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.