Friday, November 02, 2007

From dairy farm to stadiums

Billy Graham did make it to our North Carolina itinerary last weekend. Just west of downtown Charlotte, a new library and museum dedicated to the evangelist sits in the woods in a gated compound. It's open to the public and the gate guard was very friendly, but I thought it was kind of odd to have to stop and check in before entering.

The major part of the library is in a barn shaped building with a huge window cross. Visitors enter to be greeted by Bessie the talking cow, who tells you a little about "Billy Frank's" childhood on a dairy farm. From there each group is shuffled through a series of rooms with video presentations about different parts of the Graham ministry.

Video of Graham's preaching is prevalent, giving visitors a real first hand glimpse into what he's all about. And for those us of who are younger, you can hear the power and conviction in his preaching from younger days. More interesting to me were the cases with artifacts from his career. They included Bibles he made notes in, letters from people around the world (including presidents) and various awards.

No trip to anything Graham related would be complete with out and opportunity for salvation at the end. The tour truly does give all the credit to God for talents he gave Graham, and spends time recognizing all of the support people who made the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association what it is. So it made sense at the end to continue his tradition and allow people time to speak with a counselor and pray.

Outside you can visit the grave of Ruth Bell Graham, the wife of the evangelist, who died earlier this year. An entire room of the exibit is devoted to her, a daughter of Presbyterian missionaries in China who obviously had a great sense of humor. Notice the inscription on her headstone: "End of construction. Thank you for your patience."
It's hard not to be in awe of Graham and what he's accomplished, but I have an even greater respect for him after visiting the museum. I even bought a book about his leadership style (to be shared whenever I get to read it). I know this has been said before, but I was most impressed by how he was able to keep his message simple but powerful. He didn't ignore sin or the need to repent, but he didn't water it down or make Christianity soft either. If you're in Charlotte it's definitely worth the trip.

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