Just As I Am…And Billy Graham

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Just As I Am…And Billy Graham
Just As I Am Billy Graham

I am sitting in a metal chair beside my dad and mom. The congregation is singing “Just as I am.” I keep asking my parents if I can go down front and give my life to Jesus. Billy Graham’s booming North Carolina voice is calling, and I am trying to get down front because I know that the message this particular evening has been just for me. I cannot go home without being saved. He said now is the moment.

Most Southerners can tell a story about revivals and prayer meetings if they reach back into their childhood memory books. Many of the tales are told with humor and a flare that summons familial images. To those who have not had such an experience it seems primitive and not part of traditional religion. But it is what it is. We never forget.

Ruth Bell Graham, Billy’s life partner, passed away not long ago. Seeing members of a team I knew so well for most of my life conjured up a plethora of memories and ideas that have shaped much of my life. For Southern Baptists the Graham family was our royalty. They were the benchmark for the rest of us. Watching Billy Graham with his walker and quiet voice as he said goodbye to his sweet wife brought me up short as to where time has gone, and how my sixty years had passed so quickly. So many “church songs” rang in my ears as I thought back to prayer meetings, tent preaching and church-going. “In the Garden,” “Onward Christian Soldiers,” “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children” hummed in my memory.

Billy Graham could make me cry when I was a little girl. He inspired me to want to become a missionary in Africa and save all the children I could. Listening to The Hour of Decision on the radio each week was the checkup for who I was and where I was going. Ten o’clock sharp the radio went on. I was usually in bed by then but the house was filled with “How Great Thou Art.” I still have my copy of the sheet music I learned to play on my piano.

When Billy Graham began his sermon I was wired for sound. The music had done its job. There was no doubt that Jesus could come at any moment – even tonight. Was I ready? The great North Carolina orator bellowed out the criteria for being saved. I hoped that my family would all make the cut!

I didn’t go to Africa to save all the children, but I have spent forty years working with at-risk children. They have needed a voice, and so I have tried to speak for them. Like Reverend Graham, I didn’t save all of them but there have been many who have made it in spite of unbelievable odds.

Billy Graham no longer preaches his powerful evangelical messages. I do not have a classroom either. Now I encourage young teachers to stay the course. I try to be a support for them. I watch Billy Graham reruns and slip back into a much less complicated time in my life. The child in me whispers, “Are you ready?” My ideas and beliefs about religion and faith have taken many twists and turns over the years, but I cannot shake what was instilled in me by my family, sense of place and Billy Graham.

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  • Just As I Am Billy Graham

    I am sitting in a metal chair beside my dad and mom. The congregation is singing “Just as I am.” I keep asking my parents if I can go down front and give my life to Jesus. Billy Graham’s booming North Carolina voice is calling, and I am trying to get down front because I know that the message this particular evening has been just for me. I cannot go home without being saved. He said now is the moment.

    Most Southerners can tell a story about revivals and prayer meetings if they reach back into their childhood memory books. Many of the tales are told with humor and a flare that summons familial images. To those who have not had such an experience it seems primitive and not part of traditional religion. But it is what it is. We never forget.

    Ruth Bell Graham, Billy’s life partner, passed away not long ago. Seeing members of a team I knew so well for most of my life conjured up a plethora of memories and ideas that have shaped much of my life. For Southern Baptists the Graham family was our royalty. They were the benchmark for the rest of us. Watching Billy Graham with his walker and quiet voice as he said goodbye to his sweet wife brought me up short as to where time has gone, and how my sixty years had passed so quickly. So many “church songs” rang in my ears as I thought back to prayer meetings, tent preaching and church-going. “In the Garden,” “Onward Christian Soldiers,” “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children” hummed in my memory.

    Billy Graham could make me cry when I was a little girl. He inspired me to want to become a missionary in Africa and save all the children I could. Listening to The Hour of Decision on the radio each week was the checkup for who I was and where I was going. Ten o’clock sharp the radio went on. I was usually in bed by then but the house was filled with “How Great Thou Art.” I still have my copy of the sheet music I learned to play on my piano.

    When Billy Graham began his sermon I was wired for sound. The music had done its job. There was no doubt that Jesus could come at any moment – even tonight. Was I ready? The great North Carolina orator bellowed out the criteria for being saved. I hoped that my family would all make the cut!

    I didn’t go to Africa to save all the children, but I have spent forty years working with at-risk children. They have needed a voice, and so I have tried to speak for them. Like Reverend Graham, I didn’t save all of them but there have been many who have made it in spite of unbelievable odds.

    Billy Graham no longer preaches his powerful evangelical messages. I do not have a classroom either. Now I encourage young teachers to stay the course. I try to be a support for them. I watch Billy Graham reruns and slip back into a much less complicated time in my life. The child in me whispers, “Are you ready?” My ideas and beliefs about religion and faith have taken many twists and turns over the years, but I cannot shake what was instilled in me by my family, sense of place and Billy Graham.

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