September 2010
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From the Dairy Farm to the World Stage

 

Graham during the last half of his ministry.

A Visit to Evangelist Billy Graham’s Library and Boyhood Home is Filled with Inspiration

He had humble beginnings working long hours at his father’s dairy farm in Charlotte, NC. His diversion was dreaming of being a professional baseball player. At age 16, however, he made a decision to follow Christ after attending a revival on the edge of town.

Born in 1918, Billy Graham has preached to more people in live audiences than anyone in history. According to BGEA (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association), he has preached to over 210 million people in over 185 countries and has reached millions more through television and the Internet.

In late 1949, Graham began the first of his major crusades in Los Angeles, which was scheduled for three weeks but lasted for eight due to public demand and ultimately resulted in Billy Graham becoming a household name across America. Media giant, William Randolph Hearst, heard of Graham’s message and the fact Graham’s stand against communism would come out in his sermons. Hearst told his editors to "puff Graham" and print media like LIFE, TIME and Newsweek helped launch Graham’s popularity.

This huge cross stands out when you arrive at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC. Abigail Howle is pictured in front of the dairy barn.

 
   

Now 91 years old, Graham hasn’t been in the spotlight since 2006 when he made one last appearance at the Festival of Hope with his son, Franklin, while the Gulf Coast was recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Graham wants to come out of retirement for one more sermon.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC, with my family. Graham’s niece said he was dealing with health issues, but he was hoping his health would allow him to fill the pulpit one last time.

During our visit to the Billy Graham Library, I realized the word "library" doesn’t come close to describing the interactive tour showing historic moments in Billy Graham’s life and ministry. I would describe it as a live, interactive adventure taking the visitor through the history of Billy Graham’s evangelism while including the history of world events over the last 90 years.

When you drive onto the property, the first thing that stands out is the huge cross built into the side of the dairy barn. The tour begins with a visit to Graham’s modest childhood home placed on the property brick by brick and board by board. While in the home, we had the opportunity to speak with Graham’s niece who was one of the tour guides.

After entering the barn, a milk cow which was animated with Disney technology, tells the story of a young Billy Graham growing up working long hours on the dairy farm and how his ministry began so he could spread the message of salvation. Children truly enjoy this lifelike display of talking farm animals and quickly see the connection of Christ’s birth in the manger surrounded by livestock.

 

Abigail, left, and Emma Howle enjoy the Disney-animated cow  that tells the story of Jesus and Billy’s childhood.

The centerpiece of the library is the Journey of Faith presentation featuring multimedia displays and re-creations of historic moments in Billy Graham’s life and ministry. Spanning the decades from the 1940s to present, the display shows a re-creation of the original tent revivals, the original radio studio, and hundreds of photographs and treasures from Billy and his wife, Ruth.

There are also re-creations of the fall of the Berlin Wall and a 32-foot mural called "The Cross" painted by Thomas Kinkade. A short walk through the woods leads to the Prayer Garden and Ruth’s gravesite.

The tour ends in the dairy barn where you can sit in rocking chairs and eat ice cream or enjoy full meals. A few steps from the Dairy Barn is the Library Bookstore which offers aisles of books, t-shirts, gifts and other Christian-related souvenirs.

   

Jake Howle admires the authentic recreations of the old Graham Dairy Barn.

 
   

This was a truly inspirational visit, and even the kids can understand and enjoy the messages. For more information about the Billy Graham Library or booking a trip, call (704) 401-3200 or visit them online at www.billygraham.org. Allow at least two hours for the tour. The tour and parking are free, but it truly was a rewarding trip for the whole family.

If you are a Billy Graham fan, in addition to visiting the interactive library, Graham’s most recent book is Storm Warning. This book is a new release and it takes a look at the ominous shadows going on in the world today like global recession, terrorist threats and devastating natural disasters. Graham points to these disasters in relation to scripture and outlines the ways in which our country can repent and come back to the Gospel. I bought my copy while in Charlotte, but if you would like to order it online, visit www.billygrahambookstore.org and you can purchase the book for $12.99.

After 91 years of life on this earth, Billy Graham has seen a lot of world changes — technological advances, political changes and changes in the nation’s spirituality. Here are a few of his quotes from 91 years of experience on this planet:

1) "Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened."

 

Ruth Graham’s gravesite is marked with fieldstone from the property and flowers with a note.

2) "Everybody has a little bit of Watergate in him."

3) "Give me five minutes with a person’s checkbook, and I will tell you where their heart is."

4) "God has given us two hands, one to receive with and the other to give with."

5) "God is more interested in your future and your relationships than you are."

6) "If we had more hell in the pulpit, we would have less hell in the pew."

7) "I’ve read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out all right."

Billy Graham is a man who has had a strong impact on American culture since the 1950s, and whether you agree with his beliefs or not, his wisdom on spiritual matters has been sought by presidents as well as leaders of other countries. The Gallup organization regularly lists him as one of the "Ten Most Admired Men in the World." That’s not too shabby for a country boy from a dairy farm.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.