Christians in Singapore pay tribute to Billy Graham

Dr Billy Graham was greeted by lion dancers when he arrived in Singapore in 1978 to preach over five nights at the old 55,000-seat National Stadium in Kallang. The National Council of Churches of Singapore said 337,000 people, including Singaporeans
Dr Billy Graham was greeted by lion dancers when he arrived in Singapore in 1978 to preach over five nights at the old 55,000-seat National Stadium in Kallang. The National Council of Churches of Singapore said 337,000 people, including Singaporeans and others from around the region, turned up to listen to him.

They remember late US evangelist's 1978 crusade here as being a milestone; preacher died on Wednesday aged 99

Christians in Singapore remembered American evangelist Billy Graham as a "spiritual giant" who left a lasting impact on the faith after his crusade here in 1978.

The preacher, who spread the gospel to millions worldwide and also counselled several US presidents, died on Wednesday at his home in Montreat, North Carolina. He was 99.

The National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) said 337,000 people, including Singaporeans and others from around the region, turned up to hear him preach over five nights at the old 55,000-seat National Stadium in Kallang.

The Singapore Bus Service or SBS rolled out three special bus services to ferry people to the location.

NCCS said that 19,631 people "came forward for counselling" during the week. Canon James Wong, former president of the NCCS, who invited the late preacher to Singapore, said: "Christians were galvanised and many were converted because of the event."

At the crusade, Reverend Graham prophesied that Singapore would send missionaries to Asia, providing the impetus to churches here to do so.

Following the five-night event, the Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore, which gathered local churches together, and a mission-sending body, the Singapore Centre for Evangelism and Missions, were formed.

Reverend Naomi Dowdy, who was the senior pastor of Trinity Christian Centre from 1976 to 2005, noted that it was the first time cross-denomination partnerships had occurred here.

The American preacher had talked about Singapore being the "Antioch of Asia", referring to the ancient city in modern-day Turkey that was a key apostolic base in the early days of the faith, and Senior Pastor Yang Tuck Yoong from Cornerstone Community Church said that idea resonated powerfully with pastors and churches in Singapore.

In a tribute yesterday, the NCCS said that his evangelistic rallies "helped spurt the momentum of church growth".

It added that Reverend Graham envisioned Singapore's potential global role, especially for Christianity in Asia.

"Seen in this context, the evangelistic rallies may in some sense be said to epitomise the work of evangelism and outreach that the churches in Singapore had been faithfully doing. It made visible the unity and collaboration which had already begun among churches in Singapore."

Reverend Dowdy said: "The impact Dr Graham left among the Church of Singapore at that time showed us that unity among the various Christian denominations was possible and still carries on today in our nation."

Social anthropologist Lai Ah Eng, 63, said: "A lot of people I knew in my generation were exposed to these religious ideas and converted to Christianity. Many of them were teenagers and young adults. The bulk of Christian conversions in Singapore happened in the 1970s to the 1990s."

News reports at the time of Reverend Graham's visit said Singapore would benefit from "immeasurable publicity" as a film would be produced in conjunction with it and shown to millions in America and the world.

When he arrived in Singapore, he was greeted by lion dancers - a welcome arranged by the then Singapore Tourist Promotion Board.

Organised by more than 200 local Protestant churches, the Graham crusade was estimated to have cost $700,000 in 1978.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2018, with the headline 'Christians in S'pore pay tribute to Billy Graham'. Print Edition | Subscribe