At age 12, I watched a Billy Graham Crusade secretly in our basement. The TV set became a pulpit, and Dr. Graham spoke directly to me, with heartfelt passion. His trademark phrase—“The Bible says…”—encouraged my confidence. He believed the Word of God to be living, convicting people of their sins, and offering life-changing redemption through Jesus.
What he preached rang true. Yet, I could not truly surrender my life to Christ. Like Langston Hughes, in “Salvation,” “I was saved from sin when I was going on thirteen. But not really saved.” After all, my family and I attended church religiously (though no one spoke of a relationship with Jesus). And I even recited the Sinner’s Prayer once when my zealous cousin pressured me to do it (though without genuine conviction).
Throughout high school, I continued to watch Billy Graham with fascination. Then, one night before graduation, I attended a wild party and found myself feeling utterly empty inside. I drove home in desperation, and then I taunted God in my room: “If you’re real, speak!” Grabbing the Bible from the shelf, I opened it randomly, and my eyes fell on Hebrews 4:12—“For the word of God is living…able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The fear of the Lord came over me, and I shut the book immediately. I realized Dr. Graham was right—the Bible does speak.
Not long afterward, I earnestly gave my life to Christ. Eventually attending Wheaton College, I visited the Billy Graham Center, where I learned more about the man that God had used to bring me to a saving knowledge of his Son. I remain indebted to this humble Wheaton alumnus, and grateful for his faithfulness to God’s calling upon his life.