Dr. Billy Graham had a profound influence on millions of lives; including mine. I can still remember my first experience going to a Billy Graham crusade. It was 1976 and I was living in Bellingham, Washington, attending Western Washington University. Another student and I decided to hitchhike from Bellingham to Seattle to attend. Billy Graham planted a huge seed in my life that night. In 1981, after my deep encounter with Jesus, I encouraged others that I had led to Christ to accompany me to the Billy Graham crusade at Rice University, here in Houston, TX. I knew how the Lord had used Billy Graham in my life, and I was expectant that he was going to do the same in lives of the people I invited.
I also remember being invited to attend a Billy Graham youth crusade in Dallas, TX. It was during a time I was working with Lou Engle on one of The Call prayer assemblies. Although it was rainy outside, that didn’t stop the crowds from pouring in; in fact, they were overflowing. At the same time as I was taken backstage, Dr. Graham pulled up in a golf cart. For a brief moment, time seemed to pause as I stood within two feet of this man of God. He got off the golf cart, smiled, and greeted us. Although I have never been enamored with any celebrity, I was moved by this significant moment. I recognized the presence of the Lord in a man who had devoted his whole life to lifting up only one name, the name of Jesus. In that moment, there was a tangible sense of the ministry of presence and of the legacy of this man. Although the Dallas crusade was supposed to be his last, the response so invigorated him that he went on to do about five more.
Subsequently, I have had the opportunity to have personal tours at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC, and have helped facilitate leadership training at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, NC. Each time I have been reminded of the consistency of the message and the messenger. Billy and Ruth Graham both lived lives faithful to the Lord before entering the portals of eternity. Their lives have left a lasting legacy for generations to come, if the Lord should tarry.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Graham family and the ministries they steward as they intimately feel the loss of this giant of the faith, yet humble servant of God.