Next Time Pilgrim
By ice rivers
- 63 reads
Pilgrims from around the world journey to Charlotte, North Carolina. They come to visit the home of Billy Graham. It's a very big deal.
We live in Charlotte. We weren't exactly pilgrims when we went on a senior center sponsored bus trip to the Graham library. As a Catholic boy growing up in New York, I was aware of Graham but didn't know what to make of him. There was something very cool about the guy. He had a joyful message about Jesus. The problem is he wasn't Catholic. I was kinda afraid that if I paid too much attention to him, I would go to hell.
Billy Graham was a renowned American evangelist who played a significant role in shaping American religious life in the 20th century. He was born on November 7, 1918, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and passed away on February 21, 2018.
Graham rose to prominence through his large-scale evangelistic crusades, which he conducted throughout the United States and around the world. He preached a message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and aimed to bring people to a personal relationship with God. His charismatic speaking style, combined with his humble demeanor, helped him connect with diverse audiences.
Throughout his career, Graham held numerous evangelistic events, attracting millions of people and making him one of the most recognized religious figures of his time. He presented the Christian message in a straightforward manner, emphasizing the need for repentance and the transformative power of God's love.
Graham's influence extended beyond religious circles. He served as a spiritual advisor to numerous U.S. presidents, from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama, and provided counsel during times of crisis and national mourning. His commitment to racial integration and his involvement in social issues such as civil rights earned him respect from people across different backgrounds.
Billy Graham's legacy as an evangelist and Christian leader is profound. He preached to millions, counseled world leaders, and left an indelible impact on American Christianity. His commitment to spreading the Gospel and his unwavering faith continue to inspire many people today.
We arrived shortly before the Library opened. A few people with backpacks were waiting outside the gates when we arrived. After passing through the gate, our bus stopped and we departed in front of the Graham family homeplace. The library is housed in a barn like building behind the residence. We met our tour guide who provided some history. She would continue to provide most of the information icluded in thie piece. 'The farmhouse at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina, is not the original Graham family home but a reconstructed replica. The original Graham family home was located on a dairy farm in Charlotte and has been moved several times over the years.The original farmhouse was first relocated to the Graham family's current property in Montreat, North Carolina. Later, it was moved to a different location within Montreat and served as the Graham family retreat center. In 2006, the farmhouse was moved again, this time to its current location at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, where it was reconstructed as part of the museum and library complex.The reconstructed farmhouse at the Billy Graham Library provides visitors with a glimpse into the environment and setting where Billy Graham grew up, offering insights into his early life and upbringing. While it is not the original structure, it has been designed to replicate the Graham family home and serves as an important component of the library's exhibits and displays.'
The place is beautiful. It reminded me of the George Eastman house in Rochester with its roped off rooms. I've seen this kind of thing before.
We passed through the house and made our way to the library. Before entering the library, we strolled down a lovely path which led to the grave site of Billy and Ruth Graham The site features a simple stone marker for each of them, with their names and birth and death dates inscribed. Billy's marker reads "Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ" and includes his birth and death dates. Soft music played in the wooded prayer garden. Within the serenity, I could feel a spiritual breeze in my soul that I had not expected.
When we entered the library, we were greeted by a cow. Of course, when we saw the cow in this location I had to say "Holy Cow" which Lynn didn't appreciate. Lynn asked our guide if the the cow was "real". The guide said no. Lynn said "it certainly looked real". The guide said "then we did our job". We approached the animatronic cow and it began to talk about Billy's childhood during which he rose every morning to milk the cows.
After the cow, we entered the Journey of Faith which is a multi-media presentation of film, photographs, memorabilia and interactive displays accentuating Graham's life, family and evangelist missions all over the globe. Three pieces of memorabilia were particularly impressive; the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II and a Navajo head dress.
The photos include Billy with many US Presidents including Truman, Ike, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, and both Bushes. For me personally, the most impactful photo was of Billy chatting with Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali, the legendary boxer, and Billy Graham, the renowned evangelist, first met in the 1960s when Ali was still known as Cassius Clay. Their friendship developed over the years, and they often had discussions about religion and spirituality.
Muhammad Ali and Billy Graham had a notable relationship that was characterized by mutual respect and friendship. Both individuals were prominent figures in their respective fields and shared a deep commitment to their faith.Ali, who converted to Islam and became a member of the Nation of Islam in the 1960s, valued his friendship with Graham despite their theological differences. Graham respected Ali's convictions and supported his religious freedom. He recognized Ali's influence and the impact he had on society both inside and outside the boxing ring.
Both Ali and Graham were known for their strong convictions and their ability to connect with people from different backgrounds. They shared a belief in the power of faith and used their platforms to promote unity, peace, and social justice.Their relationship continued to grow over the years, and Graham was among the prominent figures who eulogized Ali at his memorial service in 2016. He spoke of their friendship and the impact Ali had on his life and the world.The friendship between Muhammad Ali and Billy Graham exemplified their ability to transcend differences and find common ground in their shared commitment to their faith and their desire to make a positive impact on society.
One of the last stops on the Journey of Faith is a model of the Berlin Wall. In June 1961, just a few months before the construction of the Berlin Wall began, Billy Graham conducted a series of evangelistic meetings in West Berlin. His crusades attracted large crowds, including both East and West Berliners, who were able to freely cross the border at that time. Graham's messages of hope and faith resonated with the people, especially those living in the tense environment of a divided city.
However, during Graham's visit, tensions between East and West Germany were escalating rapidly. The East German government, fearing the influence of Western ideologies, began constructing the Berlin Wall in August 1961 to halt the mass migration of its citizens to West Germany. The wall physically divided families, friends, and communities, and became a symbol of the Cold War. After the wall's construction, Graham continued to express his concern for the people affected by it. In subsequent visits to Germany, he emphasized the need for unity and reconciliation, calling on individuals and governments to work toward peaceful solutions.
During the Cold War era, Graham's messages of faith, hope, and reconciliation resonated with many people living under the shadow of the Berlin Wall. While he did not have a direct role in the wall's history, his visits and teachings served as a reminder of the importance of compassion, forgiveness, and spiritual freedom, even in the face of political divisions.
When we left the Journey, we were offered the opportunity to visit a prayer room where a guide would be happy to pray with us. Once again my Catholic upbringing reared its head. I declined the opportunity.
The Catholic Church's view of Billy Graham has been generally positive, recognizing his efforts in spreading the Gospel and his commitment to promoting Christian faith. While there may have been theological differences between Graham's evangelical Protestant beliefs and Catholic teachings, the Catholic Church acknowledged his impact and respected his dedication to proclaiming Jesus Christ.
Throughout his career, Billy Graham maintained a respectful relationship with Catholic leaders and expressed his desire for Christian unity. He sought to work alongside Catholics and other Christian denominations in shared efforts to spread the message of Jesus Christ.
Pope John Paul II, during his papacy, met with Billy Graham on several occasions and expressed appreciation for his evangelistic work. In 1993, during Graham's visit to Rome, Pope John Paul II said of him, "We today bear witness to the joy of Christian hope... May your evangelistic work continue to bear fruit for the building up of the Kingdom of God in the hearts of countless men and women throughout the world." Even though the Catholic Church recognized Graham's contributions and respected his ministry, theological differences remained. The Catholic Church has specific doctrines and practices that differ from many Protestant traditions, including those espoused by Graham. These differences made it impossible for me to pray even as I felt a silent prayer singing in my heart.
I most definitely under rated the power of our "Field trip". I plan to return maybe next time as a pilgrim.
Graham continuously spoke of death but not as something to be feared. The last message that I read from Graham was his thought about his own death. "Some day I'll feel a gentle tap on my shoulder and a voice saying 'come home'.
I like that.
Today I feel less afraid.
I've learned that you don't have to travel thousands of miles to make a pilgrimage.
Sometimes, it's just down the road apiece.
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How interesting. I did not
How interesting. I did not know where he had lived, or of the 'museum'.
As a teenager coming to faith through the general RE lessons we had in the sixth form by an economics teacher who showed us the gospel message and Christ's work so clearly (I had grown up in vague Welsh chapels that had drifted from any clear explanation of the faith, and showing no clear understanding), I went to one of Billy Graham's crusades expecting a rather emotional worked-up atmosphere, and was impressed that his preaching was simple, explanatory and clear, stright-forward.
Nowadays one often finds Christians who can testify how they were first stirred to seek and find the Lord through attending meetings of his at various times.
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