By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
HOUMA – Scott Smith was a 13-year-old boy when he sat down with his mother, Penny, to watch a Billy Graham crusade on TV from inside the family’s living room in suburban New Orleans in August 1976.
When the famous evangelist invited those inside the stadium in San Diego, Calif., and for TV viewers to accept Jesus — with the iconic song “Just As I Am” playing in the background — Smith knew he needed to say, “Yes,” to Jesus.
“The Holy Spirit spoke to me and I realized I was lost,” said Smith, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Tullos since 2007. “When they were showing the invitation at the end asking people to give their life to Christ, I did.”
The following Sunday, Smith walked across the street to the First Baptist Church in Houma for his baptism. Eight years later, while attending the First Baptist Church in Oloh, Mississippi, Smith accepted the Holy Spirit’s call to vocational ministry, subsequently serving as youth minister and pastor of several churches in Mississippi and Louisiana.
Smith never forgot the day he watched Graham on TV and hoped one day he would have the chance to meet the evangelist in person.
That encounter came just months after Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans area, where he was serving as pastor of the Highland Baptist Church in Metairie. During a meeting with pastors before a March 2006 Celebration of Hope event in the New Orleans Arena, Smith visited with Graham and his entire team as they prepared to reach the city in need of healing.
“It was one of the highlights of my time in New Orleans as pastor, and of my entire life,” Smith said. “I could remember vividly sitting there watching Billy Graham and that moment the Lord saved me. To meet him and be a part of that crusade after all we had gone through was just an awesome experience.”