Franklin Graham’s Frontera Tour comes to Tucson, Yuma

By Johanna Willett | Apr 1, 2024

Franklin Graham shares the gospel at the Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium in Tucson on March 5 as part of the God Loves You Frontera Tour. About 11,600 people attended. Photo courtesy of Amanda McCarty / prayer partner from Mountain View Baptist Church.

Over the course of two nights in early March, more than 1,000 people in Tucson and Yuma made decisions for Christ.

On March 5 and March 7, Franklin Graham’s God Loves You Frontera Tour made stops in both Arizona cities, sharing the gospel in English and Spanish. The free event packed out a Tucson ball field and Yuma fairgrounds with 11,600 and 7,600 people, respectively, according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).

Yuma and Tucson were part of Graham’s 10-city tour along the U.S.-Mexico border. In addition to a gospel presentation, the event also included musical performances by Marcos Witt, Taya, Dennis Agajanian and in Tucson, Jeremy Camp.

Hundreds go forward to make decisions for Christ at the God Loves You Frontera Tour in Tucson on March 5. Photo by Johanna Willett

“It’s a big deal for Yuma, because in Yuma very rarely do big things like this that are so excellent and well done happen,” said Josue Castro, pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Tierra Fertil in Yuma. He also pointed out that in a city known for its historic prison, the God Loves You Tour brought freedom.

In Yuma there were more than 300 decisions, and in Tucson more than 700, said Steve Rhoads, BGEA vice president. Decisions included both first-time commitments to Jesus as well as rededications.

Tierra Fertil was one of more than 250 churches in both cities that worked alongside the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to prepare for the tour, Rhoads said.

Prayer team members from Mountain View Baptist Church in Tucson join others at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium to prepare to pray with those who would receive Christ at the God Loves You Frontera Tour in Tucson. Photo courtesy of Amanda McCarty / prayer partner from Mountain View Baptist Church.

“The most important thing we can do is know the Church,” he added. “This tour is not dependent on billboards and radio. … The key to evangelism is the relationships that Christians have with their neighbors, and it’s important that the Church be in the center of that.”

A number of Arizona Mission Network churches participated, whether through promoting the event, sending volunteers or hosting or participating in smaller events in support of the tour.

“This allowed local churches and smaller churches to link up,” said Paul Pyle, senior pastor at Mountain View Baptist Church in Tucson. “It was an opportunity for everyone to come be part of this.”

In the months leading up to the event, monthly prayer dinners for church leaders and pastors cultivated increased unity.

“I think it helped bring our churches together and closer,” Pyle said.

Thousands of people gather at the Yuma County Fairgrounds for the God Loves You Frontera Tour on Thursday, March 7. Photo courtesy of Tierra Fertil

Both Tierra Fertil and Mountain View hosted a Christian Life and Witness Course prior to the event. This evangelism class, offered by BGEA staff in both English and Spanish, prepared volunteers to serve on the prayer team the night of the event. Pyle estimated about 15 people from Mountain View volunteered as prayer team members.

Tierra Fertil sent about 100 volunteers, helping in a variety of roles, from the parking lot to the prayer team, said Castro, who is also the Hispanic ministries facilitator for the Arizona Mission Network. The church will also be offering discipleship classes for individuals who accepted Christ at the event.

Rick Huff, a retired pastor and member of Oasis Church in Rita Ranch in Tucson, began attending the dinners for church leaders months ago. He and his wife also took the course to serve as prayer team members. Huff said he was saved at a similar, outdoor event in Tucson years ago. So when he heard Franklin Graham was coming to Arizona, he jumped at the opportunity to get involved.

“There was an electricity for Jesus, a fervency for Jesus …” he said of the event. “You saw a lot of people with arms raised and eyes close. They were oblivious. They were there for the Lord.”

Johanna Willett, a freelance writer living in Tucson, is a member of Mountain View Baptist Church, Tucson.

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