Billy Graham Remembered

Let’s take a walk back to the 1970’s. It was always a special time when the Billy Graham Crusades would come on television. This happened in the evenings. We’d barely get the supper dishes washed, dried, and put away before our family rushed into the living room to settle in for this event.

We could hear the choir singing from a distance as daddy had already gone to the den to get the TV turned on. I remember sitting in school that day, looking forward to that night when the Billy Graham Crusade would come on. It was a guaranteed and pleasant family gathering.

By the time these memories were being made in our home, each member had already invited Jesus to come to live in their heart. This was just a celebration of our Christian life, coming through a box on the only choice back then…a network channel. The sense that others might be watching in their dens too added to the excitement. As a matter of fact, I felt sorry for people who might not be experiencing this.


There was a faithful gathering of worshippers that Cliff Barrows had assembled to bring the gospel in song. Ethel Waters stirred my heart with, His Eye is on the Sparrow. My soul hung on every croon as she sold her song to the world. Based on the way she sang that song, she knew Jesus was watching her! These were words of comfort to an anxious heart like mine. I longed to know that Jesus really was watching me.

Sometimes it was Evie Tornquist with her intrinsic cheer singing, Live for Jesus. Most every crusade, George Beverly Shea sang one of his songs. He wrote many. But I’d Rather Have Jesus is the one that stuck with me. Pondering the lyrics “sins dread sway” touched my heart deeply as I wondered who in the world was caught in that dreadful place.

Later, when Billy Graham talked to us at invitation time, I understood better who that might be as he extended an invitation to those in bars that were watching the crusade.As time passed in my faith journey, I realized all of us are caught in that sway.

This past week, the Facebook feed has been covered in Billy Graham video. It’s heartwarming and mind-boggling what God did through the man. Have you seen interviews of he and his wife, Ruth? That lady was filled with joy, a wellspring of support and love for her husband. Yet true to herself, witty, gracious, and fully relying on God. Her impact immeasurable. He adored her.

Our den was home to this televised memory a number of times in my childhood. Throughout my adult life, long after the crusades faded away, my admiration and love for Billy Graham remained. I often wondered what the day would be like in this world when he passed away. It was as dignified as the Lord God planned it.

My first impression the day he went to heaven was how easy it was to identify the reporters that might have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. They talked of Billy Graham as one they embraced. They spoke of his ministry not so much as a mystery, but as a master plan of God’s. As I watched the news, many reporters unwittingly gave the plan of salvation just in speaking about Graham’s life. This defined him and was his life purpose.
Each member of the televised crusades lived faithful lives unto Jesus. Not a known scandal in the ministry. Comrades in the faith, unity binding them all together. No wonder our Lord spoke of unity so much. These were the hallmarks of the success each had collectively and individually for the Kingdom. Now, each is together again in the Home they spoke of and longed for.
People all over are still looking for what Billy Graham championed. Jesus is alive and if you are one of His followers, you can tell the world about Him.

Recently, at a hotel stay, a maid in the hallway cried out, “Jesus!”. She seemed exhausted and just plain worn out. I gently responded to her by saying, “we love Jesus.” Instantly, her demeanor changed. Perhaps she realized she may have misused that precious and holy name. We gave her a Steps to Peace with God tract and a big tip and encouraged her to find the Jesus she had called to.
There will only be one Billy Graham, but there are millions of Jesus followers. Let’s leave our own legacy of living a faithful, uncompromising life. Let’s be the ones ready to share the gospel with the world.

©Valerie Rumfelt

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