Evangelist Billy Graham passed away last week. Billy Graham’s ministry has had a big impact on my life. I have been blessed over the years from reading his books, watching him on television and attending his crusades. I have been watching television and social media sites about his life this past week. Extraordinary human being Billy Graham was. Listening to his family talk about him has really been interesting. He was daddy to them, and a humble person.
His message was simple and the same. “The Bible says” was his catch phrase. But he won over audiences worldwide with his friendliness, openness, humility and his strong conviction of following Christ. His message was clear. Confess your sins and follow Jesus. They say he preached to over 250 million people in person. I was one of those 250 million people. I attended his crusade in Fargo in 1987 and again at the Metrodome in 1996. 350,000 people attended the Metrodome crusade that week in June.
My first recollection of Billy Graham was watching him on television back in the sixties and seventies. I was ten or twelve years old at the time and our family would gather around the television to watch Billy Graham together. I think the program was a hour long and only on a couple times a year. Even as a young boy I was interested in his message. I really didn’t understand it at the time, but I knew what he was saying was good news. After giving his message and while the choir sang Just as I am, he would ask people to come forward to make a public commitment to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. Over 320 million people have responded to that invitation since his ministry began and still counting.
In 1987 Roxie and I took our kids to Fargo to attend the crusade. We actually pitched a tent in a campground and camped that weekend. This was before the Fargo Dome was built and the crusade was held at the NDSU football field. I remember Billy Graham walking into the stadium and everyone stood and applauded. For me it was like seeing an apostle of Christ. Thousands of people walked forward to make a decision to follow Christ that night. Our family was among the thousands of people. It changed my life.
1996 our youth group attended the crusade at the Metrodome. What I remember about that crusade was the music. DC Talk was the hottest Christian band in the country at the time and played before Billy spoke. Billy always had a youth night during his crusades and the Metrodome was full to capacity and loud. Billy’s humor was very good; I remember laughing at his jokes. I had never seen so many people in the Metrodome, even the football field was full of people listening to the Gospel message.
Billy touched many lives. A reporter asked him when he gets to heaven what do you want to ask God? Billy responded, “I want to ask God why did you pick me?” Another reporter asked him, did he fear death? Billy’s answer “Absolutely not! I welcome death because that means I will then be with the Lord. I’m sure Billy heard Jesus say the words, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Rest in Peace Billy.