My Press Conference with Billy Graham

It’s time to be grateful for Billy Graham, who died Wednesday at age 99. I have several BG stories, but what means the most is that Billy was the focal point of my first press conference in 1971. Afterward, the story that resulted became my first journalistic byline in Texas Christian University’s The Daily Skiff. It meant a lot that this inaugural byline story combined journalism and faith.

TCU Horned Frog and Campus Crusader Doug Macfarline arranged passes for us to this press-only event. I had the “sort of” legitimate press credential, majoring in journalism and getting the editors’ permission to represent The Daily Skiff. Our friend and driver Mike Sears provided car and camera. We were set for the conference at the Cowboys’ Texas Stadium press room. Not only was Billy Graham there but also Dallas Cowboy’s coach Tom Landry and quarterback Roger Staubach. Texas heaven! Handsome Billy was larger than life with a firm handshake and steady eye contact. Tom and Roger impressed us, because they quietly made time to meet the college students.

Billy Graham, 1971, Dallas
Billy Graham visits with Doug Macfarline and blurry me. Photo by Mike Sears

This week I dug out my “Evangelist Says Young Are Vital.” It strikes me from

How the story appeared.

reading it that back in the 1970s American youth led the way to many cultural changes. Perhaps they are doing the same this past week in protesting the cultural violence that has become too commonplace.   Here is the story:

 

Evangelist Says Young Are Vital

By Cynthia Schaible

Evangelist Billy Graham confessed Wednesday, Sept. 15, his work would have “petered out” except for the interest of young people.

He talked about youth and the Jesus Revolution to some 50 media persons at a press conference in Dallas’ Texas Stadium.

Coach of the Dallas Cowboys Tom Landry, also executive chairman of Graham’s Dallas Crusade, introduced Graham by saying, “His team has only one quarterback. If I had his quarterback, I wouldn’t have any trouble either.”

Graham, 52, said he feels that his evangelism is much more acceptable now than in the first few years of his 21-year career. Some 60 to 70 percent of the audiences are under 25 years of age. “Young people want more than a creed in their heads; they want an experience in their hearts.”

Jesus People

“Problems are deeper than materialism. Our problems are with the heart. This is something my generation has not understood. We’ve got the finest set of civil rights laws ever, but it does not solve the race problems. Love must come from the heart and Jesus can put it there,” Graham said.

Graham, who just returned from a tour of Europe, commented on his amazement at the interest in the Jesus Revolution both there and here, “We’re all Jesus people, who love Jesus.”

He said that five years ago the youth were turning to drugs and eastern religions for answers, but now young Americans are becoming aware these are not the answers.

Commenting on the difference between the old generation and the new, Graham said parents who suffered in the Depression and World War II did not want their children to suffer in that way, but he added, “I think my generation somehow got the idea that man can ‘live by bread alone’.”

“Problems are deeper than materialism. Our problems are with the heart. This is something my generation has not understood. We’ve got the finest set of civil rights laws ever, but it does not solve the race problems. Love must come from the heart and Jesus can put it there,” Graham said.

Included in the Jesus Movement is the Pentecostal Movement. Graham said this movement is happening because “we went through a period where the church starved for true experience. People are hungry to know Christ personally. Some are going to extremes. Emotionalism could cause a backlash.”

Church Errs

One purpose of the Crusades is to relate young people to the Church. Graham said some churches make either one of two errors. The fundamentalist error is the view that all a person needs is to be saved; the other error—achieving social justice and not worrying about salvation.

“I think there is only one gospel. The first commandment Jesus talks about is to love God with all your hearts, souls, and minds, and then love our neighbors as ourselves…The first four commandments talk about a relationship with God; the next six talk about a relationship with man…there needs to be a balance.”

Graham, crusading for the third time in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, hasn’t been here since 1953. The Crusade runs Sept. 17-Sept. 26, the first event in the almost completed Texas Stadium.

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A Little More on Billy and Ruth

“Some day you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

Billy Graham preaching at crusade, Charlotte Armory, 1947, (photo, Billy Graham Library).
Billy and Ruth Graham comfort victims from a 7.5 earthquake in Guatemala, 1976 (photo, Billy Graham Library).

 

A cemetery gravesite for two shows the marker for Ruth Bell Graham, surrounded by grass, flowers, and tree.
Ruth Bell Graham’s gravesite on the Billy Graham Library property in Charlotte, North Carolina (CSB photo, 2017).

 

A marker at Ruth Bell Graham’s gravesite says, “While riding down the highway years ago, Ruth noticed a sign beside the road, “End of Construction–Thank you for your patience.” With a smile, she said that these were the words she wanted on her gravestone.”

A marker at Ruth Bell Graham's gravesite says, "While riding down the highway years ago, Ruth noticed a sign beside the road, "End of Construction--Thank you for your patience." With a smile, she said that these were the words she wanted on her gravestone"

Gripes Be Gone!

The countdown for T-day has begun, and I’m wearing a purple bracelet to remind me of the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Actually, it is a visual to recalculate whining tendencies.  The bracelet declares, “Gripes Be Gone!”

Speaker and writer Linda Dillow gave two dozen women and me the bracelets at a recent teatime event. Linda is a Bible teacher, who mines scripture for spiritual nuggets. During this talk she asked if we knew what four horrible offenses God held against the Israelites when his miracles freed them from Egyptian slavery. The Apostle Paul lists the wrongs in First Corinthians 10: sexual immorality, idolatry, testing (rather than trusting), and grumbling.  Linda asked, Isn’t it interesting that grumbling makes this list?  Who knew the offense was and is THAT bad?

Dillow Insight on Griping

Linda Dillow
Author and speaker Linda Dillow

Here’s another observation Linda drew our attention to in First Corinthians 10:6 (ESV): “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” In other words, we have this example to teach us not to do likewise. Then, Linda challenged us to reexamine our attitudes in those moments that are uncomfortable or difficult. Attitudes of thankfulness fortify the command, “Gripes Be Gone!” She recommended daily journaling to record all the ways we receive God’s care. Give thanks!

So I’m wearing my little purple bracelet and watching out for gripes. When I catch myself, the band is moved from one wrist to the other. (One audience member declared she was not removing her bracelet but simply stretching the band and giving herself a whack.)

Church hospitality guy Dave Fischer wears a large turkey cap.
Someone who makes me smile many Sundays is church hospitality traffic guy Dave Fischer. He likes unusual hats.

Please, No Bleating!

Goat bleats out her complaints!
Bleating!

 

I looked up one definition of gripe:

1.  “to express a complaint or grumble about something, especially something trivial.
“they gripe about the busywork”
synonyms: complain, grumble, grouse, protest, whine, bleat….”

How about you? Would you like to take the bracelet challenge and discover how well you can keep the gripes and bleats away this Thanksgiving?

Here’s one more “gripe” observation for Thanksgiving that might be appropriate. The second definition of gripe is:

2. “to affect with gastric or intestinal pain. ‘It gripes my belly like a green apple.'”

Therefore, watch out for getting too stuffed like a turkey! Happy Thanksgiving!

A Humorous Aside:

For those interested, here is what the Israelites complain about in the wilderness, shortly after their freedom from Egyptian bondage:

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. The people went about and gathered it and ground it in handmills or beat it in mortars and boiled it in pots and made cakes of it. And the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. 9 When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it (Numbers 11:4-9).

 

Gripes Be

Gone

Samaritan’s Purse and BG’s RRT After Hurricane Harvey

A map of south Houston shows Santa Fe circled bearing south of Houston and west of Galveston.
Santa Fe, Texas, is south of Houston in Galveston County. Record rain from Hurricane Harvey fell beginning August 25.

Recently, I went to hurricane-hit Galveston County, Texas, with the Billy Graham’s Rapid Response Team (RRT) chaplains in tandem with Samaritan’s Purse volunteers. It was a hope-filled experience. Even now, hundreds of Americans are still quietly helping recent disaster victims find a new normal.

The “Orange Shirts” of  Samaritan’s Purse 

Sixteen men and women in orange shirts stand in front of a black semi-truck that bears the name Samaritan's Purse.

Women with long brownish-grey hair sits in a car and talks to a chaplain in blue shirt and tan cap.
Homeowner Rita is relieved Samaritan’s Purse crew help rid her home of mold.

Many of these volunteers work under Samaritan’s Purse and are nicknamed the “Orange Shirts.” They come from all over the country and do home clean-up and rebuilding. They range in age from teenagers to senior citizens.   Working with them are the “Blue Shirts” or RRT chaplains who offer emotional and spiritual care to volunteers, home owners, and their communities. Chaplains do a lot of listening, a lot of praying, and a lot of traveling in rent-a-cars from one work site to another. In between, they are available to pray and visit with anyone who shows interest.

A large group of sitting orange shirt volunteers and two blue shirt volunteers listen to a speaker standing by a white board.
Morning meeting and a devotion from Ohio’s Pastor Spencer
Three U-haul trucks in a parking lot have three groups of orange-shirt volunteers in prayer huddles.
Prayer huddles before morning work begins.

Some Q’s and A’s

Do volunteers alleviate all the disaster problems? No. Statistics are fairly constant that 70-80 percent of disaster victims already are dealing with a crisis before a disaster occurs. Problems, for example, might be legal (divorce), medical (dialysis, cancer, drug addiction), financial (unemployment, bankruptcy), or emotional (grief, depression). One of my trainers says “travel in their lane” when offering comfort and “listen, listen, listen.” After a disaster, healing comes more readily when victims articulate their stories and feelings to a safe person.

Do I feel spiritually worthy to be a chaplain? Not really. I bank on the fact that God uses weaknesses.

Two blue-shirt women and a man in orange shirt flank a smiling blond-hair grandma with two little girls dressed in princess customs. Behind them are a wall of crosses and the words "God Be With You."
Homeowner Holly and her two granddaughters joined us for supper. All homeowners are invited for a meal. Also pictured are team lead Brian Bartholme and Chaplain Linda Wentzel.
Woman sitting in car touches a Bible that another woman, standing by her, is holding. Both are smiling.
Orange Shirts autograph the special Bible each homeowner receives after a completed project. Here homeowner Rita is with her friend Kate.

 Am I trained and vetted? Yes. Earlier this year I spent five days at Billy Graham Association’s training facility “The Cove,” Asheville, North Carolina. Prior to that I filled out a lengthy application form which required seven references and an FBI check.  I also had a phone interview with a staff member. Training courses are available online too, and some are mandatory.

Why did I feel that I should go? It is difficult to explain, but I sensed a nudging and a calling to do it.

A corner of an empty room, with tan walls and brown carpet, shows an air mattress with sheets and blanket on it and a blue and purple towel draped over a folding chair, with black suitcase and tan travel bag on the side and end of mattress.
Cozy corner
The tan wall has the word "Yes" painted on it in darker tan paint.
The wall graffiti helped me decide which Sunday school classroom to choose for a bedroom.

Was I scared? Yes, a little bit. I was uncertain I would last the week.

Did God show up? Yes. He was right there.

 

Three smiling middle age women in orange shirt and one smiling woman in blue shirt link arms for photo.
My roomies: Gloria, Bev, and Hatti, from Missouri and Arizona

Many Hands Needed

Because there is overwhelming needs after a disaster most help from both religious and secular organizations is welcomed.

Samaritan’s Purse is probably best known for its Christmas shoe box ministry for underprivileged children, but it also is an international relief ministry. Following NYC’s 911 in 2001, Franklin Graham witnessed so much emotional and spiritual pain that he started the BGRRT chaplaincy program. Since then hundreds of chaplains have been trained and now regularly receive email lists of deployment dates.

Some, but not all chaplains, are trained for manmade disasters such as the recent Las Vegas shooting. When a chaplain finds a week-long date convenient, he or she emails back availability. Then a staff member in North Carolina puts together a team and lets the chaplains know when they will be deployed.  I served with eight other chaplains in Santa Fe, Texas, among about 90 Samaritan’s Purse volunteers. There were seven such sites in Texas at that time. Our site had over 800 work orders for damaged properties garnered from Samaritan’s Purse staff who make the initial contacts and assess damaged homes.

Hallway shows many different kinds of muddy shoes on both walls with a blue plastic "Samaritan's Purse" cover on the floor.
Flood work shoes are contaminated; they were taken off at night and put back on in the morning.

Our group was housed in the educational center of Santa Fe’s First Baptist Church–Alta Loma.  Cooks prepared breakfasts and suppers for us in the church dining hall (we also packed brown bag lunches).  Samaritan’s Purse rolled in a semi-truck equipped with eight private, air conditioned showers. [Thank you!]

A bearded man, woman in apron and cap, and another woman in grey t-shirt sit at a round table smiling.
Resting a little after feeding breakfast to hungry volunteers are California cooks Carl and Lana Wray with Pennsylvania manager Cheryl Bradbury.

Heroes

After my “rookie chaplain” experience, the homeowners and local churches now remain in my prayers. They are my heroes as they persevere with daily tasks and work to get their lives back together the best they can. This Thanksgiving and Christmas will be rough for them so keep them in your prayers and donate where and when you can.Ranch house has new insulation on its outside, with lots of garbage on the curbs between the red pick-up in the driveway.

Lots of leaves and some trash cover the driveway by a brick house. Second photo shows all the debris is gone.
Before and after photos of yard clean-up

There were other new heroes for me. I came away with greater appreciation for Samaritan’s Purse staff and the “Orange Shirts,”  who work all day in sweltering heat and do yucky jobs like “mucking out” flooded houses.

Let’s just say when stuff rots for eight weeks there is a lot of  yuckiness to remove. I heard minimal complaining from the volunteers. They really are the salt of the earth.

 

A photo from car showing a street lined with lots of discarded household items and garbage that was flood-damaged.

Orange shirted men are kneeling beside a kitchen sink with masked covering their mouths and noses.
Unexpected mold is the enemy

 

Man on roof of small building is clearing away debris. A red ladder is leaned against the building and another man is walking toward the building.
Tarping a roof

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An orange shirted man holds a ladder while another man stands on it and adjusts a raised American flag and pole.
Restoring a veteran’s flag and pole
Standing inside a U-haul, an orange shirted man is helping an orange-shirted woman adjust her mask.
Samaritan’s Purse volunteer Denise Houchins prepares for some serious mold spraying.

 

A group of 15 men and woman of various ages wave at the camera with big smiles.
Ohio church team waves farewell before heading home.

 

A young man and a middle age man sit at a round table and smile.
Father and son team Vaughn and Jake Ticknor from Montana led work crews while taking time off from their family’s construction business.

Billy Graham’s RRT Chaplains

Of course my heart is with the “Blue Shirts,”  who are compassionate “people persons.” It was a privilege to serve with each one.

A blue shirt man and two blue shirt woman look down at a lot of paperwork on a round table while two blue shirted women stand and smile at the camera.
There is lots of paper work to keep track of who goes where and does what. Chaplain Marilyn is giving me rabbit ears.
A posed shot of six women and one man in the center, all in blue shirts with red lanyards and ids.
From left to right: Chaplains Linda, Donna, Cindy, Larry, Karen, Beth and Kate

Would I do it again? Yes, my two blue shirts are clean and folded in the suitcase with the air mattress.

Orange shirt woman stands with older man and his walker, smiling at camera outside his brick home.
Johna with homeowner Cyrus

I want to thank photographer and Samaritan’s Purse volunteer Johna Brock from Wisconsin and Chaplains Donna and Linda for giving me permission to share many of the above photos. 

 

 

Samaritan’s Purse link: https://www.samaritanspurse.org

Billy Graham Rapid Response Team link: https://billygraham.org/what-we-do/evangelism-outreach/rapid-response-team/about/