The ‘Biggest Fan’ of Franklin Graham

By   •   June 18, 2011

Sometimes it’s a small moment that can define a relationship.

Or redefine it.

Cissie Graham-Lynch remembers that day back during her freshman year at Liberty University.

She had just finished a really bad day and was sitting in a coffee shop.

And she felt like talking to her dad.

“I was almost in tears,” Cissie recalls. “I forget what triggered it, but I just called up my dad just to say, ‘I am so proud of what you’ve done and what you do. I just wanted to thank you.’ “

To say this coffee-shop phone conversation was the pivotal moment in the relationship with Cissie and her father Franklin Graham may be an overstatement. But a new kind of relationship had clearly developed between a father and daughter and Cissie could sense it.

No longer was Cissie a teenage “brat,” intent on bucking the system.  Gone were the days where Cissie, in her own words, would try to “break the rules” and “break away from the Graham name.”

“It wasn’t until I got into college and away from home, I realized what my dad did at Samaritan’s Purse and at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association,” she said.  “That’s when I fell in love with these ministries and their importance. I took pride in the Graham name.”

‘It Kept Our Family Close’

Having the Graham name was a mixed blessing for Cissie growing up.  As a little girl, she remembers going to Crusades in Africa and Australia. And during her freshman year in college she traveled with her dad to seven different countries on her first around-the-world adventure.

But there were many times where weeks or even a month would go by without seeing her dad, who was traveling around the globe proclaiming the Gospel.

“My mom kept us very well-grounded and down to earth in the small town we grew up in,” Cissie said.  “And when my father would come home, every night before we’d go to bed, my family would have devotions together.”

And this wasn’t an optional family event.

“He would read out of the Scriptures every single night,” she said.  “And before it was over, every one of us, we’d have to get on our knees and go around in a circle and pray.

“It kept our family close and tied together. You know, I didn’t get it at the time, how powerful that was.”

‘Your Children Are Watching’

There’s no secret formula to being a successful dad.  But if there was one piece of advice that Franklin Graham would give, it’s simple: Practice what you preach.

“Be the same at home that you are in public,” Franklin Graham said.  “That’s the same thing I saw with my father. The Billy Graham people saw in public was the Billy Graham I saw at home.”

The lesson is as practical as it is spiritual.

“The picture of God that your children are going to have is watching you and how you live your life,” Franklin Graham said.  “Be the same person because your children are watching you. And they’ll grow up to be just like you, so be careful.”

Cissie, who grew up with three brothers who were 8, 10 and 12 years older than her, knows this all too well.  She can quickly pinpoint certain attributes she sees of herself in her father.

“I am like my dad, where I see the importance of going to all parts of the world and sharing the Gospel,” Cissie said.  “I think I have a lot of my dad’s strength in me. And maybe some stubbornness in there, too.”

‘We’ve Definitely Become Closer’

Cissie is now a 25-year-old married woman, living in the Tampa area with her husband, Corey Lynch, a safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The dynamic between Cissie and her dad’s relationship continues to strengthen over the years with added respect and admiration.

So it’s not uncommon for Cissie’s phone to ring, out of the blue, with her dad on the other end, just wanting to hear her voice.

“We’ve definitely become closer, especially now that I’m working in the ministry,” said Cissie, who works as Special Projects Producer at Samaritan’s Purse. “Just a couple weeks ago, when he was in China, he would take a moment and call me and say, ‘Hey Cissie, I’m just checking up on you. Just wanted to tell you, I love you.’”

But she’s also learned just because the phone is ringing doesn’t mean it’s for her.

“Many times he’s calling to talk to my husband to talk football,” she said.

And Cissie’s OK with that. She knows her dad has many passions in life.

“A lot of people see him in his tie and in his suit and being very serious and presenting the Gospel and that’s what he’s taught me the importance of,” Cissie said. “But my dad is so much fun behind the scenes and with his friends. He’s a lot more relaxed.

“And whether it’s riding his motorcycle, shooting guns, flying airplanes on mountain tops in Alaska, I just think my dad is the whole package.”

‘Never Compromise on the Gospel’

Cissie and her father don’t talk shop too often. They’re both in ministry to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but their relationship is more than just the happenings at Samaritan’s Purse or the BGEA.

“Maybe at home a few times, I’ll share something on my heart or something I’m working on,” she said. “But most of the time, it’s what’s going on in my life. Just even if it’s a quick one minute (talk) before he’s going on a TV show, he’ll call and say ‘I love you.’”

The thing is, Cissie doesn’t need to talk to her dad about ministry. She spent her entire childhood watching her father living out his faith, whether it was proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel in front of thousands in a stadium halfway across the planet, or frying bacon and eggs at home in Boone, N.C.

“The greatest thing my dad has ever taught me is to never compromise on the Gospel,” she said. “And you see that in his daily life. He will not back down.

“It doesn’t matter what radio station he’s on, what TV program he’s on, he will always present the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Even if it’s a hard-to-reach place that takes flying in his own plane to get that message out.

“I can not express how cool my dad’s job is. And I’m just the proudest daughter,” Cissie said. “I’ve come to absolutely respect my father. I’m probably his biggest fan.”

Check out Cissie Graham-Lynch’s blog here.

Photo (right) courtesy of Adam Barnes Photography. 

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10 Comments

  1. Virginia Stewart Mirabelli says:

    I am thrilled to know the Billy Graham family ministry is now into the 3rd generation with
    Franklin Graham’s daughter! Have been inspired and amazed for over 50 years-Deeply respect
    the work of Samaritan’s Purse, most especially OCC. It all started for me with the 16 week N.Y.
    Crusade back in 1957. Thank you Billy Graham and family for your Gospel message!

  2. Yvonne says:

    I am a school teacher in California and we take part in Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child program every year. I love this ministry and always look forward to seeing the video every year. God bless and keep spreading God's Word all over the world! You are an inspiration to many. We are praying for your ministry.

  3. enock fedna says:

    I always love these people

  4. Sandra Barnum says:

    I had the privilege of working for your dad at SP in the late 90's. He is one of the finest men I have ever met. He is as you say, genuine with no pretenses. I always looked forward to hearing him teach the staff what he knew about God's Word during the morning devotional. I am now a full time missionary living in Nicaragua. I know that God used your dad to open my heart to loving the lost. It could not have been easy growing up being a Graham, just like it was not easy for your dad. There were so many sacrifices made by all of you. I am happy that you have come to appreciate your name. The world trusts the Graham name, use it for the glory of God.

  5. PAT says:

    I feel as if the Graham family has been a part of my life for a long time. My Dad became acquainted with Billy Graham years ago and took him for a boat ride in Pinecastle, FL. My son, Mark is working in Kenai, AK for the summer and is looking forward to having a chance to meet Franklin.

  6. Rosa says:

    It sure seems to run in the family. I LOVE all of the Grahams. God bless you Cissie. What a blessing to be in that family.

  7. Alex says:

    Praise God! this shows what it is to live by example.

  8. Phyllis says:

    My husband and I have always appreciated and loved the way your father makes sure the Gospel message is shared on any program he is on. My husband was privileged to meet your dad a couple of days ago in Alaska. What a blessing and encouragement your family is to all of us who love the Lord Jesus. Thank you for this tribute to your father.

  9. Brenda says:

    I enjoy all the stories I hear about the Graham family…but this one really touches my heart. Not every child can say their father's are living examples of the Godly life. Bless you Cissie for recognizing the greatness of your heritage and bless your parents for being the well “rounded” and “grounded” people they are for your sake and the sake of others who have the pleasure of receiving their great gift!

  10. edith says:

    GRAHAM family is the best leader in evangelical ministry. I love them. May the good Lord always bless them.