The 241 credentialed journalists who gathered at the BGEA headquarters in Charlotte may have thought they were going to report on a tribute to a man. The thousands who tuned in to listen on radio or watch on television may have thought they were going to experience the same. But the May 31 dedication of the Billy Graham Library was designed, like the Library itself, to glorify God and to proclaim the message of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. And that’s exactly what it did, from Cliff Barrows’ opening comments to the closing hymn, “To God Be the Glory.”
TV satellite trucks began filling the BGEA parking lot the day before the dedication, and longtime BGEA friends and supporters began to arrive and tour the Library. Their reactions? “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Bill Nolen, of Concord, N.C. “It was a blessing. … I’ve got five kids and 17 grandkids, and I can’t wait to tell them about it and get them to come.” Bill Chatlos, of Orlando, Fla., said, “It just made you feel that God’s presence was here with you, and you felt like worshiping Him through the whole event.”
On the morning of the dedication, Franklin Graham took media representatives on a tour of the Library. Again and again, he explained the Gospel to the reporters and reminded them that the purpose of the Library is to point to God, not a man. Standing in front of a heavy, wooden cross in one of the rooms, Franklin explained that Jesus shed His blood for us on the cross. “This is the message of the Library, right here,” he said.
And BGEA continues to proclaim that message, as is evident in the final room on the Library tour. “BGEA Today” highlights continuing ministries such as the Billy Graham Training Center, the Rapid Response Team, the My Hope World Television Project and Dare to Be a Daniel.
After the media tour, Franklin greeted former presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush and also led them through the Library. Former president Bill Clinton arrived in time to join the others and Billy Graham in the Library’s dairy bar for a barbecue lunch.
Meanwhile, guests arrived for the dedication service. They mingled, reminisced about Billy Graham’s ministry and spoke of the message of the Library. Applause erupted as Billy Graham, Franklin Graham and the former presidents exited the Library and made their way to a large, open-sided tent for the dedication service.
For the 1,600 people sitting under the tent, the Library and the reconstructed Graham homeplace were visible behind the podium. Programs doubled as fans in the 90-degree heat, as people heard from Cliff Barrows, BGEA board member Graeme Keith, Bishop George Battle, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley, musical artists Ricky Skaggs and Wintley Phipps, Franklin Graham, the three former presidents, George Beverly Shea and finally Billy Graham.
After so many had made kind remarks about him, Mr. Graham began by saying, “I feel terribly small and humbled by it all, and I feel I don’t deserve [it] because it’s been a whole team of people that have worked together, prayed together, traveled together, believed God was going to do wonderful things together.”
Mr. Graham thanked the Team members, mentioning Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea specifically. Then he spoke about his wife, Ruth: “Today I want to honor her and tell you how much I love her and tell you what a wonderful woman she has been. More than me, she deserves to be here today.”
The service included prayers of dedication by Richard Bewes, retired rector of All Soul’s Church in London; Ross Rhoads, chaplain of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and vice-chairman of the Samaritan’s Purse board of directors; and Sami Dagher, pastor of the Karatina Alliance Church in Beirut, Lebanon, and president of the Alliance Churches in Lebanon.
“Father,” Dagher prayed, “we pray that this Spirit of the living God will be in that place, and everyone [who] will enter will feel the Spirit of Christ there and will know that the whole goal and aim of the Billy Graham Family is that Christ will be known to everyone.”
After the service, 85 Graham family members gathered for a portrait with the Library as a backdrop, guests toured the facility, and reporters filed stories. And in those stories, again and again the Gospel was communicated–it simply couldn’t be missed.
Norman Geisler, co-founder of Southern Evangelical Theological Seminary, had the same observation about the Library itself. “You can’t miss the message,” Geisler said. “It was everyplace. It’s not about Billy Graham’s tours or Crusades. The Gospel is everywhere. If I weren’t already saved, I’d have stopped in one of the alcoves and prayed right there.”
When the doors of the Billy Graham Library opened to the public Tuesday, June 5, standing in line were guests from Florida, Alaska, California, Illinois, Mississippi, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Bill and Karen Dumbauld, of Seal Beach, Calif., had been in the Charlotte area to visit friends. They wanted to see the Library before rushing to Raleigh, N.C., to catch a flight home. “We wouldn’t miss this,” Bill said.
Domna Colepaugh, who said she was saved at Billy Graham’s Chicago Crusade in 1971, came with her son Jason, 12. He said, “I heard about Ruth’s Attic; that sounds cool. And I heard it’s going to be really educational, so I’m going to like that.” Domna added, “It means a lot to see the Crusades and have this perpetuated for generations.”
By mid-afternoon, a young man had rededicated his life to Christ, and the following day a 9-year-old boy named Matthew prayed to receive Christ. The Library was already beginning to fulfill its purpose, as described at the dedication service by Graeme Keith, who was instrumental in helping BGEA to build the Library. “The new Library will not be a memorial to Billy Graham,” Keith said. “Nor will it be a museum. It will be a ministry that we believe will touch and change the lives of thousands of people in the years ahead as they visit this facility.”