The Billy Graham I Knew
I met Dr. Billy Graham in Washington DC when I was invited to attend a Presidential Prayer Breakfast, at which Billy Graham would often be the man bringing the message or at least a guest speaker. It was because of my relationship with American Presidents, President Nixon in particular, that I was able to be at this event and meet Dr. Graham. There were four American Presidents who would not go to war until Billy Graham had come to the White House, sat down in the Oval Office, and had time of prayer for wisdom for guidance.
I got to know Dr. Graham more during my time living in America, both in Washington and New York. He was forever gracious and humble and he had a heart of kindness and gentleness second to none. He was very careful to consult with a team of fellow friends and brothers in Christ with whom he had an accountable relationship. They did not make a decision to go anywhere unless there had been great prayer and his team had peace of mind that this truly was of God. So for me it was like getting a PhD from a man with enormous eloquence, godliness, humility, and who laughed at my pathetic jokes—it was all-round a remarkable relationship.
President Nixon had asked Billy Graham if he would go to Northern Ireland at a very tumultuous time in that nation’s history. Dr. Graham agreed to do this and reached out to me to ask if I would be prepared to meet with him and advise him on what he should or shouldn't do. It was in 1972 and we had just had the terrible Bloody Sunday massacre in Londonderry. The troubles were never worse and arrangements were made for Dr. Graham to stay in a hotel with military security provided by the British government.
Because Billy Graham, though a man of God, was coming as an official representative of the President of the United States, it was important for them to make sure that the he was not put at risk. Because of this, he was advised not to go ahead with his plans to walk the length of the Shankill road and the Falls Road—the parallel extreme roads of Protestants and Catholics. But Dr. Graham was determined to do so and you can see the photos from this trip in his autobiography, Just As I Am.
We met and planned out the various things that were to take place. One Sunday morning we met with around 20 of the most dangerous men. Dr. Graham asked if any of them had any questions and to my surprise they bombarded him. The first question, which I can never forget, was something like, “Billy, do you think a fella who dropped a bomb and it sort of went off and killed a few people—do you think he's going to hell and that's the end of it, or could he like end up in heaven, or is that just ridiculous?” Dr. Graham never needed encouragement when the opportunity to share the Gospel came up. He said, “You must be born again, and how I'll tell you how!” He shared the Gospel and these hard, cold murderers wept and pleaded for the forgiveness of sins and salvation. These were days that I can never forget.
Billy and the NIV
Billy Graham had been asked to address a meeting arranged by the Northern Ireland government, or the equivalent thereof, and to speak in any way he could to encourage a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation out between Catholics and Protestants, unheard of and thought absurd because it was so impossible. That evening we were driven back to the hotel because the military police were very afraid of anything happening to Dr. Graham. I don't think they cared less about me, but because of Billy Graham and his stature and reputation, and because he was there as an emissary of the President of the United States, they had a high level of security.
You couldn’t park cars like you normally would, close to a property, because of the risk that you had a bomb in the back. So you had to leave it quite a way off and walk through the darkness back to the property. So Dr. Graham and I got out of the car and walked toward the hotel through the grounds in the darkness of night, when suddenly we heard this voice, “Get over here, Billy.” Dr. Graham and I looked at each other and I think we both thought it was a pretty ominous cry and weren't quite sure what to do. I cried out and said, “What can we do for you?” He said, ”I want to be born again, like now!” Dr. Graham and I looked at each other again. The voice was heard again, “Billy Graham, are you the man that's in the born-again business or not?” Dr. Graham said, “Yes, I am in the born-again business and I'm coming right now to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with you.”
He did, and this man, whose name happened to also be Billy, gave his life to Christ. When he had done so he said to Dr. Graham, “You know, Mama—she's born again. And she cries every night and every morning for me to get saved and that's why I had to come here when I heard you were coming. I said, he's the man that's in the born-again business. I'm going to see him; I'm going to get born again.” Dr. Graham said, “Well, you have—you've given your life to Christ.”
Dr. Graham then turned to say goodbye and this dear man said, “Billy, can I ask you for a big favor? My mom won't believe I've seen Billy Graham and that I even got born again. She'll think I'm lying.” Dr. Graham looked at his bible and he said, “Billy, what's your mother's name?” He told her and Dr. Graham took his pen out and wrote in the Bible: “To Billy's mother. It was my privilege today to pray with your son, Billy, to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Billy is born again. Billy Graham.”
Not long after that, I got a call from Dr. Graham back in the United States to tell me he'd had a communication in the form of a letter from Billy's mother. She recounted that when her son, Billy, arrived back home, he went upstairs and told his mother that he got born again. She said, “Billy, you've lied to your mother, this is very serious!” He said, “No, Ma. I have, I have.” Billy put his hand in his coat and he pulled out Billy Graham's bible and handed it to his mother. She opened it and cried, “My prayers have been answered!”
I'm pleased to tell you that there was a humorous element to it all. Billy’s mother had kept in a drawer a Bible to give to her son when he got born again. She hurried out of the room and came back with the Bible and handed it to Billy. He looked at the Bible and he said, “Look, Ma. N.I.V.—it's the Northern Ireland Version!” You could imagine how much I laughed, not to mention Billy Graham. Right until Dr. Graham went to be with the Lord, we would still ask each other, “Have you read the Northern Ireland Version?”
A Harvest of Souls
Billy Graham was a world evangelist. He was a tall, elegant, humble, gracious man, who had an enormous heart to spread the Gospel message of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, around the world. And so he did, from continent to continent, from free countries to communist countries, and places that would have been advised not to go to for the sake of his own safety. But if God called him, that's where he went, not recklessly, but with much prayer surrounding him.
The majority of the people that prayed for Dr. Graham over so many decades were ordinary, regular people that went to a Billy Graham Crusade and came to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The had gotten up during his appeal and gone forward to give their lives to Jesus Christ. And their lives were so gloriously changed. Many of these people never stopped praying for him and for his ministry, so he had a prayer team from around the globe. God heard and answered these prayers, and it will take heaven to reveal the enormous harvest of souls, for Christ's sake.