Billy Graham caught my attention early on. I remember hearing about him as a child living in Japan in the mid-fifties. My father was in the Air Force and we were stationed at the Tachikawa air base, near Tokyo. Billy came to Tokyo for an early outreach effort and my parents attended the rally because of their shared Wheaton College connection.
My mother had met Billy during his student days at Wheaton. She worked then at the college as a secretary and also volunteered to sing with the “preacher boys” who Graham helped lead. The men recruited small singing ensembles to support the events. And all who knew him, she said, held him in high regard.
Years later, when I was attending Bible School in Portland, I was a counselor at one of his events. It happened that at the same time—in 1968—Richard Nixon and his family were politicking at the Lloyd Center Shopping Mall in Portland. I attended the rally out of simple curiosity. David Eisenhower, the former president’s son, was just engaged to Julie Nixon and both were about my age—so I thought it would be interesting to see them up close.
I earned perfunctory handshakes as I shuffled along the line with the many hundreds who were there. But for some reason the progress stalled just as I reached Nixon himself. So he was stuck with me! He handled it by asking me about my work. I told him I was a Bible College student. He smiled: did I know that Graham was coming to town? “Yes” I told him—and Nixon proceeded to gush about how much he respected the man.
Christians will miss Billy’s faithful voice as he spoke to so many hearts. The book and movie, “Unbroken,” about Louie Zamperini—a POW survivor from World War II who met Jesus at the first Los Angeles crusade—presented a snapshot of Graham’s unique impact. I especially appreciated Billy’s call for heart responses. I know of grumbles by some about what he taught and the strategies he used. But I also know that many souls were captured by Christ’s love through his ministries. So with real thanksgiving I’m also praying that God will raise up others as bold as Billy in spreading God’s love. His focus and integrity was a gift to all of us.
Let me move now to something much less weighty and altogether separate from Billy Graham’s passing.
In November I was asked to lead a track of Multnomah University’s Doctorate of Ministry program and I agreed. The track in “Affective Spirituality and Christian Formation” presents what I explored in my own studies in Church History: that God’s love is the defining basis for faith and practice. And that as Christian hearts—our affections—respond to God’s Triune love we begin to experience the spiritual transformation promised in the Bible.
I mention this here because this Spreading Goodness site shares the trajectory this track will offer. So readers who have qualifying degrees already and who want to take the next step in professional ministerial studies—whether in the MA option or in the doctoral program—are invited to visit the Multnomah Seminary website to learn more. Or, perhaps, to alert someone who you know shares our values that this is a special opportunity to consider.
I’d really be pleased to be in touch with anyone who wants to learn more.