Billy Graham — the internationally-known evangelist who preached the gospel to countless people around the world during his lifetime — offered a clear message of hope during times of war to members of the Armed Services.
In 1952, Graham traveled to Korea to spend Christmas with the American service members stationed there for the war. Graham not only took time to preach and share God’s Word with troops, but also to visit the wounded in the hospital and minister to service members one-on-one. The trip was profoundly influential on Graham, and he wrote, “I wept more in Korea than in all the past several years put together. These experiences changed my life. I could never be quite the same again – I felt sadder, older. I felt as though I had gone in a boy and come out a man.”
Graham also spent two Christmases with troops during wartime in Vietnam. General William C. Westmoreland, commanding general of the American forces deployed to Vietnam, invited Graham to preach and minister to service members stationed there, and Graham gladly accepted.
During his visits, he spent time visiting troops on aircraft carriers, at air bases, in hospitals and even at jungle outposts. Upon his return to the States, Graham said, “These men were daily facing death for the sake of their country and freedom. As I gave invitations for them to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, hundreds raised their hands in front of their buddies. Many were weeping unashamedly — men who had faced death just hours before.”
While our current national crisis may not be a traditional war, it is a time of crisis nonetheless, where citizens are banding together against a shared threat to our communities. During this unique time, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) has continued to share the same message of hope that Billy Graham preached throughout his life by proclaiming the Gospel throughout the world by every effective means available.
In the days since COVID-19 began infiltrating the globe, special web pages in multiple languages were created through BGEA’s Internet Evangelism ministry, Search for Jesus, to address the fears quickly spreading through countries around the world. Through these pages, thousands are connecting one-on-one with trained Search for Jesus volunteers ready to listen, encourage and guide.
Special hope-filled sermons and Gospel presentations from Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, and Will Graham, grandson of Billy Graham — including a recent message he filmed from the Billy Graham Library to remind people without hope that Jesus died for them — have been broadcast through traditional media, streamed online and shared through social media.
A Prayer Line was established in the days following the declaration of a coronavirus pandemic. Staffed with volunteers trained to listen and offer prayer and encouragement, the toll-free phone line has received thousands of calls from those who are lonely, scared, and looking for a way to connect. The free phone line, available anytime day or night, is 888-388-2683.
Finally, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) of crisis-trained chaplains deployed alongside Samaritan’s Purse at their Emergency Medical Hospitals in pandemic hotspots in Italy and New York City. These chaplains have ministered to healthcare workers, coronavirus victims, grieving families and anyone seeking prayer and encouragement. The RRT also announced its first ever “national deployment,” encouraging its chaplains — in compliance with CDC guidelines and safety concerns — to wear their signature blue shirts for ministry opportunities in and around their neighborhoods.
Though the struggle against coronavirus continues as of this writing, we prayerfully anticipate the day when we can return to a level of normalcy. When that time comes and we’re able to reopen the doors of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., we invite all service members to plan a visit. In addition to the interactive Journey of Faith tour and special displays on the life and ministry of Billy Graham, the Library hosts Military Appreciation Days throughout the year, and offers special discounts to active-duty service members. Please visit www.BillyGrahamLibrary.org for more information.
As Billy Graham observed in Korea and Vietnam, you and your family sacrifice greatly for the rest of us, and for that we are grateful. Be safe, stay healthy, and we hope to welcome you soon.