Billy Graham Remembers Value of Family Farm
Before he preached in front of more than 200 million people in 185 different countries, Rev. Billy Graham’s Christian character roots took hold on the family farm outside of Charlotte. Graham recalls a simpler time when his younger days revolved around chores and the fruit of that labor.
“For a child of the Roaring ’20s who reached adolescence in the Depression of the early ’30s, rural life probably offered the best of all worlds,” Graham says. “As Scottish Presbyterians believing in strict observance of moral values, we stayed relatively uncontaminated by the Great Gatsby lifestyle of the flapper era with its fast dancing and illegal drinking.
“And being farmers, we could manage to live off the land when the economy nosedived in the 1929 stock market crash,” he went on to say.
The Graham family farm consisted of about 200 acres. The Grahams raised enough feed to support a dairy operation that included about 70 head of cattle. Reflecting on the regimen of milking those cows stirred more memories.
“We got up in the mornings around 3 o’clock and went out to the barns to bring the cows in and milk them,” Graham says. “In high school, I milked about 20 cows every morning and about 20 in the afternoon when I got home.
“My father and my brother Melvin spent more time in the fields where they raised the corn and the grains to feed the cattle,” Graham adds.
As is well-known, Graham departed the farm and in 1939 became ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention. He went on to form the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, a ministry that’s continually flourished since 1950. The association’s activities include regular radio and television broadcasts, life-saving assistance for those in poverty or affected by natural disasters, as well as countless Bible studies and devotionals put together by a large team of evangelists.
Graham celebrated his 92nd birthday this past November. He no longer travels the world but remains active at his mountain home near Asheville. Graham still makes time for special visitors such as President Obama, who visited while vacationing in Western North Carolina last year.
“I am amazed every time I think of how many years the Lord has given me on this earth,” Graham says. “I am grateful for his blessing on our ministry for more than six decades, but wonder if there is something more he has for me to accomplish.”
In addition to writing a book during the last few years, on the aging process, Graham continues to attend Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Board meetings as he is able. Much of the ministry operation has been turned over to Graham’s son, Franklin, and grandson, Will.
“I always enjoy hearing the reports from ongoing BGEA evangelistic events,” Graham says. “Under Franklin’s leadership, the ministry has reached new audiences in new ways I would never have dreamed, incorporating many modern technologies and creative strategies to share the same message of God’s love around the world.”
More than 60 years of ministry are encapsulated in a site that harkens visitors back to Graham’s days on that family farm. The main structure of the Billy Graham Library is shaped like a barn often found on farms of that era. Also included at the site is Graham’s family home that was built in 1927. The association moved the house from the family farm about three miles away and filled it with family photos and personal items of the Graham family.
Though not as spry as he once was, Graham’s passion remains as strong as ever.
“While I don’t know what the future holds for me, I still look for ways to serve the Lord,” Graham says.
On the Web:
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
Discover more about the life and teachings of Billy Graham at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte: