What an incredible man and what an incredible legacy. The internet has been flooded with glowing tributes following the death of Billy Graham yesterday. The black and white images of a man with a distinctive hairline and a smart suit brought back memories of my childhood, where Billy Graham was something of an icon.
My parents both discovered a life-changing Christian faith in their twenties. They both attended a church youth group and my father made his commitment at a big rally in Kent, along the lines of a Billy Graham gathering, but on a smaller scale. A British evangelist and author, called Roy Hession, gave an alter call and my father responded. Meanwhile, my mother decided to follow Jesus Christ after reading that famous booklet ‘Journey into Life’, handed to her by a Christian friend. Thank God for that. They went on to have five children and brought us up in a loving Christian home. Billy Graham and his sermons stood in stark contrast to the popular culture of the 60s and 70s. Our home reflected similar values, yet as a child I sometimes struggled with this.
Growing up I had the sense that our family was different… even a bit odd. We dressed up and went to church on Sundays, while other friends were out in the park. We were often told we couldn’t do things or shouldn’t because “we’re Christians”. Instead of going to ‘Brownies’ I went to Scripture Union Bible classes in a nearby village – they were actually lots of fun, but I thought at the time I was missing out and there was no uniform! Early in the mornings we’d find my mum and dad praying together in the room beside the kitchen before dad went to work. I’d hover or tiptoe through, making sure I heard my name being mentioned, along with my brothers and sisters. They prayed for each of us by name every day. What a legacy they left. They weren’t perfect, but they certainly created a solid Christian foundation for us all to build on, if we chose to.
I know I didn’t appreciate what they gave me at the time. I fought against it and rebelled in countless ways and yet somehow I couldn’t shake it off.
It was quite a few years later, when I shared my story of faith with its ups and downs that I realised how privileged I was to have parents who taught me to read the Bible and pray and set me on a Christian path. I grew up knowing the God of the Bible as a friend and a personal saviour. This was their greatest gift to me.
I wonder what legacy we will leave for our children and others? It probably won’t be like Billy Graham’s, but I hope we have given our children a Christian foundation to build on, wherever that path leads.
Today I’m feeling thankful for my parents, who went ahead of Billy Graham to that heavenly address, and who shone for Christ just as brightly in the Reay household.