was called home to the Lord on 21 February. He was 99 years of age; his death was announced globally. The Queen, past US Presidents and scores of eminent men and women paid personal tributes to this man of God. He had preached to over 200 million people in sports fields. huge indoor arenas; his powerful proclamation of the Gospel was relayed to an even greater audience through TV, films, radio, books and the internet. Without doubt, Billy Graham was acknowledged as the best known communicator of the Gospel. On a personal level, he became a trusted confidante to numerous statesmen.
I had the joy and privilege of meeting him on more than a dozen occasions. Our first encounter was in December 1972 at Lausanne, Switzerland. I remembered entering the hotel lift with him. He and 30 other leaders had earlier heard me giving a 15 minute devotion to the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelisation. I introduced myself to him. With a broad smile he said, “I know who you are – the new General Secretary of IFES; your predecessor was a friend of mine. Thank you for expounding Ephesians 6:18 so succinctly. I made full notes of your message on prayer. And I will preach it one day using your “all’s” – all-prayer, all-times and all-saints.” His words took my breath and left me breathless. Billy Graham knew how to encourage younger leaders.
Six months later, we were in Atlanta, Georgia. After lunch, we walked and chatted together for several minutes. Richard Nixon’s Watergate trial was broadcast live on TV. Billy believed the President’s critics and accusers were wrong and his friend Nixon would be exonerated. A year later, I heard him confessed openly before several thousand people, how wrong he was and the danger for Christ’s ambassadors to be partisan in politics. For me, this is the mark of greatness – the willingness to admit mistakes or misjudgments. My respect for him grew.
Billy used to give the closing message at the triennial IVCF Urbana Missionary Convention in 1970s and 1980s. We were both on the “speakers team”. Each convention lasted four days, He attended every daily planning meeting, He always listened attentively and he enthusiastically backed up every useful contribution. He never threw his weight around. His presence lit these “planning” sessions.
Through his Evangelistic Association, Billy released millions of dollars for conferences that forwarded world evangelisation. I was personally involved in three of these. Generous funds were also channelled to many holistic ventures. I am impressed not only by his generosity but by his personal integrity. He did not follow the lifestyles of some TV evangelists who amassed personal fortunes for themselves. He lived on a salary comparable to what senior pastors would earn in USA. In an obituary published by a secular British newspaper, the contributor noted that Billy’s finances were audited by others.
Some papers have referred to Billy’s handsome looks and attractive personality. As he often travelled alone to speak at rallies and conferences, he could be vulnerable to temptations of the flesh. Once, during an Urbana conference, Billy asked me to leave a contact address for him in his hotel letter box. Since his room was a floor above mine, I thought it was safer to send my hand-written note and push it under his room door. Within seconds, I felt a heavy hand on my back. I was petrified. Then I looked up and saw the familiar face of one of his close aides – Grady Wilson. He smiled and said, “Please don’t do that again, my brother. I could have crushed your bones! I weigh well over 200 pounds.” Billy believed in being accountable and transparent, and he wisely had a team of trusted men around him. This is an illustration of the great care Billy Graham took by making his bedroom out of bounds for everyone. It is well known that tabloids are known to get prostitutes in celebrities room and photograph them to compromise them. I learnt from this never to stay in a hotel room alone.
Billy is now in glory.
I had recorded in a notebook, his adaptation of another famous evangelist
“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”
SOME THOUGHTS ON THE CROSS
David Ogilvy, founder of the Advertising Agency Ogilvy & Mather made the above point clear to his office heads by sending each a Russian nesting doll with progressively smaller figures inside.
He left a message in the smallest doll with these words:
“If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of Dwarves. But each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, O & M will become a company of giants.”
Denis Waitley Priorities
FOUR QUOTES FROM OGDEN NASH
(1902-1971) noted writer, poet and humourist
To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup.
Whenever you are wrong, admit it,
Whenever you are right, shut up!
You are only young once,
but you can stay immature indefinitely.
Do you think my mind is maturing late?
Or simply rotted early.
O money, money, money,
I’m not necessary one of those who think thee holy.
But I often stop to wonder how thou canst go out so fast
When thou comest in so slowly.