He ministered to others; but who ministered to him?
We do not lose heart when we hear of the passing of a life who has been a source of hope and strength to the body of Christ. “We do not mourn as those who have no hope” because, for us, death is but a door into something greater. Jesus died to give us victory over sin and death and now the latter remains only a passageway into a New Life – one lived fully in the Presence of our King.
In honour of his sacrificial life and contribution to the body of Christ, today, we share the story of Evangelist Billy Graham’s Salvation — the single event that began his journey to becoming the great general we now know and appreciate him to have been.
Most accounts tell us that Dr. Graham was converted during a meeting conducted by Dr. Mordecai Ham in Charlotte, N.C., in 1934. Billy Graham himself has told the story of his conversion on numerous publications, but many do not know that a group of laymen, including W.F. Graham, Billy’s father, and T.W. Wilson, Sr., father of Graham’s associate evangelist, Grady, promoted the campaign.
When an evangelist named Dr. Ham came to Charlotte to preach at what would become an 11-week crusade, Billy was uninterested in attending the meeting but did eventually out of growing curiousity and an invitation from a friend named Albert McMakin. Dr. Ham’s version, as confirmed by Billy’s father and by Grady Wilson, adds a few interesting details.
Dr. Ham relates: “Two young high school boys attended our meeting. They thought that everything I said was directed their way; so they decided to take seats in the choir, where I couldn’t point my finger at them. They didn’t pretend to be singers, but they wanted to be behind me.”
Grady Wilson agreed, “Neither of us could sing.”
Dr. Ham continues, “One night a man spoke to them during the invitation and said, ‘Come on; let’s go up front.’ Billy and Grady both went to the altar. Billy was saved, and Grady dedicated his life to Christian service.”
In telling of his experience later, Billy recalls how, on first attending the services of our meeting, he was impressed with the crowd. He had never seen such a crowd, nor such a big preacher … and fighter … and soon had all he wanted. Billy didn’t like being told that he was lost and going to hell.
He got out as soon as he could and said, “I am through,” but he was miserable all night and all the next day and admits, “I couldn’t get there soon enough the next night!”
In Billy Graham’s thinking, at that time, his hero was Babe Ruth. So far as he was concerned, nobody ever attended revivals like ours except a lot of old, effeminate men and crazy women and children. Our meeting changed his hero from Babe Ruth to Jesus Christ.
I recall I told Billy and Grady, after they came forward, to sit in the preachers’ section. Billy sat there for two months. The Lord seemed to be directing in everything, and what took place during the meeting didn’t seem to have an earthly explanation!
That night, he repented of his sins and prayed to receive Christ. And although he felt no great emotion, he knew he was a new person. His mother, Morrow Coffey Graham, recalled later that when she arrived home from the meeting that night, Billy threw his arms around her and said, “Mother, I’m a changed boy!”
In the months that followed, Billy grew in faith and began, sometimes shyly, to share his faith with others. Once, an evangelist named Jimmie Johnson stayed at the Graham home while in Charlotte, and Billy accompanied him to an evangelistic meeting at a jail. Johnson asked Billy to speak to the prisoners for a few minutes, introducing him as “a fellow who’ll tell you what it’s like to be converted.” The prisoners looked uninterested as Billy spoke, leading him to think he would never be a preacher.
Dr. Graham came to know the Lord a few weeks to his 16th birthday. That was more than 80 years ago, and he spent more than half that time sharing the Truth with millions. Hopefully, this testimony encourages you
(Credit: The above adaptation is based on renditions from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website billygraham.org both published in October 2009)
Image credits: CNC3
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