Almost everyone, it seems, wants to personally thank Billy Graham. Their gratitude flows in a wave of books, private and public.
The Chicken Soup for the Soul publishing franchise got on board in 2013 with Billy Graham & Me, a collection of presidents, entertainers, athletes and other celebrities telling their stories of encounters with the evangelist, who died at age 99.
For his father’s 90th birthday in 2008, Franklin Graham created a private, bound book of personal letters from people who wrote about how the evangelist drew them toward a new life in faith.
Two of Billy Graham’s grandchildren, Basyle and Aram Tchividjian, thought more people would want a chance to share thanks. So they published a 2008 book recounting stories of the Graham Crusade experience, Invitation: Billy Graham and the Lives God Touched.
Along with their brother, Antony Tchividjian, they launched a website, thankyoubilly.com, featuring more than 800 stories from 19 countries on five continents. Many speak of finding peace amid terrible struggles. Several said they were second-, even third-generation veterans of Billy Graham crusades.
• Helen MacDonald of Rupert, Idaho, recounted years of being physically, mentally and spiritually ill. The world offered her “Nothing! Nothing! Nothing!” until the day Billy Graham’s words on her TV set came to life in her heart and her husband’s. “Thank you Billy for your prayers.”
• Nancy Volosin of Visalia, Calif., recalled when her three children were tots and she struggled to rear them. She felt compelled to buy Graham’s book, How to Be Born Again. Volosin had to hire a babysitter to get enough time one day to read it. It gave her the sense that Jesus was telling her, “Go home and do the best job you can.” Years later, Volosin wrote to Graham to thank him. “He wrote back and said how much the note had meant to him for he hadn’t been feeling very well lately. Can you imagine?”
• Mike Weaver of Rincon, Ga., wrote about his grandfather, a scholar, farmer and politician, who died when Weaver was 18. “One thing I remember most of him was his affection for Rev. Graham” and his pride in attending “one of the crusades in either Atlanta or Washington, D.C., in the 1950’s or 60’s.”
Decades later, Weaver went to Graham’s crusade in Atlanta during the 1990s with his daughter Sarah, then 5. “She and I went forward when called and I received Jesus Christ as my personal savior. I felt my grandfather’s presence and knew how proud he would be of me.”
• Phillip Willetts of Truro, England, described the excitement when Billy Graham held his first full crusade in England in 1954. During the BBC broadcast, “Billy preached the Gospel, the Lord in His sovereign mercy and grace opened my heart to the good tidings, that my sins could be washed away if I would believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and ask Him to come into my life.”
Willetts wrote that he felt his life change forever with Graham’s urging. Six decades later, he is still filled with faith and gratitude.
SOURCE: USA Today – Cathy Lynn Grossman