America for Jesus
Since 1980, a combined 2 million-plus people have interceded at America for Jesus and Washington for Jesus gatherings (© Jon Hamill)

As in previous election years, a solemn assembly—this time in Philadelphia on Sept. 28-29—could be a turning point for a nation in critical condition

On April 29, 1980, John and I woke up in our darkened hotel room at approximately 5 a.m. The day for which we had been waiting nearly two years finally had arrived. As we hastily began to dress for the day on the Mall in Washington D.C., John quietly said, “Anne, I don’t know if anyone will be there but us.” I encouragingly responded, “Well let’s go, we will be there!”

Still dark when we arrived, thousands were pouring onto the mall from the subway system. By that afternoon, nearly 700,000 believers had gathered to pray for America.

On April 29, 1980, Washington for Jesus became an unprecedented historic gathering of the church in response to a national crisis that many historians point to as a turning point for the nation. Many credit the massive gathering of prayer for influencing the presidential election that sent Ronald Reagan to the White House and birthed a national movement. It all began as a simple prophetic word given to my late husband, Bishop John Gimenez.

John had been in Oakland, Calif., in October 1978. While he was preaching one night, he had a vision of a man he couldn’t recognize—but knew to be the president of the United States—prophesying the Word of the Lord to the nation! The words of 1 Samuel 17:29 kept ringing in his heart, “Is there not a cause?”

Just like David brought down Goliath, God showed John that the church also had a cause and a giant to bring down. Other enemies had arisen in the land—double-digit interest rates, American hostages in Iran and rioting on college campuses—all seeking to destroy a nation that had been based on the Word of God. America was in deep trouble!

The first thing John did when we came home to Virginia Beach, Va., was to visit Pat Robertson and lay out the vision. Robertson answered, “We’d need to get 100 churches to each bring 100 people. And by the way John, how would you feed that big of a crowd?” John had the answer ready: “Let ‘em fast!”

Next he went to see Demos Shakarian, president of Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International—who quickly confirmed the vision—and the rally was on! People were stirred about the condition of America, and it gave them hope that something could be done.

Robertson and Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ were chosen as program co-chairmen, with John serving as the national chairman. In a time with no Internet or cellphones, John traveled continuously from one side of America to the other gathering support for Washington for Jesus. We began to believe that perhaps 1 million Christians would come to the nation’s capital on April 29 to pray in the spirit of 2 Chronicles 7:14 (“If My people ...”).

That day was specifically chosen for its historical significance. It was the anniversary of the 1607 planting of the cross by Rev. Robert Hunt, chaplain of Jamestown, Va., in dedication of the country’s first settlement.

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