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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 12:01 pm

From 1999: Billy Graham, Christian rock groups pray, play for teens at RCA Dome

LESLEY STEDMAN | The Journal Gazette

This story originally appeared in The Journal Gazette on June 6, 1999:

It had the makings of a typical RCA Dome concert -- tens of thousands of teens in jeans, shorts and hats turned backwards screaming, dancing and clapping to rock bands.

A massive stage dripping with booming speakers and long lines for drinks and the bathroom. A few adult chaperones scattered throughout the crowd. Enthusiastic kids crowding the stage.

But the event Saturday night in Indianapolis was no typical concert -- it was teen night at the Billy Graham Crusade. The show started with a prayer, included the passing of an offering plate, and climaxed with a message from the legendary evangelist.

In between, three award-winning Christian rock bands entertained kids who came from across the state and the Midwest.

Sixteen-year-old John Conner and more than 40 friends from Calvary Temple Youth Ministry in Fort Wayne sat at the back of the lower section of the dome.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,'' Conner said.

"I came to see a lot of people moved to see God.''

His older sister, Amy Conner, a recent Purdue University graduate, helped chaperone the group. She said she came "to see young peoples' lives changed by the glory of God.''

They were moved by songs from Grammy nominees Anointed and Audio Adrenaline and Grammy winner Michael W. Smith.

"Sister, let me encourage your heart

"Brother, leave doubt behind, stay your part

"Know that He's with you, yes He's there all the time,'' sang Anointed to the swaying, clapping audience.

Sonya Reinoehl of Angola said she came to hear Audio Adrenaline, who performed six songs including "Free Ride'' and "Walk on Water.''

The five-member all-male band played driving rock that pumped the crowd into a frenzy. The lead singer demanded response from the crowd, calling on them to clap and sing back to the stage.

Sonya, 15, was part of a hastily organized group of about a dozen kids from Fairview Missionary Church who made the three-hour drive to Indianapolis for the part of the crusade dedicated to youth.

Younger kids attended an 11 a.m. event at the dome, although Graham didn't speak there. The night's "Concert for the Next Generation'' was designed for teen-agers. But it wasn't just the music that brought Reinoehl and other teens to the dome Saturday. They also came to see Graham, a man most had only seen on television.

"I just wanted to hear him,'' said Alison Ziegler, 15, of Angola, before the concert began.

She said she was expecting "something awesome.''

Alison and her friends fought the crowds in the dome's outer hall, checked out the religious material for sale at tables, and found seats in the lower level.

Other kids and parents were relegated to seats on the upper level, but big screens ensured they could see the action.

"This place is full of believers,'' said Lara Spitler, 14, who came with her youth group from Greenwood. "It's really something to see.''