Category Archives: Behind The Scenes

Looking Up: A Place of Prayer

The Chatlos Memorial Chapel
Written by Donna Riesen,  Program Communications Assistant

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On a misty, overcast Friday morning in early April I walk the wide gravel path up to the Chapel. Pausing just outside the doors of heavy black walnut I read again the Scripture carved into a heavy stone mounted to the right of the entrance: “Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house that I have built” (2 Chronicles 6:18, KJV). Once inside, I walk across the heavy stone floors and into the sacred space of the Chapel sanctuary, a beautiful space that exudes a simple yet solemn reverence without stuffiness or pretense. Tall, expansive windows allow the beauty of God’s creation to enter and speak volumes to the soul. The gleaming wood of the walls is in perfect harmony with the natural beauty outdoors. From floor to ceiling the eye and the heart are drawn upward. Is this what Mrs. Graham intended?

Billy Graham Chapel - Interior Worship

On staff at The Cove for more than five years, I’ve heard the stories about the history of the Chatlos Memorial Chapel—how Ruth Graham had a hand in its design and plans. Her gracious spirit, love of beauty and appreciation for rustic, local handcrafted woodwork are seen in charming touches throughout The Cove. But above any other location on The Cove’s property,  many feel the Chapel brings us closest to seeing the world through Ruth’s eyes.

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After taking in the quiet beauty of the sanctuary, I climb the short stairwell to reach the small prayer room above the rear of the Chapel. By no mere accident, the prayer altar is situated directly beneath the steeple and the cross. A lighted globe sits in the center of the prayer table—a testament to the heartbeat of evangelism that pulsed through both Billy and Ruth. Mabel, a Cove volunteer of 3 to 4 years, welcomes me in and offers to sit and chat for a few moments. “What’s it like to serve as the volunteer assigned to the Chapel’s prayer room?” I ask. “Do you get the chance to pray with people very often?”

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Mabel’s eyes light up. “Well,” she says, “When I ask if they have a prayer request some people are too shy to say. I can usually tell whether or not they’re interested in having me pray with them.”

“And what if they are?” I ask.

“If there’s a group, I always ask if they’d like to hold hands, and then we pray. Right here under the steeple,” Mable explains.

I can tell Mabel is an experienced prayer warrior, and as she shares a little of her personal story with me I begin to understand why. A senior adult, Mabel sent a lot of prayer requests heavenward before ending up at The Cove as a Chapel volunteer. After enduring the heartbreak of losing a son to a brain tumor and then saying farewell to her husband who died 6 months later, Mabel was despondent and crushed. While she knew without a doubt that both her loved ones were in Heaven with Jesus, Mabel was unsure how to proceed on this new pathway through the wilderness of grief and loss. “I ask my Heavenly Father anything I want to,” she exclaims, “And if you ask God to show you what to do next, He will!” Through her involvement with the Women’s Bible Study at The Cove, Mabel learned about the need for Chapel volunteers and eventually found her niche here in the prayer room. With the confident assurance of one who has seen God work she declares, “God does answer prayer!”

We talk a little more about what it’s like to have the privilege of praying with those who request it. “Well sometimes,” Mabel confesses, “It’s hard not to cry with them when they share their requests. Sometimes even the men open up!”

“All of us have problems,” she notes. “Sometimes so many hit us at once that we’re almost afraid to look up!” Sitting here in the quiet of this small prayer room, directly beneath the 87-foot steeple with its 8-foot cross, I’m sure this is what Ruth Graham intended. She intended for us to look up.

Jerry Miller, former director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, tells the story of how Ruth influenced the construction of the Chatlos Chapel’s steeple. “The architects had the steeple at a certain height,” Jerry says. “We told that to Mrs. Graham and she said, “That’s not tall enough.” When asked how high she wanted it, she replied with an uncertain “I don’t know.”

Jerry explains how the solution was reached. The chapel was built using a crane in order to avoid cutting down trees. “We got the contractor with the crane and we got him out there with the architect,” Jerry says. “We got him to raise the ball on the crane and put the ball where we wanted to put the steeple.”

“I turned to Mrs. Graham and said, ‘You just look at me, and if it’s not high enough, you tell me.’”

As Jerry relates, the crane rose higher and higher; but every time he looked at Mrs. Graham she said it wasn’t high enough, so the contractor was told to keep going. Finally, Mrs. Graham’s lofty goal was reached and she nodded her approval. The steeple was built to a height of 87 feet, with an 8-foot-tall copper cross on top.

On this warm April day, the steeple with its cross towers above The Cove’s green canopy of trees, inviting us to look up and seek our Creator, whom “the heaven of heavens cannot contain.” And Mabel, just one of an army of faithful volunteers, points visitors heavenward. Exactly as Ruth intended.

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With heartfelt gratitude to Mabel and every Cove volunteer:
Thank you for your faithful service in helping us carry out our mission of training people in God’s Word to win others to Christ.

The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove has a large number of volunteers who assist us in all areas of operation. Among these are 84 volunteers who help us greet visitors at the Chatlos Memorial Chapel and Cove Visitors Center.

Happy National Volunteer Week!
April 12-18, 2015

Click here for information and hours for the Chatlos Memorial Chapel and Visitors Center.

If you would like to volunteer at The Cove, click here to complete the volunteer application.

Saturday Snapshot

Colors are popping up everywhere here at The Cove!  We’re seeing it through beauty in its natural form to the shiny metal type.

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Dogwood in bloom.
Dogwood Bloom at TC
Dogwood in bloom.
Redbud at the TC April 2015
Redbud near the fire pit at the Training Center.
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Redbud.
motorcycle of visitor at The cove April 2015
This beautiful visitor, seen near the Chapel, was enjoying the warm weather and clear skies.

We’re on Instagram!  Click here to join us over there for more behind-the-scenes shots.

We’d love for you to stop by and see us!  Our Chapel and Visitor’s Center is open Monday – Friday 9 – 5 p.m.  Click here for more information.

Interested in joining us for a seminar, concert or retreat?   Click here to visit our website.

Saturday Snapshot

We’ve enjoyed temperatures ranging from the 30′s to the 70′s here at The Cove this week!

Click here to watch an amazing video captured here on our trails in the woods when the snow was at it’s deepest.  We uploaded it to Facebook and it has been viewed by over 41,000 people.   At the end of the video you will see the place where Mr. and Mrs. Graham knelt in prayer to ask God if this land was the place they should build the Training Center.  God has surely blessed this ministry.  We hope you enjoy the snowy walk in the woods.

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This is the last snowman standing as the snow has mostly melted away.

Saturday Snapshot

111 wounded veterans, some with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, and their spouses  were encouraged and challenged while attending the Operation Heal Our Patriots reunion here at The Cove earlier this month.

Click here to watch a recap video of the weekend and to read a full story of all that took place.

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Johnny and Shannon Montoya

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Would you like to host your own event at The Cove?  Click here to visit our website or call 1-800-950-2092.

Saturday Snapshot

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”  Colossians 3:23

HGTV would be proud of us!  We’re working hard on updating and spiffing up some of the inn rooms at the Shepherd’s Inn.

Last January we renovated half of the inn rooms at the Shepherd’s Inn. This year we are working on the other half.

Please keep the hard working men working on this project in your prayers as we near our deadline for completion.  We’ll share updated photos once the work is complete.

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Tiling the shower/tub area.
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Putting up the new wallpaper.

Saturday Snapshot

One of our tech guys got a GoPro camera for Christmas this year and brought it to work.  Check out his fancy filming in which he used a time lapse setting to capture the 400+ ladies filling in the auditorium for our annual Women’s Bible Study.

Watch here!

Footage is from the morning Bible study with Jane Derrick.

It’s not too late to sign up for Bible study at The Cove.  Click here for all the details.

Click here to visit our website.

The Power of Christ in Louis Zamperini’s Life

By Will Graham, Cove Executive Director

Several decades ago, an Olympian turned soldier survived a plane crash in the Pacific Ocean, journeyed at sea in a small raft for 47 days, and was finally thrown into a Japanese prison camp; a place where he probably should have died of starvation and constant torture.

This man – Louis Zamperini – beat the odds and made it home. His incredible tale of determination, bravery and survival is excellently portrayed in the feature film “Unbroken,” which is in theaters this week.

There’s an interesting challenge when it comes to movies, though. There are only so many minutes to go around and you can’t tell everything about a man’s life in the space allowed, especially someone like Louis who lived through so many incredible experiences.

The name “Unbroken” definitely fits for the hero who returned victoriously from war, but something happened to Louis when he was back in the U.S., something that isn’t shown in the film.

You see, he survived, but Louis was not unbroken when he came home. Rather, by his own admission, he struggled with alcoholism as he attempted to overcome the memories of his experiences. He was inflicted with horrible nightmares of “The Bird,” the brutal guard who mercilessly antagonized and beat him in the prison camp. At one point Louis woke in the middle of the night from a vivid dream to find himself strangling his wife, envisioning her as his captor.

Louis’ world was spiraling out of control, and his marriage and life were falling apart. He was, indeed, broken.

If this was the end of the story, it would likely be a grim one, but something else happened. Jesus Christ grabbed hold of Louis and changed his life forever, for eternity!

In 1949, a young evangelist named Billy Graham – my grandfather – held a Crusade in a tent at the corners of Washington and Hill streets in the city of Los Angeles. Louis’ wife went to one of the meetings and committed her life to Christ. She returned home and told her husband that she was no longer planning to divorce him because of the decision she had just made in following Jesus. She asked him to come with her to hear Billy Graham the next night.

Louis did go to hear my grandfather, and – ultimately – remembered the promise he’d made to God when he was adrift in the ocean, when he promised to serve Him if allowed to survive.

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Louis Zamperini and Billy Graham first met at the 1949 Los Angeles Crusade. This picture was taken over 60 years later in 2011 at Billy Graham’s home in Montreat, NC.

Louis walked forward, committed his life to Christ, and allowed Him to mend the broken pieces of his life. The nightmares and the thirst for alcohol were gone. His marriage was restored. He was even able to forgive “The Bird.”

I never personally met Mr. Zamperini. I wish I had, but he passed away earlier this year. He was to be the Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade in Pasadena on New Year’s Day, and – even though he’s gone home to be with Jesus – the parade is still honoring his life and legacy. I’m very humbled to represent my grandfather and his role in Louis’ life on the City of Torrance float, which is dedicated to their hometown hero.

Perhaps you aren’t a war hero. You are likely not an Olympian. In remembering Louis, however, I’d like to ask you – the reader – a question. Is your life broken, like Louis’ was when he returned from war? Are you battling against things that are out of your control, captive to sin and pain? If so, I believe that Jesus can do for you what He did for Louis some 65 years ago. He can set you free, and make you unbroken! I invite you to visit www.PeaceWithGod.net to learn more.

On Christmas day, Dec. 25, 2014 the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association released a half-hour documentary telling the rest of Louis Zamperini’s story, the part that is left untold in the major Hollywood production of “Unbroken.” Watch the program at www.BillyGraham.tv, and order a DVD copy by giving a gift of any amount to the BGEA at www.BillyGraham.org/unbroken