Guatemala Photo Reveals Billy Graham Legacy

By   •   January 11, 2013

Flipping through her grandfather’s old photo album this week in Guatemala City, Daniela Morales’ eyes locked on a photo that she couldn’t quite figure out.

Four men, huddled around a piano, looking dapper in suits and ties and smiling right at the camera.

Yet none were completely recognizable.

Still, there was something about this photo that kept the 21-year-old Daniela from turning the page, as she sat in her parents’ office.

 “Who are these guys?” Daniela finally asked her mom, Miriam, sitting at the computer nearby.

Miriam knew immediately.

“That’s Billy Graham,” she told her daughter.

Daniela needed to know more. What was this picture (posted below) of Billy Graham, along with (from right to left) Cliff Barrows, George Beverly Shea and Tedd Smith doing in her grandfather’s photo album?

Her grandfather — the late Javier Castillejos who passed away in 1977 — was a pastor and a seminary teacher, but in 1958 had a close encounter with the 39-year-old Mr. Graham in Guatemala City.

In fact, he took the picture.

“My mom wasn’t even born,” Daniela said of the prized family photograph, “but she’s heard the story about how my grandfather translated for him.”

Turns out on the evenings of Feb. 12 and 13 in 1958, at Mateo Flores Stadium, Javier stood beside Mr. Graham, translating the Gospel message to 100,000 people.  It was part of the three-week Tour Caribbean, where one- or two-day Crusades took place in eight different countries.

“It’s such an honor that my grandpa was so close to Billy Graham at that moment,” Daniela said.

Excited about the photograph, Daniela — a California college student who was back visiting her native Guatemala — took a picture of it with her phone and posted it to Twitter and mentioned @BillyGraham.

Found this photo of @BillyGrham & other leaders that my grandpa took when he translated 4 him at a crusade! Wow!

The picture also brought back memories of so many stories she’s heard about her grandfather Javier.

“Oh my goodness, his ministry… he had such a great story,” said Daniela, a Christian who is also a translator at her church in Hollywood, Calif.  “He had 10 kids and managed to work at a seminary, go to school and pastor a church.”

To find out more, she called her great uncle, Rueben, in Miami. Rueben, who was involved with the Guatemala City Crusade choir, helped Daniela realize the significance and impact that Mr. Graham had and how her grandfather played a part of that.

“He was a student at the time,” Daniela said of Rueben. “He sang in the choir with two of his brothers as well.”

Further research discovered that Mr. Graham was the Grand Marshall of a parade through Guatemala City on Feb. 12. He later returned to the country shortly after the 1976 earthquake disaster and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association delivered food and medicine to the hurting nation.

“I have never seen devastation on such a scale like I’ve seen today,” Mr. Graham addressed the survivors. “My heart is aching and broken.”

The BGEA also held a nationwide outreach program in Guatemala called My Hope in September of 2005, the same evangelistic event happening in the U.S. and Canada in November 2013.

But this week, Mr. Graham’s impact in Guatemala happened in the form of one small photo, sitting in an album that had been handed down from generation to generation.

And now Daniela has a story to pass along to the next one.

“It’s so valuable — it’s gold for me,” she said of finding the photograph and the story. “I discovered a lot of things about my family I didn’t know. Just because of this one picture.”

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41 Comments

  1. Godswill says:

    Wow, what a great story.