I never had the opportunity to shake hands with Billy Graham.
A few years back my wife and I were in the Asheville, North Carolina area and had a couple of free hours. We decided to drive to Montreat to see the area where Billy Graham lived. We roamed around the quaint little community for a while. I asked numerous people “Where does Billy Graham live?” I was amazed at how many people either did not know or were just keeping the community secret from outsiders like us.
We had good friends in Asheville who had told about us about a road leading up a North Carolina mountain and that on the way we would pass George Beverly Shea’s house. Shea sang right before Billy Graham preached for many, many years.
I finally found the post office in Montreat and went in and found someone to talk to about my search. He gave me the information I needed. He told me where to go to find the very quiet road that went a long winding way up a steep mountain. We found it and on the way up we saw a house that looked like the one my friend had described as George Beverly Shea’s house. I pulled over and my wife said, “Where are you going?” I told her, “I’m going to knock on George Beverly Shea’s door. I would give anything to shake hands with him.”
Only a dummy like me would knock on a famous person’s door in hopes that he would actually come to the door. No one came to the door and I suspect that Shea and his wife didn’t make a practice of opening their door to strangers. I gave up knocking on Shea’s door and we proceeded up the winding mountain road. It was a very long way and I was about to give up when suddenly we came to a gate and I knew we were at the entrance to Graham’s mountain home.
We didn’t drive through that gate but parked the car and walked around a bit. There was nothing to see but beautiful mountain trees and scenery. We were about ready to leave and I said to my wife, “I want to pause a moment and touch this gate for just a bit.” The longer I stood there touching that gate, the more tears filled my eyes. My thoughts were, “Oh God if I could just be one percent of the person that Billy Graham is then I would be hundred times more and better than I am today.” I have to say it was a profound moment of my life. Finally I backed away from the gate, got in the car and we drove quietly down the mountain road.
What was it about Billy Graham? He was one single person who impacted the planet by everything that he said and did.
Millions of people have had life changing experiences because of Billy Graham. Yet, Graham would be the first to declare that he was simply the messenger. He preached a simple Bible message of God’s love and about an old rugged cross where Jesus died for the sins of the world. He preached about a wonderful place called heaven. Because of Graham’s simple message, he became America’s pastor who many of us grew up loving to hear.
I heard Graham preach several times in Cincinnati, Louisville and Atlanta. My oldest son and I heard him right after he had a fainting spell in Toronto. Word about his failing health was spreading. Graham came on to Atlanta to preach where about 8,000 of us where gathered in the Georgia Dome. He was 80 years old when he marched into that stadium and strongly stood on that platform and powerfully brought his inspiring message. What a day, what a day that was.
Dr. Glenn Mollette is President of Newburgh Theological Seminary, Newburgh, Indiana and his syndicated column is read in all 50 states. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of this paper or its corporate ownership.