Growing up in North Carolina, the Billy Graham crusades were on our TV whenever my mother could find him. It was a given, that he appeared regularly as I walked through our den listening to his words of hope and encouragement. It helped that my Aunt, my mother’s sister lives in Montreat and is close to some of the Graham family that eventually I became friends with.
I must admit those young years I took it for granted how his sermons were just a part of our life. Now, they are Biblical orations of wisdom and knowledge that I treasure.
In 1993 I moved to Black Mountain, NC which is directly connected to Montreat where Dr. Graham and his family have lived for decades. I joined the church there that they attended and became friends with Ruth’s nephew and his wife through my Aunt. My daughter played often with their son and we split time between our house and theirs which was the Bell Family home for the children to play.
The home was full of memorabilia and souvenirs from China where Ruth’s parents had been missionaries. Antiques and heirloom furniture that had been handed down filled the house with love and a true sense of family.
If you have the privilege as I did to get to know any of the Graham family, you will find them to be genuine, private and protective. I never once thought it as a celebrity relationship…they were my friends.
Twice before Dr. Graham retired from preaching I heard him preach at the Montreat Evangelical Presbyterian church. This beautiful rock chapel in the heart of Montreat is a sight to behold. Dr. Graham felt very at home there and his words resonated throughout the congregation. Now, I remember them as being 2 of the most historical times in my life. I also heard Franklin preach their once. I was also able to hear one of the last times George Beverly Shea sang “How Great Thou Art” before he passed away.
One Sunday morning after that, I sat in a pew at the 11 o’clock service by myself by the window. Suddenly beside me was Ruth Graham. She had wheeled herself in by her wheelchair and parked right next to me. We had a nice chat as if we had known each other for quite some time.
I worked for 12 years at the local Chamber of Commerce. Tourists came from all over the country to visit the home of Dr. Billy Graham. It was always a disappointment to them when we had to tell them going to his house was not possible. Some would actually get angry they had traveled 1000 miles only to find out they were not allowed near his estate. Unfortunately, the way of the world and its threatening situations had forced the family to acquire necessary security measures for them to remain there.
As the news spread that Dr. Graham had passed away, my heart flooded with memories and thoughts of how this man has touched my life even though I never met him personally.
His simple message of God giving us salvation through Jesus kept me believing when times have been hard and difficult. His presence on this earth and in an area very close to my heart that I don’t live in anymore, always gave me a sense of feeling protected. Maybe it’s because I know God protected that man and his family with supernatural guardianship and countless angels. Those blessings of protection seem to flow outward to those of us who listened to him and know Jesus.
Maybe it’s more of the personal connection that I have to Dr. Graham and his family that has had the most profound effect on me. The truth of their honest, unpretentious and unaffected lives they have lived is a testimony in itself.
And now it’s time for the mantle he carried to spread over this earth for a much needed conversion revival.
What Dr. Graham has preached, his family lives.
Dr. Graham’s words are their heart and soul.
His steadfast faith and love for God is the cornerstone of the Graham family.
They are the real thing.
“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.”
Reverend Billy Graham