On the day that Billy Graham died, I heard him preach

by DanWolgemuth on February 23, 2018

At 7:33AM Eastern Time, on February 21st, Billy Graham, the first, full-time Evangelist in our Youth For Christ mission tugged oxygen out of his last breath, and then marched humbly into glory. Graham, a profound amplifier of the name and fame of Jesus the Christ. Graham, by his own admission, a sinner, saved by grace.

In 1946, a 27-year-old evangelist positioned himself behind Youth For Christ lecterns across the United States. God was on the move. In Billy. And then, through Billy. The words rolled, the Spirit moved. Anointed is the only explanation. Anointed to proclaim. Not his message, but God’s. Sin. Grace. Repentance. Forgiveness. Restoration. Hope.

So seasoned with mercy, so saturated with conviction.

Billy moved on from Youth For Christ… but he didn’t. Not because of his persona, but because he drove an immoveable stake in the ground for our mission. The Gospel of Jesus. The preeminence of Christ in all things. Billy hit bedrock, and he made certain that our anchor held secure.

Nine hours later, on February 21st, I sat in the back of a small meeting room. Nine young men in yellow jump suits sat in front of me. Nine. Young. Men.

Alex, Chris and Stan made certain that all of them knew that God loved them. That God listened to them. That grace was sufficient for them.

Nine young men listened intently, reverently, hopefully… they clung to the words of grace in desperation.

A conviction and a sentence had not isolated them from mercy and grace.

On the very same day that Billy Graham stepped into glory, his legacy crashed on the shores of Wyandotte County Detention Center. Instead of death silencing his voice, it amplified it.

Young men listened… men who could hardly look more different than Billy Graham. Young men who had nothing in common with a North Carolina farm boy. Except sin, and grace, and Jesus.

Nine young men will never attend a Billy Graham Crusade. They will never participate in a Youth For Christ rally… but the words of our first full-time evangelist echoed in the daunting hallways of prison. Grace is no respecter of steel bars. Love moves unconstrained through concrete cells. Death could not hold Him, and neither can a felony conviction.

Sitting behind nine yellow jump suits, I heard Billy Graham preach… because I heard the words of Jesus.

Over seventy years ago, Billy Graham stepped onto a platform. And the Good News he preached at our founding, is the Good News I heard on the third floor of a Juvenile Detention Center.

Legacy. Not in the millions of people who heard Billy Graham preach… but legacy in the ageless, timeless, eternal words of Jesus, our living Christ.

On the day Billy Graham died, I heard him preach.

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