Today is Mr. Billy Graham’s 97th birthday. Please join us in wishing his a happy and comfortable day.
Did you know that upon visiting The Cove property, Mr. and Mrs. Graham had a dream of providing a place where people could leave the demands of daily life, come to study God’s Word, and be trained to reach the lost for Christ.
The vision that God laid on their hearts began to be realized back in 1972, when the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association purchased the property.
Today, on Billy Graham’s birthday, we remember the dream that became a reality, and we rejoice in all God has done in the lives of those who have visited this property.
By Will Graham, Cove Executive Director
People often compare me to my grandfather. They may say that I look a little like him, or that I sound like him. They ask if I study his preaching style to make my delivery similar to his.
Not many people, however, pick up on one similarity that has nothing to do with genetics. Before beginning our evangelistic ministries, both my grandfather and I served as pastors of local churches.
In the early 1940s, after graduating from Wheaton College, my grandfather became pastor of a church in nearby Western Springs, Ill. He preached whole-heartedly and watched his congregation grow, even as he understood it was temporary and felt a growing passion in his heart for evangelism.
Similarly, as I was finishing my studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., I was called to lead Wakefield Baptist Church, a church plant of Bay Leaf Baptist Church, where I had been a pastoral intern.
I must admit that I did not want to be a pastor. I committed my calling to God and told him, “Whatever You want me to be, whatever You want me to do for the Kingdom, I’ll do it. But please don’t make me a pastor!”
It’s not that I didn’t respect the pulpit and pastorate. Far from it! I have always had a great admiration for the saints who lead their flocks week in and week out.
But from my perspective, pastors were underappreciated and underpaid, serving long and thankless hours only to hear complaints because the message was too long or too short, the music was too contemporary or not contemporary enough. You get the picture.
Despite my misgivings, when Dr. Ron Rowe, a wonderful friend and mentor of mine, suggested I become an intern in his church, I listened to his counsel. He suggested that I may eventually end up working for my father at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) or Samaritan’s Purse, and that both organizations work closely with the local church. He thought that serving in a church would give me a good understanding and help me later in my ministry.
I became the reluctant pastor. And, my friends, I loved it! I loved almost everything about being a pastor; the congregation, the staff, the deacons and leadership teams, and opening up God’s Word every week to boldly proclaim His truths.
When the day came that I felt called to leave my church and help my father at the BGEA, I sat down at my desk and wept. Here I was in a calling I had done my best to avoid, and now I could hardly bring myself to leave. But when God tells you to go, you go.
Why am I sharing all this? It’s because October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and – as a former pastor – I want to encourage you to go out of your way in the coming weeks to encourage and uplift your pastor.
Have you ever considered how much your pastor gives, and the sacrifices that he and his family make? In many churches, the pastor is not just the preacher, but also the accountant, janitor, chaplain, librarian and counselor. He rejoices with young couples as they pledge their lives to each other, beams as he cradles an infant for dedication, and cries with families who have lost a loved one. He’s on-call 24/7/365.
Burn out is a real thing, and a real risk, when we go too long without rest. It’s no different for your pastor. He needs time to be alone in the Word, not just working on a sermon, but being filled with the Holy Spirit and the full counsel of God. He needs time away with just his wife and family to recharge and be rejuvenated for the sake of the ministry.
There are several things you can do to support and encourage your pastor this month:
- Pray. I’m sure most of you pray for your pastor. Thank you for doing that. If you aren’t making your pastor a focus in your prayer time, commit to do that this month. Tell your pastor that you’re praying for him.
- Say something. A word of affirmation and encouragement costs you nothing, but I guarantee it means so much more than you can imagine to your pastor. Tell him how much you appreciate him and his family.
- Break down the walls. Disagreements can arise that build up walls between people in the congregation, and between people and the pastor. I had to deal with it in my church, and my grandfather dealt with it in his church. Make Pastor Appreciation Month a time of reconciliation, where you put aside the differences and focus together on the Gospel.
- Provide an escape. If possible, show your pastor how much you appreciate him by surprising him and his family with a brief time of renewal. Perhaps you have a deacon in the church who can preach for a Sunday, or maybe you can offer an extra day off during the week along with a hotel stay in a nearby city that will allow him to get away to relax.
At the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, we’ve decided to make pastors a priority as well. We’ve developed Leadership Renewal Retreats which are three-day events specifically designed to refresh and rejuvenate pastors, encouraging them in their ongoing ministries. The program, lodging and meals are all free for qualified pastors and spouses. We hope that your church and pastor can take advantage of this great opportunity.
My friends, as a former pastor I can attest the great blessing it is to lead a congregation, but I can also stand here and say clearly that it isn’t easy. There are struggles. This month, show your pastor how much you appreciate him in whatever ways you can.
If you would like to be a blessing and give to the Leadership Renewal Retreat project, click here.
We’ve got some serious prayer warriors that work and volunteer here at The Cove. This is Betty who celebrated her 92nd birthday this week.
Betty has volunteered at The Chatlos Memorial Chapel & Visitors Center here at The Cove for 26 years! When she first started volunteering, she gave tours to our visitors. Betty is now faithfully volunteering every Friday–dedicated to praying for our visitors, guests, fellow volunteers and staff.
When this picture was taken, Betty had already prayed for 481 people. No, that’s not a typo–four hundred eighty one–all covered in prayer before noon! How does she keep track? She makes a check next to their name or on their prayer request card and keeps a running tally.
At 92, Betty is sweet, sharp as a tack and quick witted. If you are visiting us on a Friday morning, make sure to stop by and say hello to her.
Fun fact: Betty earned 12 varsity letters while in high school.
Would you like to volunteer at The Cove? Click here to complete a volunteer application.
Make a plan to visit The Chatlos Memorial Chapel & Visitor’s Center. Tours are free. Click here for hours of operation and directions.
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.
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.
By Will Graham, Cove Executive Director and grandson of Billy Graham
On a daily basis I’m blessed with memories and stories of the many ways God chose to use my grandfather to reach people around the world over the course of many decades. Nearly everywhere I go people stop to tell me about how entire families and generations were impacted by his ministry. It’s humbling.
What many people may not know is that it almost didn’t happen. Everything we know of the ministry of Billy Graham from the late 1940s on – the massive stadium events, the evangelistic movies, the radio programs, the counseling of presidents and kings – hinged on a singular moment in history that took place at the California retreat center of Forest Home.
I visited Forest Home last year to get a fresh perspective on my grandfather’s story, and I’m returning there next week to speak at their annual Summer Family Camp.
As such, now seemed like the right time to share the story of the evangelist named Billy Graham, a discouraged young man searching for answers and direction in his life, unsure of God’s plan for him.
At the mid-point of the 20th century, he had already been an evangelist with Youth For Christ and had preached across Europe in the aftermath of World War II. He had held his first “Billy Graham Crusades” in places like Charlotte, N.C, and Grand Rapids, Mich. He was also the president of Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minn., the youngest college president in the country.
Not everything had gone as planned, however. His crusade in Altoona, Pa., had been – in his own words – “a flop.” It was spiritually difficult and he felt things had gone poorly, and it left him questioning whether or not evangelism should be his focus.
At the same time, a very good friend and contemporary of my grandfather’s, a man named Charles Templeton, had begun challenging my granddaddy’s way of thinking. Mr. Templeton, who had preached with Youth For Christ as well, had gone on to study at Princeton, where he began to believe that the Bible was flawed and that academia – not Jesus – was the answer to life’s problems. He tried to convince my grandfather that his way of thinking was outdated and the Bible couldn’t be trusted.
My grandfather had more questions than answers.
As a young man in his early-30s, all of these things were swirling in his mind when he traveled to California in 1949. Should he invest fully in the college, which he knew meant seeking further education for himself? At the time Northwestern wasn’t accredited, and for it to become so he – as president – would need to get an advanced degree, which would require taking several years off from preaching.
Should he leave the school and follow the calling of an evangelist, even though Altoona had gone so poorly?
Did he even believe the Bible from which he was preaching, or should he follow Templeton in questioning its validity?
It was at this time that my discouraged grandfather reluctantly accepted the invitation of Henrietta Mears to visit and speak at a Christian retreat center called Forest Home. Mears had worked at First Baptist Church in Minneapolis for Pastor Riley, who was also my grandfather’s predecessor at Northwestern, and she was a very well-known and godly woman. She would end up having a huge impact in Hollywood, Calif., as she served as the director of Christian Education at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. She took grief for inviting him to speak because he was not part of the camp’s denomination, but God had a plan in all of this.
As I toured Forest Home last year, it moved me greatly to walk the paths that my grandfather walked as he struggled with the Lord, and ultimately had the experience that would change the course of his ministry and the eternities of millions.
You see, while he was at Forest Home, he spent a great deal of time studying the Bible, and he kept seeing the same phrase pop up. “Thus sayeth the Lord… Thus sayeth the Lord…” While my grandfather had always accepted in his head the authority of the Scripture, this became the turning point as he realized in his heart that God’s Word is divinely inspired, eternal and powerful!
One night at Forest Home, he walked out into the woods and set his Bible on a stump – more an altar than a pulpit – and he cried out: “O God! There are many things in this book I do not understand. There are many problems with it for which I have no solution. There are many seeming contradictions. There are some areas in it that do not seem to correlate with modern science. I can’t answer some of the philosophical and psychological questions Chuck and others are raising.”
And then, my grandfather fell to his knees and the Holy Spirit moved in him as he said, “Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word—by faith! I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word!”*
My granddaddy wrote in his autobiography that as he stood up his eyes stung with tears, but he felt the power and presence of God in a way he hadn’t in months. “A major bridge had been crossed,” he said.
The resulting change did not go unnoticed. The next day my granddaddy spoke at Forest Home, and 400 people made a commitment to Christ. Henrietta Mears remarked that he “preached with authority” that she hadn’t seen before from him.
This was August 1949, and mere weeks later Billy Graham would go on to hold the historic 1949 Los Angeles Crusade in the tent erected on the corner of Washington and Hill Streets. That outreach was scheduled to last three weeks, and ended up going for eight weeks as people packed the “Canvas Cathedral” and media outlets nationwide began talking about the upstart evangelist.
Because of that moment kneeling by a stump at Forest Home, I get to hear stories of lives changed through my grandfather’s ministry. Because of that moment, my father and I are invited around the world to share the same hope of Christ that my grandfather preached in Los Angeles and hundreds of other locations both near and far. That moment not only changed Billy Graham’s ministry. It impacted eternity.
*Just As I Am, Billy Graham, 1997
Click here for information on Will Graham’s seminar at The Cove Agust 15-17, 2014.
She lived a full life which demonstrated the grace and mercy of the Savior she first met when she was a little girl in China.
Ruth went to heaven on June 14, 2007 while living in Montreat, North Carolina.
None of us know the day we will join Ruth in heaven, but we can be assured that it won’t be long before we see her again.
It won’t be long…A Poem by Ruth Bell Graham
It won’t be long –
the sun is slowly slipping out of sight;
lengthening shadows deepen into dusk;
still winds whisper;
all is quiet:
it won’t be long
— till night.
It won’t be long –
the tired eyes close,
her strength is nearly gone;
frail hands that ministered to many
lie quiet, still:
Light from another world!
Look up, bereaved!
It won’t be long
— till Dawn!
Click here to purchase Ruth Bell Graham’s book of poetry, Sitting by my laughing fire.
Billy Graham was in Australia at the time of King’s death. He remembers the moment someone approached him with news of King’s assassination, which was followed by journalists seeking a quote: “I was almost in a state of shock. Not only was I losing a friend through a vicious and senseless killing, but America was losing a social leader and a prophet, and I felt his death would be one of the greatest tragedies in our history.”
For more on this story and how the friendship between Billy Graham and Martin Luther King Jr. grew, click here.
By Ruth Bell Graham:
If I could have each day
one hour of sun,
let Winter come!
mild and brief,
wild, without relief;
let the storms rage,
let the winds blow,
the freezing rains
lashing my windowpanes;
let it snow!
I would not mind at all:
it would be fun…
if I could have
my hour of sun.
Click here to purchase Ruth Bell Graham’s book of poetry, Sitting by my laughing fire.