).

        If you are seeking the church, look in the book, in the mirror, at other faithful servants. The church is all around you.

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