Memories of a Godly Woman

By   •   July 31, 2007

‘Called as a Team’
Without Ruth’s partnership and encouragement over the years, my own work would have been impossible. We were called by God as a team. She urged me to go, saying, “God has given you the gift of an evangelist. I’ll back you. I’ll rear the children and you travel and preach.”

I have been asked the question, “Who do you go to for counsel, for spiritual guidance?” My answer? “My wife, Ruth.” She is the only one I completely confide in. She is a great student of the Bible. Her life is ruled by the Bible more than any person I’ve ever known. That’s her rule book, her compass. Her disposition is the same all the time–very sweet and very gracious and very charming. When it comes to spiritual things, my wife has had the greatest influence on my ministry.
–Billy Graham

The Night Watchman
That mountain home was her nest. Back in her bedroom, she had her own study desk–a big, wide, flatboard table that she had gotten from an old mountain cabin and restored. She had it pushed up against the wall, and stacked on top were her study Bibles, commentaries and concordance. I can remember as a boy getting up early and going into her room. She would be sipping coffee while quietly studying.

As I grew older, my parents were pretty good about giving me liberty to come and go as I pleased. But my mother, like most mothers, had her own way of getting her point across. She always sat up and waited until I got home–no matter what time it was. It really bugged me, because it made me feel guilty. I don’t know how many times I tried to slip in late. There she would be, dressed in her robe, sitting in her rocker with a book or a Bible on her lap. “Thank God you’re all right,” she’d say.

“… You don’t need to wait up for me,” I’d say sheepishly. Mama would just smile, say goodnight and go to her room. … As intent as I was on showing my independence and partying late if I wanted to, after awhile Mama’s night watchman routine got to me.
–Franklin Graham

Growing Up With Ruth
I was a good bit younger than Ruth, but when I think of our childhood, the first thing that comes to mind is her love of animals. She always had animals around, baby ducks, baby chickens and so forth. She had a tremendous compassion for animals, to the point that she would take a baby chicken to bed with her–that resulted in fatal effects for the chick!

When she was about 13, Ruth wrote a poem about Chinese graves. We lived in a compound surrounded by a brick wall, and on the other side of the brick wall were graves. All of us grew up hearing mothers who would come out to the graves and weep for their children. I think this is partly what inspired Ruth to write about the hopelessness of people who died without Christ. She was always sensitive, even as a young girl.
–Virginia Somerville
Ruth’s younger sister

Wheaton Days
We were at Wheaton College together for a while. At one point Ruth believed that God wanted her to have her hair grow long and to discontinue wearing makeup. I thought that this “conviction” was just her imagination. I told her, “This is ridiculous that you’re growing your hair and not wearing makeup anymore. You look …” I’ve forgotten how I put it, but I was very untactful.

When I was through, Ruth drew herself up to her full height and looked me straight in the eye and said, “Rosa, when God has spoken to me and told me to do something, how dare you interfere!”

When she finally cut her hair and wore makeup again, some people were concerned that she had “lost her spirituality.”
One of Ruth’s teachers was so distressed about her change that she wrote to Ruth.

Ruth wrote back, saying, “If loving Jesus more now than I did before, and if serving Him with all my heart is what I’d rather do than anything, then, yes, I’ve lost some of my spirituality.” The teacher wrote back, “I’m satisfied.”
–Rosa Montgomery
Ruth’s older sister

A Godly Example
I would go down to my mother’s room late at night. I would see the light on underneath the door and I’d go in, and she would be on her knees in prayer.

As I look back on my childhood, I cannot remember any impression whatsoever that my mother was ever lonely. She may have been lonely, but I never saw it.

I believe that our heavenly Father, our Savior, saved my mother from loneliness because of her daily walk with the Lord Jesus; He was the love of her life. It was her love for the Lord Jesus, with Whom she walks every day, that made me want to love Him and walk with Him like that.
–Anne Graham Lotz

Grace and Truth
When you were with Ruth, you wanted to sit up a little straighter and have your best smile because you were interested in what she had to say. I think of Scripture when I think of people, and John 1:16 says, “and of His fullness we have all received” (NKJV). Fullness means grace and truth, and that’s what you sensed in Ruth. You sensed that God knew her … and you were inspired to go there. She abounded in energy and excitement in serving the Lord.
–Karlene Shea
Wife of George Beverly Shea

‘One of Us’
Ruth and I were so close as children that each of us called the other “One of Us.” When we got together, we’d call ourselves “Both of Us.” A few years ago, I became very ill while on a missions trip and ended up in the hospital. I was so amused one day when the lady came around with flowers. She motioned to one plant.

“This one is anonymous,” she said. “It only says, ‘From One of Us.’” I just laughed, because it was not anonymous to me at all. I knew immediately that it was from Ruth.
–Sandra Gartrell
Ruth’s lifelong friend who grew up with her in China

A Positive Inspiration
For some reason, on a California road trip with the Grahams, the hood on Billy’s car would not stay latched. Every few miles he’d pull over to the side of the road, and Franklin would get out and slam the hood down. When we got to Utah, we stopped at an ice cream shop. Ruth had never been able to drink chocolate milk; I think she was allergic to chocolate. Anyway, she ordered a chocolate milkshake. Billy said, “Ruth, I have never seen you drink a chocolate milkshake.” She rolled her eyes and crossed them, which is something she sometimes did, and said, “You’ve never seen me take a trip like this, either.” Oh, did we have fun! Ruth was one of the most positive people I’ve ever known. She was a real inspiration to those who knew her. Even in the wheelchair or her bed, she was always a joy to visit.
–Mary Helen Wilson
Wife of the late T.W. Wilson, Associate Evangelist and Assistant to Billy Graham

True Righteousness
With Mother, I have seen true righteousness in a human being on a level that I’ve never seen before. There was absolutely no insecurity in the woman. There was total and absolute peace and confidence of who she was in God through Christ. There was a complete dependence and openness to the work of the Holy Spirit in her life. She hungered and thirsted after righteousness constantly. I’ve never seen anything like it.
–Ned Graham

Rejoicing in Heaven
When we first heard the news of Ruth’s homegoing, our first thought was how people in heaven would be rejoicing and thanking her for the sacrifices that she made–and there were many. Were it not for those sacrifices, they would not be there.

Ruth wasted no time here on earth. Some people would consider her life as having been wasted in staying home, “just being a wife” and “just being a mother.” But she wasted no time. When you think of all God accomplished through her, it is astounding.
–Anne Barrows
Wife of Cliff Barrows

Pursuing the Heart of God
Ruth was a person who was in pursuit of the heart of God. I first started reading her poetry about 25 years ago. I love her poetry because it is so real. You would expect that Ruth Graham would say only the religious things, the positive things, about life. She was an incredibly positive person, but her poetry is very nitty gritty. It’s really about the hard stuff of life and how you lose sight of what you’re supposed to be doing in the middle of all the details of life.
–Gloria Gaither

‘No End of Fun’
Ruth was a great companion to have–a little zany but just great fun. At the same time, she had a very deep understanding of the Bible, and we had some wonderful spiritual conversations on the way ’round. Her love of life and her fun–that sums her up. She did have a great sense of humor, and we had no end of fun going around and plotting things. She teased Mr. Graham–unmercifully sometimes–but he understood her. She had a way of doing these things wonderfully.

We’ve traveled in various places, having great adventures. She was a very knowledgeable person. I remember once in Scotland, when we were doing a tour, she knew all about it. I overheard our guide talking to another guide. Pointing to Ruth, he said, “That lady knows more about this than I do.”
–Jean Wilson
Board Member, BGEA United Kingdom

A Kind Welcome
When I was at Amsterdam ’86, my mother came with me, and she was in her late 70s or early 80s. Mrs. Graham reached out to my mommy and patted the seat next to her and said, “Sit here, Lindy.” I could cry just thinking about that, that Mrs. Graham took time to treat everybody–even my dear mother–with kindness and a sense of welcome and sisterhood in Christ.
–Joni Eareckson Tada

‘Nothing Pretentious’
In the early 1970s, a large body of students from Montreat College attended Ruth Graham’s Sunday school class. We’d sing some fun Christian songs, and then she would open the Word of God. It was always something practical and applicable to college students. She always had a very down-to-earth, “this is what Scripture says” message. She was the first person to help me understand that the Bible could be used as a plumb line–that no matter what the question of life was, the answer was in the Bible. That really stuck with me.

She would call periodically, and a group of us would go up to her house to plan for Sunday school. I don’t think it really dawned on me who I was talking to. She was just Ruth Graham. She was just like Mom. There was nothing pretentious about her. When you met the lady, you met exactly who she was, and you met exactly who she was in Christ, because she made that very clear.
–Rob Schermerhorn
Montreat College Alumnus

Her Strength
She was a woman of great fun. She was also a woman of great discipline. She disciplined herself in the knowledge of the Word. She got that love from her father and mother and her training in China. … Her father was a great man of the Word, and he taught the children, in family devotions, to love the Word and to hide it in their hearts. Ruth was an avid student of the Word, and that became her strength.

Ruth had a heart for China and would have loved nothing more than to have been sent back there. … But God had other plans for her. She married an evangelist who traveled the world, and Ruth made possible his going by her faithfulness in staying home and praying for him.
–Cliff Barrows

 

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