The Franklin Graham Festival kicks off

By: Mike McCarthy
By: Mike McCarthy

Knoxville (WVLT) - Thousands of East Tennessee Christians re-charged their religious beliefs Friday night. The East Tennessee Franklin Graham Festival kicked off at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The evangelical event's brought a weekend-full of worship.

Volunteer TV's Mike McCarthy was there.

Franklin Graham is the son of the Reverend Billy Graham. The elder Graham brought his famed crusade to Knoxville in 1970. Now his son's Christian festival brought more rock and roll to town, but the mission to save souls hasn't changed.

Chris Leuck wasn't always a smiling, willing worshiper.

"I was not a believer. I grew up in Church and I was not a Christian," Leuck said.

But UT Senior's spiritual search's led him to tonight's East Tennessee Franklin Graham Festival. The kick off to worship-filled weekend at Thompson-Boling Arena.

"My freshman year of high school was the first time I saw what the world offered me in terms of drinking, smoking pot, and girls," Leuck said.

A temptation trio that he followed for eight years. That eventually brought him to his knees... physically...and spiritually.

"In that moment God opened me a new heart," Leuck said. "I woke up the next day, and I was transformed. It was a very powerful transformation."

It's the a transformation John Smith wants to give others.

"This is for eternity. It's a decision that's made for eternity," Smith said.

Bible-at-the-ready...he's one of the Christian event's 12-00 trained faith counselors.

"It'll make a difference in people's lives. They can realize peace they never have without that," Smith said.

The peace Scott Briggs experienced when Franklin's father, the legendary Billy Graham, came to Knoxville in the 1970.

"It's hard to put into into words, you're just filled with the spirit," festival goer Scott Briggs said.

Now he's back for another, religious re-charge.

Leuck says it's events like this, surrounded by thousands of believers, that fuel his faith.

"Because as Christians, what are we hear for? So other people may be saved," Leuck said.

Leuck says that salvation shows the power of God.

"His grace and mercy...if it's enough for me, it's enough for everyone in this place," Leuck said.

And enough to keep him ready to worship.

Leuck says after graduation he'll stay at UT. Not as a student, but as part of the campus ministry for fraternities and sororities.

The Franklin Graham Festival runs through Sunday. It is free.

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