Billy Graham’s Memories of Liberia

By   •   February 16, 2011

Billy Graham preached in 11 countries across Africa, including Liberia, Ghana, and Nigeria in January of that year. Thousands turned out to hear him in Liberia, which was the first stop on the Crusade.

As we pray about and prepare for Franklin’s upcoming Festival, we want you to learn about and fall in love with this amazing nation and its people.

Begin the journey by reading this excerpt from Billy Graham’s autobiography.

To Earth’s Ends

Liberia, a democracy founded by freed American slaves in the early nineteenth century, was our first stop in Africa on January 19. As we landed, I wondered if it might be the last stop I would ever make. One of the plane’s four motors was spurting dark smoke. With sirens wailing, airport fire engines raced toward us. The combustion, I was happy to see, subsided before we reached the terminal.

Vice President William R. Tolbert met us. A noted Baptist leader, he stopped at a small church on the fifty-mile drive into Monrovia. We had a brief prayer session there, sang a hymn, and recited the Twenty-third Psalm.

Liberia’s president, William V. S. Tubman, was also a professing Christian, a Methodist; so it was not too surprising that our Liberian visit was the first ever that was government-sponsored rather than church-sponsored. We were housed in the government’s official guest house, and we were received by the president in the gleaming-white executive mansion. He expressed his hope that his people’s souls would be refreshed through the ministry of our meetings.

Dr. Tolbert accompanied me everywhere, even presiding at our meetings in Monrovia’s Antoinette Tubman Stadium.

My associate Howard Jones had already started the Crusade when we arrived. He and his wife, Wanda, were establishing a home in Monrovia. That would enable him to preach regularly on the powerful new Sudan Interior Mission radio station ELWA in Monrovia and to conduct evangelistic crusades all over Africa. The radio station was located on a beautiful beach; fronting it were some lovely missionary homes and a school for children.

In the week preceding our arrival, Howard preached to large audiences. I preached the final two nights of the Crusade, with many thousands in attendance, resulting in 1,000 inquirers. It was an encouraging start to our African journey. Read about Howard O Jones in Liberia »

President Tubman invested me, while in the country, as a Grand Commander of the Humane Order of African Redemption, the nation’s second-highest honor. The title commander was misapplied, I was sure, but the words humane and redemption meant a great deal to me, in view of my pursuit of God’s calling for my life. I knew that Africa could move in any of several directions–Communist, Islamic, animistic, or Christian–and I was there to promote the last.

What did we learn from our first visit to the African continent?

For one thing, I came away with an overwhelming impression that God was at work in Africa and that, with the movement for independence sweeping across the continent, conditions were ripe for an unparalleled spiritual awakening.

At the same time, I also learned firsthand that the struggle for Africa’s soul was not over. I knew that Africa could be plunged into spiritual warfare as well as social chaos, with animistic and tribal ways clashing with everything from Islam to Western consumerism.

At the same time, I left Africa with a prayer of deep gratitude for the faith and sacrifice of those who had gone before us, bringing the light of the Gospel to one of the world’s largest continents. We were only following a trail others had blazed.

Thinking about those trailblazers reminded me again of the prophetic words of David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary to the heart of Africa, which I had read to our Team just before leaving New York: “Future missionaries will see conversions following every sermon. We prepare the way for them. May they not forget the pioneers who worked in the thick gloom with few rays to cheer except such as flow from faith in God’s promise. We work for a glorious future which we are not destined to see.”

Upcoming in Liberia

Carrying on the work of his father in Liberia, Franklin Graham will preach the Gospel in Monrovia March 25-27. We will bring you stories, photos and a broadcast from the event. Be sure to check back here for updates throughout March. You can also visit the All Liberia Festival website here.

And, carrying the legacy to the third generation, Cissie Graham Lynch, Franklin’s daughter and Billy’s granddaughter, also will visit Liberia next month. Watch for our interview with Cissie in March and be sure to visit her blog,

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