Cliff Barrows has quite a few birthday memories. But as he celebrates 91 years on Sunday, he can point out one favorite.
It was on his 72nd birthday that Barrows proposed to his wife, Ann.
“Oh boy, talk about a happy birthday!” he said. “I just couldn’t wait to tell everybody that this was my wonderful gift from God.”
After his first wife Billie lost her battle with cancer, Barrows said he “prayed for someone to be to me what I needed to have.”
He remembers meditating on Psalm 30:11 for some time when Ann, who’d also lost her husband to cancer, came along.
“We were both very grateful that God would give us an opportunity to see that there was grace to love again, even at our age,” Ann said.
United in Service
The trio of Barrows, Billy Graham and the late George Beverly Shea are a constant memory of those who have followed Mr. Graham’s ministry over the years. With his arms and mouth open wide, Barrows would direct the musical selections at each Crusade, while George Beverly Shea’s deep voice boomed throughout arena after arena.
“All three of these men, they’re such awesome men because of God,” Ann said. “There was never that spirit of competition between them. It was always, ‘how can I help you. How can I make you look good?’ ”
That was evidenced just last November as hundreds gathered to honor Billy Graham on his 95th birthday. After entering the room to a standing ovation, Graham took the microphone only to say one thing:
“Cliff, I want to thank you. This celebration is partly for you as well, and I want to thank you for all you’ve meant to me over these years. God bless you, and I love you.”
In addition to Crusades, the two worked together for the Hour of Decision radio program, which Barrows has hosted since it started in 1950.
“I thank God for my relationship with Billy. He does my heart so much good. I think about him and pray for him constantly,” Barrows said.
Keeping God Close
The show rarely stopped when birthdays came up on the road.
“We spent them doing the work we were called to do. We never took a day off,” Barrows said.
He does recall one birthday while preparing for a Crusade in Scotland.
“Billy knew I wanted some bagpipes. I wanted to learn to play,” Barrows said.
So Billy Graham sent his assistant Paul Maddox on a mission to buy a pair. Little did he know, Maddox would get the best bagpipes in town.
“When Billy saw the bill, he said, ‘Man, I didn’t mean one that good!’ ” Barrows chuckled. “I could wake up the neighborhood with those pipes.”
Barrows grew up on a farm in Ceres, Calif., and came to Christ at the age of 10 after his pastor preached on John 3:16.
“I got up from my pew and went and gave my hand to the preacher and my heart to the Savior. And I’ve never been the same since.”
These days, Barrows can still carry a tune, even blowing a song or two on the harmonica. His humble spirit and love for God many have encountered over the years is something Ann says is very genuine.
“It’s not a performance-based relationship that he has with Christ. It is a real and living relationship,” she explained.
For decades, Barrows has been committed to memorizing Scripture, and after losing his sight to macular degeneration, that’s his biggest advice for any believer.
“I would ask everybody at whatever age to begin to hide the Word of God in your heart,” he said. “Make a book your specialty.”
Currently, Barrows is working on 1 John and 1 Peter. He’s also memorized his favorite verse, Philippians 3:10, in the Amplified version and quotes it often: [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope].
His words now to a younger Cliff Barrows:
“Seek God’s guidance and direction in your life. ‘Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.’ ”