Above, Billy Graham, 1966
March 2018 – Lifting an envelope toward him with her two nubbed arms, the leper said, “This is just a little love gift for you and your team for your worldwide ministry.”
Deeply moved, Billy Graham grasped her nubs in his hands and thanked her. As she walked away, a missionary translated a note she had included: “Wherever you go from now on, we want you to know we have invested in some small way in your ministry and given, in a sense, our widow’s mite. We send our love and prayers with you around the world.”
Inside the envelope were two Nigerian pound notes worth approximately $5.60 in American money at the time. Graham turned away to look across the vast brushland. After a few moments, he turned to Grady [B. Wilson] and Cliff [Barrows], tears trickling down his face.
“Boys,” he said, “that’s the secret of our ministry.”
That moving vignette occurred in a Nigerian leprosarium. Author William Martin tells the story in A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story, the updated, comprehensive biography of the world-renowned spiritual leader and evangelist.
Princes and kings
He is a “man who walked with princes and kings,” Martin told AFA Journal. Professor of Religion and Public Policy at Rice University in Houston, Texas, Martin was approached by Graham in 1985 and asked to “look at his ministry and assess its place in history.”
“What I thought would take me two years to write took me five [for the first edition], and now totals over 30 years [in releasing the second edition],” Martin said. The book will be released in March, just months before Graham’s milestone 100th birthday in November.
Martin said the new edition has been updated with new chapters on Graham’s later life, as well as material gleaned from “a good visit with each of the Graham progeny.”
The biography published by Zondervan, tops 700 pages of engaging and involved detail. It met with acclaim from Graham himself.
“About six months after the book came out (in 1991),” Martin said, “he called and said, ‘Bill, this is Billy Graham. I read your book, and I think you know me better than anybody except Ruth.’ Now I wouldn’t claim that. But I took it that he felt the book was fair and accurate. He said, ‘You see things about me that I don’t allow myself to see.’”
Personable and humble
Although Graham comes across as a larger-than-life character, “he’s still something of a small town boy and astonished that people would think he was special,” Martin surmised.
That small town boy hobnobbed with people such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Martin Luther King Jr., and all manner of world leaders. In a Prophet with Honor, Martin relates Graham’s casual mention of having tea with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
“He is a genuinely humble person but also takes considerable pleasure in being famous,” Martin commented. “Those qualities are in some tension within him, but I think humility clearly wins.”
The biography captures these complexities of Graham’s massive personality, as well as how his worldwide influence led Christianity into a new era.
“Billy Graham is one of the most important figures of the 20th century with respect to religion,” Martin said. “I would claim he played the most important role in the spread of evangelical Christianity.”
Billy: The Early Years of Billy Graham DVD set
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