A Childhood Hero!
So, this is the day that we always knew would come and likely contemplated how the news would affect us.
I have often shared in sermon illustrations a part of my testimony that spoke to who my hero was when I was a young boy. All of my friends had heroes from sports figures to entertainment personalities and even some that were political.
I liked Bart Starr and Roman Gabrielle and Andy Griffith and John Wayne. But my hero was a man not known for sports, although he did want to play professional baseball. Nor was he known for entertainment, though he became a huge influence on many in the entertainment industry.
Ironically another part of my testimony is that I was not a reader growing up. In fact I was told in high school that I didn't know how to read. However, in junior high school, I checked out one book from the library and carried it with me almost every day. I even got fined a number of times for not turning the book in on time. As soon as I was able, I would check it out again and again. I wonder if any body else ever checked that book out.
This was fifty years ago and even then there was a biography of Billy Graham, my personal hero.
One summer, our church did bible school in a public housing development and I volunteered to help. I also carried newspapers to that same housing development every day. In the morning I was helping with bible school and in the afternoon riding through tossing papers on the porches. The kids in the neighborhood started calling me "preacher man" or "Billy Graham". I was probably about thirteen or fourteen at the time.
Later, people, usually people who didn't share my christian beliefs, called me "Billy Graham". I guess it was their way of insulting me but they had no idea that I wore that name like a badge. Still later people would call me that more out of respect than insult.
I have had the privilege to represent the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in working with the World Wide Picture divisions for several years when they were producing Christian movies. I was invited to attend the grand opening weekend (one of two such weekends) of the Billy Graham training center at the Cove in 1988 I believe. There I met Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea. It was a great weekend.
Also I have had Billy Graham's grandson speak in our church. But, unlike many preacher friends of mine, I have never actually met the man himself.
I just recently finished reading "Billy" which is a book of his early years and how he started out. I also just finished three days ago, reading George Beverly Shea's book "Then Sings My Soul."
Billy Graham has influenced millions of people over the years and maintained a multi decade ministry with the highest of integrity and respect. Now, as he was once quoted as saying, he is "more alive than ever." He is now in the place that he so passionately and humbly preached about.
Thank you sir for being such an influence in this young boy's life so many year ago. I can't imagine doing anything other than preach the gospel and I can't think if anyone who inspired me more.
So, I sit here today saddened that we have lost such a giant in the Christian world who directly and indirectly reached so many people with the life changing gospel of Jesus Christ. I also sit here today rejoicing with and for his family knowing he is now in a place more grand than our greatest imaginations and experiencing what he so passionately preached about for over seventy years.