Although the afternoon turned overcast and then stormy, the light of Christ shone brightly April 9 on the BGEA campus as more than 260 women gathered for the 4th Annual Billy Graham Library Ladies Tea and Tour.
Guest speaker Gigi Graham, Billy and Ruth Graham’s oldest daughter, encouraged the women who attended to overcome storms in their own lives through the power of Christ, and invited those who did not know Him to begin a personal relationship.
Describing her upbringing in Montreat, N.C., Graham said the people she watched while growing up gave her an appetite to know Jesus. “Do you give others around you an appetite for Jesus?” she asked the women who were enjoying elegant finger food and delicious tea.
Although she came from a godly heritage, being Billy Graham’s daughter did not make her a Christian. “God does not have grandchildren,” said Graham. “I had to make my own decision to accept Jesus after my mama shared John 3:16 – ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (NIV).”
Graham then related her struggles as she went to boarding school in Florida at the age of 12. “I struggled with loneliness. I didn’t think I would measure up. … I felt insecure and inadequate.”
But, she learned, God doesn’t live in Montreat. He lives in Florida, too. “Sometimes God has to take us out of our comfort zones to teach us to depend solely on Him.”
Graham relied on 1 Peter 5:7 – “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (NIV).
At the age of 17, she moved to Switzerland and got married. “My father-in-law was abusive,” she shared. “I didn’t have friends. I felt abandoned and lonely. My spirit was overwhelmed and my heart was desolate.” During that difficult phase, Graham learned to depend even more on the Lord. “When Jesus is all you have, Jesus is all you need.”
He is all sufficient and can meet the needs of any woman’s heart, said Graham.
“Every mistake I have ever made is because I was looking for something or someone else to fill a need that only Jesus can meet,” she added. “I have dealt with prodigals, with death, with health issues, with financial problems.”
But nothing we do can make Him love us less, and nothing we go through means He loves us less, Graham explained, quoting Isaiah 54:10: “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you” (NIV).
God desires women who are burdened because He knows how burdens can shape our lives, said Graham. “Are you despondent, discouraged or depressed? Have you tried to take your own life? Give your burdens to Him.”
We are perfected in affliction and suffering, she reminded the audience. Fruit doesn’t grow on mountain tops, but in the valleys, Graham said. He knows how much we can bear. He collects our tears and puts them in a bottle.
“Do you have sin in your life? Storms in your past? Mistakes?” she asked. “You can be forgiven today. God does not waste anything. Let God fill every hole in your life.”
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Speaking after the tea ended and before touring the Library, Graham said of the experience: “I was blessed more than I blessed others, believe me. It was a privilege and a joy to be here and it’s always a privilege to tell people what the Lord Jesus means to me.”
Barbara Hunsucker, who was number one on the waiting list for the Tea, prayed that God would permit her to attend. He did not disappoint her. “I was very impressed by the Billy Graham Library and enjoyed everything I saw there. I would love to attend the tea next year. I believe there are a lot of hurting people in the world and events like this let them know people care. It opens the door to the Gospel.”
Sharing the part of the message that meant the most to her, Hunsucker said, “I was really moved when Gigi mentioned that no matter what we are going through–the trials, tribulations or joys–He is with and He will not leave us or forsake us.”