Larry Rye remembers going to tent revivals when he was growing up in Clarksville. There aren’t many tent revivals anymore these days, so when he heard that Franklin Graham was coming to town, he jumped at the chance to hear the Christian evangelist speak.
Rye and his wife, Nece, are pastors for youth and children at Clarksville First Assembly of God. Their church heavily promoted Graham’s appearance Thursday evening at the Liberty Park amphitheatre. Rye and his wife were among those arriving early to the event.
“We love America and would love to bring back the fire and desire for Christianity the way it used to be,” Rye said.
If Rye and others were hoping for something that would bring back memories of tent revivals, Graham likely did not disappoint with his fervent warnings about sin, prayers of repentance and calls to accept Jesus.
Rebecca Keene wasn’t sure what to expect. The Clarksville homemaker wasn’t very familiar with Graham, but came at the invitation of her mom, who drove from Knoxville for the event with a friend.
“I figured I’d come out and see what it is about,” said Keene, who also was with two of her sons, ages 13 and 16.
Before the event started, volunteers walked through the crowd distributing handheld American and Christian flags. Graham’s events are known for their patriotic spirit even though he does not endorse candidates and criticizes both major political parties for failing to uphold Christian virtues.
Graham was in Clarksville for his Decision America Tennessee Tour, part of a larger effort he is undertaking this year to reach people in smaller and mid-sized American cities.
Jerry Hester came with fellow members of the Christian Motorcyclists Association. They were there to help out in any way they could. Like many others in the CMA, Hester is a military veteran, having fought and been wounded as a helicopter door gunner in Vietnam. He didn’t have any doubts that he would be pleased with Graham’s presentation.
“Anything coming from him will be wonderful,” he said.