Courier readers share their memories of Billy Graham

Editor’s note: We asked our readers to share their stories of how the late Billy Graham impacted their lives — whether by personal encounter, at one of his crusades or through his television ministry or books. If you would like to submit comments, please contact us by email or by using this online form and selecting the “General Comments” option. Please include your name, town and the church you attend. You may also leave a comment at the bottom of this page or through Twitter or Facebook.

Graham showed courage in the face of racial segregation

Billy Graham’s life legacy flows from his heart for people to come to know Jesus Christ. No one person during my lifetime has had a greater impact on lostness. Equally as impressive is Billy Graham’s humility. Even when he became a celebrated figure, he thought first to magnify Christ and bless others rather than to put himself in the spotlight. Of all his great character qualities, I most appreciate his courage. He was showered with death threats when he took down the ropes that segregated blacks and whites in crusades in the Deep South in the 1950s. Billy Graham’s courage was tested under the weight of cultural forces that made cowards of many men, yet he chose radical obedience to Christ.

R. Marshall Blalock
Pastor, First Baptist Church of Charleston, S.C.

Billy Graham reminded us we’re part of a bigger picture

As a young married couple and members of a very small country church, we went to the Billy Graham crusade in Columbia in 1987. We were still trying to find our way in a big world, and learning to live in it as Christians seemed too hard at times. But we looked out and saw the multitude of people and realized for the first time that we were not alone. Now, as pastor, we encourage our small church by reminding them that we are part of a much bigger picture.

Allen and Linda Gregory
New Beginning Baptist Church, Waterloo, S.C.

Dr. Graham turned the conversation back to me

Dr. Graham’s influence on my ministry was mainly from a distance, but one of the highlights of my life was the one meeting I had with him back in the late 1990s. I spent about an hour with him in Charlotte, N.C., before he preached a crusade in his hometown, and the thing that still stands out in my mind is that most of the meeting was spent with him asking questions about my life and ministry. Of course, I had a long list of questions I wanted to ask him, but he always turned the conversation back to me. It was one of the most humbling moments of my life. Beyond that personal encounter, Dr. Graham’s consistent preaching of the gospel and the integrity of how he lived his life and conducted his ministry continue to be a strong influence on my life and ministry here in South Carolina.

Gary Hollingsworth
Executive director-treasurer, South Carolina Baptist Convention

I was a counselor at a Billy Graham crusade

A crowd of 42,300 people came to Texas Stadium for the opening night of the 10-day Greater Southwest Crusade, the first event held beneath its distinctive partial roof. As a seminary student at Southwestern Seminary, I was a counselor in this crusade. We students spread out at different locations in the stadium to be ready to walk forward during the altar call as the choir and congregation sang “Just As I Am.” We had undergone extensive training on how to counsel and pray with people who came forward to make a commitment to Christ. This training and the experience of being a counselor would impact the rest of my life. One evening at the Greater Southwest Crusade, I was thrilled to meet Ruth (Mrs. Billy) Graham, and I asked for her autograph. All I had was my Bible, which she signed, and I treasure it to this day. I remember how excited we were one night to hear that Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother had come forward at the invitation to accept Christ. During the summer of 1970, I was a summer missionary in New York City and attended Rev. Graham’s crusade in Shea Stadium. In 1977, I was a graduate student at the Ohio State University and attended his first crusade in Cincinnati, where Anita Bryant sang. These are some of my warm, everlasting memories of Billy Graham crusades.

Patricia J. Frost
Laurens, S.C.

I accepted Christ in a movie theater

When I was 9 years old, my sweet little country church, Mt. Tabor Baptist Church in Branchville, S.C., went to the theater in Orangeburg to see a movie called “Time to Run,” and Billy Graham shared the gospel in it. That night, when the invitation was offered, I made the decision to follow Christ and accept Him as my personal savior. God has ways and means to bring someone to Him, even in a movie theater. Billy Graham will always hold a very special place in my heart, and I thank God for using him to share the gospel!

Wanda Wiles, ministry assistant
Holly Ridge Baptist Church, Simpsonville, S.C.

Spending time on the mountain with Billy Graham

Billy Graham’s daughter Ruth gave me a gift — a gift beyond all gifts. She carried me up the mountain to meet her dad. I walked into his living room, and there he was, sitting in a wheelchair in front of the fireplace. We talked for an hour and a half about his many life experiences — playing golf with Kennedy, Nixon, etc. — and ended with a prayer that transcended our time into a worshipful moment. I shall never forget the humble reactions he had to what he had accomplished and his gift to make you feel you were the only one in the room. I shall always thank God for Ruth allowing me the opportunity to meet this wonderful man of God in person and to pray with him and for him on that special day!

Danny Nicholson
President, Connie Maxwell Children’s Home, Greenwood, S.C.

A pat on the back and words of encouragement

I used Billy Graham’s book, “Peace with God,” to deliver my two sermons as youth pastor during summer youth week at my home church. I never knew that I, as a freshman at Carolina, would be at the capitol that fall when he visited. As  I stood beside the fence, he came right up to me and shook my hand. In that moment of excitement to meet this terrific author and preacher, I blurted out my confession of using his book to deliver my sermons. He smiled and asked me if I did good. I told him I had several re-dedications that day, and he patted me on the back and told me to keep on. It’s strange remembering something 58 years ago that only lasted two minutes.

Weldon Fallaw
President Emeritus, Baptist Foundation of South Carolina

Finding Christ in my living room

I became a Christian in August 1968 because I listened to Billy Graham on the TV in my living room. I was a confirmed Episcopalian and had attended church most of my 23 years at the time. I had been to a Billy Graham crusade in southern Florida and had listened to him on television many times before that night in 1968. My husband and our two girls were not at home. Billy Graham asked the question at the end of his message: “If you should die tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?” The Lord touched my heart, and I accepted Christ as my savior. I praise God for the ministry of Rev. Graham.

Sharon Harris
Padgett’s Creek Baptist Church, Union, S.C.

I was saved at a 1958 Billy Graham crusade

As a sophomore at Gardner Webb College in 1958, I attended Billy Graham’s crusade in Charlotte. It was the first time I realized my sinful nature and, after being shaken from my seat, I asked God to come into my life. It was only recently that I realized there was a picture of me at the altar in that ’58 crusade on the wall at the Billy Graham library. It was very special to see a picture of that time in my life. A few years back, I was able to meet Dr. Graham at a function at The Cove, and I thanked him for that crusade in Charlotte.

Ken Crawley
Shelby First Baptist Church, Shelby, N.C.

A simple, direct question

Dr. Graham was the first person I heard who asked if I knew I would go to heaven.

Myles Beck
Chapin, S.C.

A lifetime of involvement with Graham’s ministry

I am now a Southern Baptist attending New Covenant Baptist Church in Nampa, Idaho. I saw Billy Graham in the late 1970s or early 1980s as a new Christian. I went forward for prayer for myself and for my non-believer husband, who attended with me. It wasn’t long after that he became a Christian. After my husband passed in 1993, I remarried, and my husband and I attended the Decision America rally in Boise, Idaho. I have been a supporter of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for many years, mostly through Samaritan’s Purse. I am thankful for the life Billy Graham led, for his family, and for his legacy.

Jo Acuff
Nampa, Idaho

I first met Dr. Graham in Vietnam

I remember two special times. Dr. Graham and his whole team came to Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam, to speak at a smaller crusade, and I had a chance to talk personally with him and members of the team. Years later, as a pastor, I served in the counseling process during his 1987 crusade in Columbia at Williams Brice Stadium. When that crusade was televised a year later, I served in the phone counseling center.

Joe Borgkvist
West Columbia, S.C.

Through the TV, I felt the power of the Lord

I remember as a small child seeing Rev. Graham on TV, and I could feel the power of the Lord in the words as he was speaking. My grandmother said he was a blessing that God sent to speak to us. His son’s ministry, Samaritan’s Purse, came to our small town of Andrews, S.C., when we had our flood. They stayed, they helped, they served! I got to be with them day in and day out. All of this was because of Rev. Billy Graham. Thank you, God, for allowing us to have Rev. Graham in our world.

Teressa Gamble
Andrews, S.C.

I modeled my preaching after Dr. Graham’s

For as long as I can remember, Billy Graham has occupied a beloved place in my family’s life. My dad was won to Christ at his crusade in Charlotte, N.C., in 1958. Throughout my boyhood, my family would cancel other plans and gather in our living room and watch his televised crusades. After I accepted God’s call upon my life to enter the ministry, I began to carefully observe how Dr. Graham structured and delivered every one of his sermons, and that was how I learned to preach. When he led a crusade in Tampa, Fla., in 1979, I loaned my Bible to a minister friend who sat on the platform, and he got Dr. Graham to autograph it for me. I will forever thank God for Billy Graham’s impact upon my life and for his example of Christlike humility and integrity, which showed me what it means to live like Jesus.

David Coleman, senior pastor, Crowfield Baptist Church
Goose Creek, S.C.

My husband served as a BGEA chaplain

My mother worked for Dr. Graham in Greenville when he was here for a crusade in the 1960s. That is when I became a follower of Dr. Graham. Years later, my husband and I loved Dr. Graham. We went to The Cove, and they asked my husband to be a chaplain for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He said yes, and went to training classes. He served at disasters and other trials. My husband and I are retired from law enforcement, and he now is doing internet counseling for them. This has been a great experience for both of us. Dr. Graham has been a big influence on our lives.

Carol and Myron Alderman
Greenville, S.C.

I was a chauffeur during a Graham crusade

My first encounter with Dr. Graham was when I attended his crusade in Dothan, Ala., in 1965 as a new Christian. The chaplain from our military base in Panama City, Fla., took a group of us. From that time on, I began listening to his Sunday night radio program, “The Hour of Decision,” in the barracks and began reading his magazines. In 1973, I entered summer school in seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and was invited to work in the Graham crusade set for Raleigh that September. I went with a team to churches, showing movies and inviting congregations to participate. I was given the task of chauffeuring guests speakers (such as D. James Kennedy and Lewis Drummond) from the airport to the crusade events. On one occasion, I met Bev Shea, Cliff Barrows and Mr. Wilson, who asked me if I would like to meet Dr. Graham. He introduced me, and Dr. Graham thanked me for helping with the crusade. It was certainly a highlight for this young seminary student-pastor! Dr. Graham’s influence in my life and ministry has spanned more than 53 years and will continue until I see him again in heaven.

Don Bickers, retired Air Force chaplain and pastor
Member, College Street Baptist Church, Walhalla, S.C.

Billy Graham’s gospel influence reaches around the world

I was touched 15 years ago by Jesus through the Holy Spirit and led by my pastor, who was so influenced by the evangelist Billy Graham, in a sinner’s prayer along with my husband and three small children in my country of Papua New Guinea. We loved to watch him preach and read the Word. I thank God for calling such a great, humble servant of His to reach the world with the gospel of Christ.

Margaret Nawa
Darwin, Australia

I heard Graham early in his ministry

In 1946, when I was 16 years old, I went with my parents to the Lake Louise Conference Grounds in Georgia. The speaker was a young man named Billy Graham. At the invitation, I surrendered my life to become a missionary. I later served with my husband, Gene, as a missionary in Zimbabwe for 40 years. These days, I have the joy of serving in the Billy Graham TV telephone ministry at Martha Franks Retirement Center.

Jean Phillips
Laurens, S.C.