Santa Ana Congregation Makes a Joyful Noise for Billy Graham

Times Staff Writer

Evangelist Billy Graham, highlighting the international and youth-oriented flavor of his 10-day Southern California crusade, made a brief appearance Wednesday evening at a west Santa Ana Latino church and was greeted with plenty of foot-stomping, hand-clapping music.

"Y'all look happy. I've seen a lot of people lately but I haven't seen as many happy faces as I see here," Graham told the overflow crowd of 3,000 worshipers at the Templo Cavalario, at 2617 West 5th St.

Graham's visit, which church officials said was arranged at his request, was his last public appearance before his 10-day crusade at Anaheim Stadium opens Friday night. As many as 600,000 people are expected to attend the crusade, Graham's first in Southern California since 1969.

The parishioners of the Protestant church, who dedicated their temple only last Saturday, warmed up for Graham's appearance by singing bilingual songs, accompanied by a five-piece band. The church's youth director, Phil Amaya, led the singing, at times stopping to proclaim the name of Jesus.

"I feel crazy up here. But I'm not crazy because I have God in my hand!" Amaya shouted.

Jose Luis Sanchez, a Mexican immigrant, stood by a doorway clapping along and joining in on the Spanish songs.

Sanchez, 36, a former Catholic, estimated that 80% of those in the predominantly Latino crowd were also converts from Catholicism.

"It is not a question of religion," he said. "It just means that since I converted, I have a closer relationship with God. I didn't have that when I was a Catholic. . . . I am happier here. And I am at home with people who believe like me."

When Graham arrived he sat on a stage and smiled during the singing. As the crowd began a Spanish hymn, "Esta Noche la Gloria es para El" (Tonight the glory is for Him), the evangelist joined them in enthusiastic hand-clapping.

Pastor Dan de Leon, beaming as he introduced Graham, said the visit was a tribute to the church's spiritual growth.

"This is a way in which you (Graham) are saying 'Templo Cavalario, you're on the right track,' " de Leon said.

Graham told the crowd he was touched by their reception. He also said he was impressed by the "international flavor" of the congregation.

"The Gospel is for the whole world," he said. "I want to congratulate this church for its great work."

Later, Graham reiterated that the Anaheim crusade would attract many of the immigrants who have settled in Southern California since his last appearance 16 years ago. He said that most of the people to whom he will preach in the following 10 days were not here in 1969.

"This crusade can be a wonderful factor in uniting the community. It will bring people together under the umbrella of Jesus Christ," he said.

Paid Visit to Translators

Graham later visited with about two dozen translators who will work at the stadium during the 10-night crusade. His sermons will be simultaneously translated into 14 languages, and the club level of the stadium, which accommodates 12,000 people, will be reserved for those who wish to hear the message in a language other than English.

Along with the effort to attract people of many nationalities to the crusade, Graham said he would also focus on youth. The crusade committee, which has worked for a year to stage the event, has involved thousands of teen-agers in the program.

"There's a hunger in this generation for spiritual meaning. They are worried about nuclear war. They are worried about where the world is headed," Graham said.

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