I received a mes…

by Michelle Kibiger

I received a message on my pager on a Wednesday afternoon last summer calling me to the Billy Graham Crusade at the Metrodome that evening. The reporter who was assigned to cover the event couldn’t make it, and my editor wanted to know if I could go.
At first I was apprehensive. I was raised in a Christian home and attended Christian school my entire life. Though I don’t always agree with the Rev. Billy Graham and his work, I wondered if it was the right thing for me to do, because I feel very strongly about issues of spiritual importance. And I would know many people at the crusade.
Then I thought, “Who better to cover a religious event than someone who understands the issues behind it?” So I decided to accept the assignment.
When I arrived at the Daily that evening, about eight co-workers not covering the event were about to leave for it. They wanted to be there just to see what the Billy Graham Crusade is all about. My colleagues said they all wondered what kind of man had the power to draw thousands of people to a stadium on a weeknight.
I felt tremendous apprehension. Part of me wanted to be fair to the people there, to protect them from the cynical eyes with which so many readers see the newspaper. I had felt that instinct many times since coming to the University — a place which sometimes seems closed to spiritual influences.
However, another part of me wanted to bring up a little controversy, because I do disagree with Graham’s methods. In the end, I decided to report what I saw, what people told me, and why people should care.
I did see people I knew there. And I interviewed them. I heard music I had sung in my Baptist high school choir, and I was just as moved that night as I had been five years before. I watched as thousands ascended to the football field’s makeshift altar to find salvation or discuss a spiritual problem in their lives.
In the end, I put aside the twisting in my stomach and told as true a story as I could. I told the story of how people were visibly moved by this amazing spiritu al experience they were having.
I asked people why they came and they told me it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a powerful man of God. And I must admit that the evening made a little history for people from the entire Midwest who were able to see a man they so revered as a spiritual leader.
When one of the photographers covering the event spotted me across the Metrodome floor and came over to talk, I was afraid of what he was going to say. That protective instinct naturally rose up in me again.
To my surprise, he was amazed at how moving the event was. He told me how he had photographed a man crying because of the joy he felt over a friend’s conversion. The photographer said it was amazing how strongly Graham’s message had affected people.
I nodded in agreement. And I breathed a sigh of relief.
When we met up with the other Daily employees who attended the crusade, they too said they were leaving with deep impressions about the power of this kind of experience.
I smiled, knowing that the doors of at least some minds remained open that evening.