Taking a moment to remember Billy Graham

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(Note: My personal memories of this great man of God, are colored by the privilege I had of visiting with Billy’s mother, Morrow Graham, at the parental home in Montreat, North Carolina, and working with her to write the memories of her son. The book, “They Call Me Mother Graham,” was published in 1977 by the Fleming H. Revell Company. I met and came to know other members of the family at that time; and also wrote the book “Transformed: Behind the Scenes with Billy Graham, the Story of the Anaheim Crusade,” published in 1970 by Tyndale Publishing House. These are special memories.)

Today, the Billy Graham Library is located in the Graham family home which was moved, along with the barn where Billy milked cows with his father and brother, to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association building site in Montreat, North Carolina. It was in this home where I met with Billy’s mother in 1976.

The home was shown on TV recently, where the body of Billy lay in repose for two days for visitors to pay their respects. It was a lovely home and Mrs. Graham told me the story of how the property was acquired.

“My husband, Frank, inherited a 300-acre farm after his parents died. Actually, it was all that was left of the Graham family estate after the ravages of the Civil War. He brought me here following our wedding and honeymoon.”

She reminisced about Billy’s birth on Nov. 7, 1918, four days before what was to become memorialized as Armistice Day, the end of World War I. She described how it was when Billy and his two sisters and one brother were growing up in that home.

Billy often spoke of the influence of his parents and their family life.

“Of all the people I have ever known, my mother had the greatest influence on me. I am sure one reason that the Lord has directed and safeguarded me, as well as Ruth and the children, through the years was the prayers of my mother and father.”

Mrs. Graham wrote, “I certainly never thought that one of our children would become a Christian leader, recognized worldwide, when we, as a family, knelt to pray and when we gathered together every evening to read the Bible. The Lord has done so much for Billy. We recognize that, but God wants to do the same for each of us. God is no respecter of persons.”

The accolades heaped upon Billy Graham throughout his life were many. So how can one do justice to this amazing man? I am at a loss for expressing the esteem and love due him.

Called by many “America’s pastor,” others said he was the greatest man who ever lived. Billy himself graciously accepted these many well-deserved comments, but humble man that he was, he turned every statement into an opportunity to point to his calling to be an evangelist, a spokesman for God. He would say, “It was Christ who saved us, who loves us, read the Bible – learn about Him… I want to win as many people as I can to Him because God told us to do that.”

He would hold the Bible aloft in his hand and, as his mother said, “I have watched as he holds up the Bible and says, ‘The Bible says…’ That is an expression he uses often. I am thankful Billy Frank heard it in our home.”

He spoke of God igniting a flame in his heart after walking down the aisle as a teenager at a Mordecai Ham evangelistic tent meeting in his hometown of Montreat, North Carolina, a flame that was to grow throughout his lifetime. His mother recalled the youthful Billy.

“We were dairy farmers and my husband worked hard at establishing a milk route. When Billy Frank and his brother, Melvin, were teenagers, they got up at 2:30 in the morning and were milking as many as seventy cows. It was a hard life – getting up early, eating breakfast, and then going off to school.”

Of those experiences, Billy often said that the first thing he was going to do after he got to heaven was to ask, “Why me Lord? Why did you choose a farmboy from North Carolina to preach to so many people, to have such a wonderful team of associates, and to have a part in what you were doing…”

He answered that:, “I have thought about that question a great deal, but I know also that only God knows the answer, ‘Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.’”

He was quoting from the Bible, I Corinthians 13:12.

And now He is in heaven where he is seeing the One he so faithfully served around the world. I will conclude with his tribute: “One of the joys of Heaven, I am convinced, will be discovering the hidden ways that God in His sovereignty acted in our lives on earth to protect us and guide us so as to bring glory to His name, in spite of our frailty.

“As I look back over the years, however, I know that my deepest feeling is one of everlasting gratitude. I cannot take credit for whatever God has chosen to accomplish through us and our ministry; only God deserves the glory, and we can never thank Him enough for the great things He has done.”

A video in his last years records him saying, “One of these days you are going to hear Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe it. I will just have changed my address. I am going to Heaven to meet Jesus, family, friends, and those who invited Him into their hearts… We will live forever…”

Thank you, Father, for giving us Jesus who made the way for Billy and each of us who responds to what He accomplished for us.

  1. That was a very moving remembrance, Charley. Thank you.

    The most unforgettable event of my entire life was experiencing one of his sermons in person.

  2. That was a very moving remembrance, Charley. Thank you.

    The most unforgettable event of my entire life was experiencing one of his sermons in person.

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