My wife, Jane, and I just returned from a 12-day fall trip through North Carolina and Virginia.
We had the chance to visit a number of historical sites, including Monticello and Montpelier — James Madison’s home — and took in the (almost) autumn colors through Shenandoah National Park and along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We were too early for the spectacular foliage there, but enjoyed it here when we got home.
The main purpose of our trip was to visit Samaritan’s Purse headquarters in Boone, N.C., the Billy Graham Conference Center and the Billy Graham Library. Today, I’ll highlight the library, which is in Charlotte, N.C., less than 10 minutes from the airport. It’s hard to imagine that Graham grew up on dairy farm a few miles from the library. It’s now a bustling center of hotels and retail. But tucked away on the Billy Graham Parkway on 20 acres is a place that everyone should see and tour if they get a chance.
The tour takes nearly two hours and guides a visitor through the remarkable life of Billy Graham, tracing his roots on the farm all the way to speaking to 210 million people in person in 185 countries. According to the library, 3.2 million people responded at his crusades to accept Jesus Christ as savior. Graham was on Gallup’s list of most admired men and women a record 61 times. It is doubtful we will have anyone with his admiration and influence in our country from a religious perspective.
We spent more than three hours taking the tour in the library and going through his childhood home, which had been relocated from its original location about three miles away. We took time for a light lunch in the cafe and shopping at the book store. There is no admission or parking fees at the library, but donations are accepted. At no time was there any asking for a donation but there was a clear message at the end of the tour to respond to the Gospel of Christ.
After the vision for the library was explained to Billy as “an ongoing crusade,” he give permission to build a library bearing his name. That’s how adamant he was that nothing detract from the message he preached for more than 60 years — a message that points to Christ alone as the way to God and away from any strategy or effort to gain salvation.
The library is designed to reflect Billy Graham’s journey from a humble farm boy to an international ambassador of God’s love. It also includes the path that Ruth Graham took as the daughter of missionaries in China who were forced to leave after World War II. Her influence on Billy and the family is another story that many are not aware of.
Outside the library is a garden path that leads to Billy’s and Ruth’s graves. They are very plain, without any headstone; they’re just rough-hewn rock lying flat on the ground. It is very simple, with a cross at the top and the words: “Billy Graham, November 2, 1918 - February 21, 2018.” Beneath that is simply said, “Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ - John 14:6.” Coffins for both Grahams were built of simple plywood by a convicted murderer who found faith at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. The coffins represents “a beautiful way in death that we would see this marvelous picture of forgiveness,” said Dan DeWitt, a professor at Cedarville University.
Next to Billy’s grave is Ruth’s grave, matching Billy’s simplicity. However, she was taken with a sign she had seen on the highway that said, “End of Construction, Thank You For Your Patience,” that she felt summed up her life. There is also a Chinese character at the top of the stone that stands for righteousness.
The others buried nearby are George Beverly Shea, Cliff Barrows and their spouses. They were integral parts of the Billy Graham crusades. If the opportunity arises, make the trip to the Billy Graham Library. We are sure you will be inspired as we were.
One last item: Here is another request we neglected to add to our list last week regarding needs of a local faith based ministry:
Cup of Grace Ministries in Spirit Lake has been praying for a building to provide space for clothes closets, food and diaper distribution and community meals. We could hold training classes and provide a real office. People can donate for that or ongoing needs by going to their website: cupofgrace.life or call Amy Privitt at 817-228-5018.