The flickering of the family black and white TV is still vivid in Edwin Banks’ mind.
Sunday afternoons — back in his native land of Monrovia, Liberia — were almost always the same. After church and lunch at a relative’s house, Edwin’s family sat around the living room and watched Billy Graham preach on television.
This was the early 1980s; Edwin, now 36, was barely in elementary school.
But he would curl up on the couch with his family in the late afternoons — around 4 or 5 o’clock — and watch Mr. Graham preach from all over the world.
“I have an acute memory,” said Edwin, who finally moved to the U.S. in 2002. “Most of my family grew up listening to Billy Graham. His ministry has been an influential part of our life as a whole.”
So it made perfect sense that when Edwin’s extended family — the Bates — started planning its family reunion for this summer in Charlotte, N.C., one stop was a must for the weekend itinerary:
The Billy Graham Library.
“I just love it here,” said Edwin’s younger sister, Dawn Banks. “There’s not a lot of distractions. And it’s so peaceful.”
Dawn also recalls watching Billy Graham Crusades on that same black and white screen as color TV hadn’t become available to most in West Africa.
“My most vivid memory is watching all these people walking up front to get saved,” Dawn said.
About 30 members attending the Bates family reunion saw a similar scene at the Billy Graham Library on Friday as vintage Crusade clips are part of the Library’s “Journey of Faith.”
Dawn and Edwin, as part of the Bates family’s “Charlotte chapter,” were key in the reunion’s planning process as family from Minnesota and the Raleigh, N.C., area converged in the Queen City.
The theme of this year’s reunion was “Bridging the Gap.” Edwin talked about how the older generations of the family want to pass down some of the fundaments of faith and life to the teenagers.
Other weekend events included a ball on Saturday night — to celebrate the life of great-grandma Evelyna Bates, who passed away Christmas Day 2012 — and the entire extended family going to church on Sunday morning.
Although both Dawn and Edwin had been to the Library many times, it was their aunt, Evelyn, who made the initial suggestion: “Can we go see the Billy Graham Library?”
Dawn instantly agreed. After all, she’s experienced a real touch from God during past trips. “I just sit in the garden and meditate,” she said, “and just focus on the Lord.”
Monrovia has been an important place of ministry for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Not only did Billy Graham preach there in 1960, his son and current BGEA president Franklin Graham returned to Monrovia for the All Liberia Life Festival in March of 2011.
The Billy Graham Library is open free to the public, 9:30-5 p.m. six days a week (closed Sunday). You can schedule your family reunion visit by calling 704-401-3200.