“Just Give Me Jesus. Jesus is all I need. Jesus is the reason I live. Just give me Jesus says it all, that it’s about that personal relationship with Jesus,” said Morris, a Loganville, Ga. woman who, along with her sister, Brenda Ervin, were the first people in line for the two-day revival that started Friday in Augusta.
Thousands of women and a few hundred men filled most of the 8,000-seat James Brown Arena for Augusta’s first Just Give Me Jesus revival. Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of the evangelist Billy Graham, preached her first of three messages on heaven-sent revival.
The revival resumes at 8:30 a.m. today. The free event is part of Lotz’s worldwide series of revivals she has held in a dozen countries since 2000.
The evening began in worship. Babbie Mason opened with God Bless America and brought the crowd to its feet. Singer-songwriter Fernando Ortega led thousands of voices through hymns.
Hundreds of radio stations across the country, including the local WAFJ-FM, aired live broadcasts of the event. For the first time, Just Give Me Jesus was available by simulcast. Congregations from more than 50 churches in the U.S. and Canada tuned in for live streaming video from Augusta.
Dianne Talley and Sherry Rackley flew in from Texas on Thursday. Other groups said they came in from Indiana, Mississippi and Louisiana.
“Almost 20 years ago, I heard her dad speak at a women’s conference,” Talley said. “We sat five hours without moving and we were spellbound.”
Bonnie Mixon and her friend Cindy Waddell said they count themselves lucky to have an event of this caliber in their backyard.
“We’ve been looking forward to this for months,” said Mixon, who attends Historic First Baptist Church of Beech Island. “I’ve had a tough year. I battled breast cancer last year. I spent the morning reading her books and with her CD preparing my heart. I regret I never got to hear her dad speak.”
Mixon expected an emotional night. She packed her Bible, a notebook, pens and a box of tissues.
“We’re after revival,” she said. “We realize we might be the only Jesus some people ever see. We want to have a hope that’s contagious.”
A group of men prayed for just that.
In the hall, men volunteered for shifts as part of a continuous prayer vigil held throughout the revival. Men prayed that participants would come to the cross, that aisles would remain clear so as not to discourage anyone from coming forward, and nearly 50 other specific prayer requests shared by Lotz’s team.
They tried to anticipate every need. Teams prayed for the perfect number of attendees, so that every seat was filled, but that no one was turned away at the door. The team arranged for Spanish- and Chinese-language translation, and signing for the hearing impaired. With the overwhelming number of women expected, men’s bathrooms were temporarily turned into women’s facilities.
When Lotz did issue the invitation to come forward, dozens of counselors were ready and waiting on the floor of the arena to offer individual counsel.
Lotz praised five women in particular for their dedication to the event and every detail. Blanche Conger, B.J. Blackwood, Dianne Burnside, Judy Floyd and Kathryn Tucker, she said, were “ordinary women who have done extraordinary things.” Conger is chair of the local revival team, while the other women served as vice presidents.
At the end of the evening, Lotz invited the crowd down to the cross. Today’s event also includes two invitations to know Jesus.
“You need to bring your sin to the cross that you might be cleansed or you’ll never have peace with God,” she said. “I’m convinced the reason we live in defeat … is because there is sin in the camp, sin in the hearts of God’s people, and it makes us powerless to impact our culture.”
Hundreds responded. They came to the cross hand-in-hand, helping those with weak knees and bad backs down the stairs, and knelt on the floor of the James Brown Arena, as Lotz silently prayed, and then offered this reassurance: “God says you’re forgiven. You’re forgiven. You’re forgiven. You’re forgiven. You’re forgiven. You’re forgiven.”