Joel and Victoria Osteen will hold their sixth annual America’s Night of Hope at Yankee Stadium on June 7, 2014, an evening of hope and inspiration expected to draw more than 55,000 people from across the country.
This is the second America’s Night of Hope to be hosted at Yankee Stadium. The first was on April 25, 2009—nine days after the new ballpark opened—and was the first non-baseball event held at the venue. These annual stadium-sized events have also been held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles (2010), U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago (2011), Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. (2012), and Marlins Park in Miami (2013).
“Victoria and I love the people of New York,” Osteen says. “We’re excited to be at Yankee Stadium again, and we believe people will be uplifted and filled with an expectation that their best days are still to come.”
As a part of the activities surrounding America’s Night of Hope, Joel Osteen Ministries will reach into New York City’s local communities with hundreds of volunteers—many from Houston—in order to bring hope through acts of kindness and compassion.
Known as the Generation Hope Project, this effort is a major part of the America’s Night of Hope event and, since 2012, has already provided thousands of volunteer hours of service through work projects at schools, parks and community centers in Washington, D.C., and Miami, Fla.
This year’s Generation Hope Project will focus on mentoring, developing one-to-one relationships in which one person fosters the personal and professional growth of someone else. Volunteers will have an opportunity to work with young people who need strong adult role models.
On Saturday, tens of thousands will gather at Marlins Park in Miami for “America’s Night of Hope” with Joel and Victoria Osteen.
Miami was selected from among several finalist cities for the annual signature stadium event, which will draw tens of thousands from across the nation for an evening of celebration and hope. This year marks the fifth annual event, with prior events being held at Yankee Stadium, Dodger Stadium, U.S. Cellular Field and Nationals Park last year.
Over 100,000 fill arenas and stadiums across America annually, and millions more tune in from around the world to hear Pastor Joel and Victoria Osteen—voices of hope for a new generation.
“We are pleased to welcome Pastors Joel and Victoria Osteen and ‘America’s Night of Hope’ to Miami,” Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado says. “We pray not only will attendees find uplifting hope and unity in the message they hear that evening and throughout the week with the Generation Hope Project, but that visitors will enjoy the many cultural tastes and sounds of Miami.”
“Victoria and I love the people of Miami,” Pastor Joel Osteen comments. “We’re excited to come to this beautiful city again and bring our signature event here. I believe people will be uplifted and filled with an expectation that their best days are still out in front of them.”
During the two days prior to the event, Generation Hope Project will bring together young adults who are passionate about making an impact. Generation Hope Project seeks to change circumstances of despair and disappointment through acts of kindness and compassion. Through Joel Osteen Ministries’ efforts, these young adults will contribute their time as volunteers to organizations throughout Miami-Dade communities.
Baseball and ministry. The connection between the two may not seem like a home run until you take a closer look at the life of Billy Graham.
Mr. Graham has been intertwined with the national pastime since he was a kid, playing ball on his family’s dairy farm.
That is, when he wasn’t busy milking the cows.
So as Major League Baseball opens its 2013 season, what better time to look back at how the game of baseball played a surprisingly key role in shaping the ministry of Billy Graham.
Dreaming of Playing Pro
Chores were Billy’s main priority growing up around the farm, but a close second was playing baseball, or as Billy called it “pitching ball.”
Pitching ball usually happened “at lunchtime and in the evenings after chores with the husky McMakin boys—Albert, Wilson and especially Bill,” Billy Graham explained in his book “Just As I Am.”
Baseball was a vehicle for Billy to connect with the neighbor kids and opened the door to a close friendship with Bill, who became his closest friend.
At one point, Billy Graham had dreamed of playing baseball professionally, sparked by reportedly meeting Babe Ruth during one of his “Barnstorming Tours,” which were very popular during Graham’s youth.
“But the talent for baseball obviously was not there,” he said about himself.
Billy Graham barely made the Sharon High School baseball team, playing only as a substitute, when someone else was sick.
“It turned out I was a fairly good fielder because of my long reach,” he said. “I was not a good hitter, though. I batted from the left side of the plate, cross-handed somehow, the same way I later played golf.”
But he did remember one quirky highlight from his high school years.
“I did make it into the Charlotte Observer once, though, playing basketball for Sharon High School,” he said. “I got into the game as a sub and somehow my name made it into a sports column.”
It was the early 1920s and the legend of Billy Sunday was coming to town.
Graham was five years old. He didn’t know much about Sunday, who was around 60 at the time, or his ministry, which was at its peak, but he did know that Sunday used to play baseball.
Sunday was popular. Not the best hitter, but his great speed, dazzling outfield catches and base-stealing excitement (246 steals in 9 seasons) made him one of the game’s most likeable players.
But now, Sunday was using his fame for the Lord and Graham’s father wanted to take him to hear Sunday preach.
“I was overwhelmed by the huge crowd,” Billy Graham recalled, “and properly subdued by my father’s warning to keep quiet during the service lest the preacher call out my name and have me arrested by a policeman.”
Sunday’s ministry made a powerful impact on a man named Mordecai Ham. And in 1934, Billy Graham was later saved at a Moredcai Ham meeting in Charlotte, N.C.
A Father-in-Law’s Influence
Dr. L. Nelson Bell, father of Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth, had a promising baseball future, starting in college at Washington and Lee.
But Dr. Bell gave up a chance to play professional ball – the Baltimore Orioles reportedly wanted to sign him – to become a medical missionary in China, where Ruth was raised and gained her worldview.
After 25 years of work in east Asia, Bell and his wife, Virginia, moved across the street from Billy and Ruth in Montreat, N.C., and had a strong influence on Billy Graham’s ministry.
Yankee Stadium (1957)
The date was July 20, 1957. The temperature at Yankees Stadium was 93 degrees.
One of the most memorable Billy Graham Crusades was held in one of the most historic and iconic baseball stadiums of the 20th century.
Even Vice President Richard Nixon came that night, sitting on the platform and extending greetings from President Eisenhower.
“That was the first time a national political leader of his prominence had attended one of our Crusades,” Graham said.
The stadium was packed. A record crowd of 100,000 people shoe-horned inside, with another 20,000 outside who couldn’t get in, increasing the temperature of the historic event. And it highlighted a 16-week nightly crusade at Madison Square Garden.
“The heat was fierce,” Graham remembers.
“105 degrees on the platform and how anyone, including me, managed to concentrate is still beyond my imagination.”
Camden Yards (2006)
Baseball marked another historic moment in Billy Graham’s history as his final public speaking event happened at Baltimore’s Camden Yards on July 7, 2006.
Franklin Graham spoke all three days at the Metro Maryland Festival and on the final night, over 35,000 came to Camden Yards, where Billy Graham also preached.
The Orioles were in a rebuilding year, finishing 70-92 and Billy couldn’t pass up an opportunity to connect with the home-team crowd about the team.
“From what I read, they need our prayers,” he said.
Speaking first, Romney repeatedly underlined that he doesn’t drink alcohol, quipping that he’s usually invited to functions to be “the designated driver,” and that Catholic Cardinal Dolan would signal his displeasure by turning Obama’s wine into water — or the former Massachusetts governor‘s water into wine.
Addressing the crowd in the customary black tuxedo and white bow tie, Romney joked that “it’s nice to finally relax and wear what Ann and I wear around the house.”
Two of the Republican’s best lines came at the expense of the press, which many of his supporters see as biased in Obama’s favor. Romney denied accusing reporters of bias and observed each side has its role to play: “My job is to lay out a positive vision for the future of the country. And their job is to make sure nobody else finds about it.” He also quipped that early headlines from the dinner read: “Obama embraced by Catholics; Romney dines with rich people.”
Taking aim at New York GovernorAndrew Cuomo, Romney noted that the Democrat was “impressive” and already being floated as a possible future presidential nominee.
“He may be getting a little ahead of himself,” Romney said. “I mean let me get this straight, the man has put in one term as a governor, he has a father who happened to be a governor, and he thinks that’s enough to run for president?” That drew laughs from an audience familiar with Romney’s résumé.
Campaigns are hard, Romney said, and he and Obama “are each very lucky to have one person who’s always in our corner, someone who we can lean on, and someone who’s a comforting presence without whom we wouldn’t be able to go another day. I have my beautiful wife, Ann. He has Bill Clinton.”
“I was actually hoping the president would bring Joe Biden along this evening — ’cause he will laugh at anything,” Romney said, referring to the vice president’s debate performance against Paul Ryan. Looking at his own first debate with Obama, Romney offered to detail how he had prepared.
“First, refrain from alcohol for 65 years before the debate. Second, find the biggest available straw man, and then just mercilessly attack him. Big Bird didn’t even see it coming.”
Romney took more than a few shots at Obama. He joked that the president, eyeing their wealthy audience at the post Waldorf-Astoria hotel, was probably thinking “so little time, so much to redistribute.” And he mocked Obama’s “you didn’t built that” campaign flub, saying that St Peter defied “so many skeptics and scoffers at the time who were heard to say, ‘If you got a church, you didn’t build that.’ ”
Obama opened by urging “Everyone, please take your seats — otherwise Clint Eastwood will yell at them.” His routine was more self-deprecating than Romney’s, but he gave as good as he got.
“As some of you may have noticed, I had a lot more energy at our second debate. I felt really well rested after the nice, long nap I had in the first debate,” Obama said. “Although it turns out millions of Americans focused in on the second debate who didn’t focus in on the first debate — and I happened to be one of them.”
“I learned that there are worse things that can happen to you on your anniversary than forgetting to buy a gift,” said the president, a reference to the first debate falling on his wedding anniversary.
Obama turned a different Cuomo joke, saying that he was glad to be “with a man whose father was a popular governor, and who knows what it’s like to run a major Northeastern state, and who could very well be president someday — and I’m hoping it is Andrew Cuomo.”
“Earlier today, I went shopping at some stores in Midtown. I understand Governor Romney went shopping for some stores in Midtown,” Obama said.
Making his own “you didn’t build that” reference, Obama joked that while in college at Columbia University he “loved to go to old Yankee Stadium, the house that Ruth built — although he really did not build that.”
Looking back at his history-making 2008 run for the White House, Obama said: “I have to admit some things have changed since then.”
“I’ve heard some people say, “Barack, you’re not as young as you used to be. Where’s that golden smile? Where’s that pep in your step?” And I say, ‘Settle down, Joe, I’m trying to run a Cabinet meeting,'” the president joked.
“Sometimes it feels like this race has dragged on forever. But Paul Ryan assured me that we’ve only been running for two hours and 50-something minutes,” the president said, in a reference to Ryan misstating his marathon time.
“Of course, the economy is on everybody’s minds. The unemployment rate is at its lowest level since I took office. I don’t have a joke here. I just thought it would be useful to remind everybody that the unemployment rate is at the lowest it’s been since I took office,” the president said.
And he got in a shot at Romney’s gaffe-plagued overseas trip earlier this year.
“Some of you guys remember, after my foreign trip in 2008, I was attacked as a celebrity because I was so popular with our allies overseas. And I have to say, I’m impressed with how well Governor Romney has avoided that problem,” Obama said.