As you can imagine there’s a staggering ripple effect of lives changed when you consider evangelist Rev. Billy Graham shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with nearly 215 million people in live audiences in more than 185 countries and territories. He also reached hundreds of millions more through media.
For example, I might not have written this article for CBN News, if it hadn’t been for the ministry of Graham. You see, when my mother was 16, she went forward at a Billy Graham crusade to reaffirm her faith in Christ. She would later lead me to Jesus in our home when I was a child.
The ministry of Graham had an impact on the father of my colleague, CBN videographer, Richey Boyd.
“I remember very clearly as a child watching all of the Billy Graham crusades on television with my dad,” Boyd wrote in an email to me. “The televised crusades were important to my dad, and he would always plan the evening at home around watching the crusade.”
“Some of the best memories I have of my dad (who has since gone on to be with the Lord) are sitting on the couch in our living room, holding his hand and watching the Billy Graham crusade,” he continued.
“Because of this, the preaching and ministry of Billy Graham became a central part of my life as I grew into adulthood,” Boyd added.
God also worked through Graham’s outreach to deeply affect CBN video editor Rocco “Rocky” DeLauri, Sr. Before DeLauri accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, he lived a life of crime.
“I have never told this story in about 45 years, but the instant Billy Graham passed, it came right into my mind,” he shared. “In the early to mid 70’s, I saw that Billy Graham was coming to Norfolk Scope for a crusade.”
DeLauri and his friend thought the crusade would be an easy target to steal money from the offering plate.
“I figured with over 10,000 people, it would be easy to do and no one would notice,” he continued. “My best friend and me went with one purpose, to get all we could and run. We sat near the top to make an easy exit.”
But God had different plans.
“I will never forget watching that plate come our way and being excited we were going to make an easy score,” DeLauri said. “I got the plate in my hand, went to reach in and couldn’t touch it. I literally felt my hand freeze.”
“I tried with all my might and couldn’t budge it. I looked at my friend, and the same thing happened to him,” he continued. “It freaked us both out so much we ran out of there as fast as we could and went and got as high and drunk as we could.”
DeLauri wrote that he left the crusade believing Graham had to be a true man of God because they “couldn’t steal from him.”
“And before you think we wimped out, know that before this, I had broke into churches, stealing a lot of what they had,” he said. “Had stolen from offering plates before and robbed people to their face.”
“Committing crimes came easy to me,” he continued. “No, this was really God stopping us, and it was His supernatural protection of His servant who didn’t even know.”
DeLauri said that by sharing this testimony, he hopes people know that “God did a mighty work changing me (DeLauri), and I am NOTHING like I was because of His Grace!”
CBN videographer Henrik Weber shared that his wife “is still serving in missions thru Operation Mobilization” – another product of Graham’s ministry.
George Verwer founded OM after he “trusted Christ in a Billy Graham meeting at New York’s Madison Square Garden,” wrote Terre Haas, the director of pastoral ministries for OM.
Haas said Verwer attended the crusade as a high school student.
“Two years later, George went to Mexico with two college friends during summer break to distribute Spanish Gospel literature,” Haas wrote in a missions update letter. “That short-term summer mission trip was the beginning of Operation Mobilization.”
“Sixty years later we are 3,700 strong from 100 different nationalities serving 115 countries around the world,” he continued.
The niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., evangelist Alveda King, also reflected on the impact of Graham.
“As a fledgling freelance journalist in the 20th century, I interviewed Dr. Graham who was in Atlanta to conduct a crusade,” she said in a statement. “As he spoke, he admonished me to ‘pray without ceasing.'”
“As he spoke, his brilliant blue eyes were glowing with a heavenly brightness,” she continued. “As I naively asked how anyone could pray 24/7; he quietly responded in a reverberating voice: ‘I’m praying for you right now.’ This unforgettable experience changed my life forever.”
Today, King is a staunch advocate for the lives of unborn babies. She is the pastoral associate for Priests for Life and the director of Civil Rights for the Unborn.
Internationally known Praise and Worship singer/songwriter Don Moen shared a poignant memory of the ripple effect of Graham’s ministry on his family.
“…my greatest memory is the fact that my father-in-law (an Amish man) somehow heard Billy Graham preaching the simple message of salvation on a transistor radio (forbidden in the Amish) in 1959,” he said in a statement.
“He knelt down in a field and gave his life to Christ,” Moen continued. “His words, ‘The sky got bluer, the trees and grass got greener.’ Because of that moment, the entire family was saved, including my sweet Laura!”
Laura is Moen’s wife.
Graham walked in humility, a life yielded to Christ. He made this clear at the dedication of his library.
“My whole life has been to please the LORD and to honor Jesus, not to see me, not to think of me,” he said. He wanted his library to be about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not about him.
CBN videographer/editor Rich Westfall shared that Graham’s vision for the library came true in his family.
“…my son officially gave his life to Christ while visiting the Billy Graham Library a couple of years ago,” Westfall wrote. “He is now nine.”
And so the ripple continues. Who knows how many people will be affected through the salvation of Westfall’s son? God does.