C. Esther DeWolde
So many of you who know me already guessed my person of influence today – maybe even from the quote in this blog post’s title.
Hailing from the deep South in Montreat, North Carolina it is none other than the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham.
I have an unabashed love for this man (code for star-struck) almost bordering on stalkerville (especially when I attended an Executive Conference at The Cove in Montreat – aka Billy Graham Training Center – but that’s a whole other story I’ll keep between myself and my friend).
Truth is, I attended the same conference the year before and Dr. Graham was supposed to make an appearance but – wouldn’t you know it – the night we arrived he had fallen and was bed-ridden.
So close but yet so far.
I’ve since met a number of people who have actually gotten to sit and talk with him at length. And yes, I attended one of his last crusade’s in San Diego up in the nosebleeds. The closest for me was sitting beside Will Graham, his grandson, at dinner last year for a planning meeting for this week’s Festival in Vancouver, BC.
Well actually my husband John got that seat but I managed to sneak in some conversation with him, surprise, surprise! Sigh.
My only chance now will be in heaven. But I guess that’s pretty cool too. Imagine the line-up to talk to him though!
Why the infatuation? Here’s the thing. Like all of us, we are faced with decisions every day.
Some are easy – Starbucks or Tim Hortons. Some are harder – cook or go out to eat. OK that’s not so hard either.
Some hard decisions are often more about doing the right thing or not. And I’m not going to tell a lie. I wouldn’t want some of my past choices hanging on a billboard.
But here’s a man, no different than you or I who was gifted with an extra-ordinary task of travelling to hundreds of countries bringing a Christian-faith-filled message to millions and millions, year after year, causing him to give up his own family time for his wife and children, his own privacy, his own time, and on and on.
He remained entirely humble. He still lives in the log cabin where they raised their family. His book profits go back into his ministry. Of all the public evangelist figures in our lifetime, he remained scandal-free.
And in his own words this was because he set boundaries. Intentional practices or disciplines of what he would be okay with or not okay with. Here are just a couple of examples he imposed on himself: he never travelled or met with the opposite gender alone. He never abused his own power for political purposes even though he was a confidant to the past seven presidents.
Don’t get me wrong – I am certain he was human which makes him not perfect but the extent to which he worked at keeping himself upright is beyond admirable and I have tried to learn from that.
If I could talk with him this very second, what would I ask him?
Honestly? I don’t think I’d have anything to ask him – his autobiography pretty much answers it all.
Rather I think I’d just sit quietly in his presence and soak up the spill-over splashes of glorious radiance that surely the Lord pours on him day after day for being such a faithful servant for God.
I used to joke: “if only I could just touch the hem of his garment”, but I knew I had to be careful who to say that to or people would really think that I thought he was Jesus himself.
I know he isn’t.
This week our City of Vancouver will be hosting what used to be known as a Billy Graham crusade.
Of course Dr. Billy Graham himself can no longer attend due to his health, but it is awesome to see his legacy carried on.
Now don’t be sending me political hate mail about the fact his son is not his father. I’m staying away from that one with a ten-foot pole.
I am focusing on the purpose of the festival to bring a message of hope to a dark world.
And although I am unable to attend the festival myself, I pray it be a remarkable event for those who attend. Here are the details! https://billygraham.org/what-we-do/evangelism-outreach/festivals-crusades/schedule/