Eleven years ago today, Ruth Bell Graham passed away at age 87. Franklin Graham reflects on her love for God and others.
I’ll never forget the first time my mother heard me preach. Standing at the podium and seeing her in the shadows, I realized just how much that moment represented an answer to her faithful prayers.
To follow in my father’s footsteps, I had to go through my mother’s knee prints.
Even in my rebellious years, I never doubted that Mama loved me unconditionally. I knew she prayed for me earnestly. She knew when to lecture me, when to punish me and when to hug me.
As my father was busy in his worldwide ministry, my mother was equally busy in her version of home missions—raising our family in an atmosphere that was wholesome, fun and God-fearing. She gave up her dream of becoming a missionary to Tibet because she realized that God was calling her to serve Him at home. She taught us to memorize Scripture, to think for ourselves and to care for others. No one could look at her life and doubt that she chose God’s will for her life.
Mama was fearless and tough. She wasn’t scared of chasing a rattlesnake, jumping on a motorcycle, climbing on a roof or confronting a protester.
Three passions defined my mother’s life.
First, she loved the Lord with every ounce of her being. “Jesus said … Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37, KJV).
For Mama, that was as much a lifestyle as it was a commandment. When God called her to be a wife and a homemaker rather than a missionary overseas, she committed it to prayer and then faithfully followed where He led.
Second, she loved God’s Word. Mama believed the Bible, lived the Bible and taught the Bible. How thankful I am today that she made us children memorize Scriptures—even if I didn’t always appreciate it when I was a boy!
Third, she loved God’s people, especially those who needed a helping hand, a guiding touch or a loving hug. She delighted in doing things that you never heard about—cooking for a sick neighbor, teaching Sunday school and visiting the jail.
She treated everyone the way Jesus showed us: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:35-36, NIV).
The work of the Gospel was always uppermost in Mama’s mind. When my father was gone preaching the Good News in some remote corner of the world, my mother knew that the Gospel of redemption through the shed blood of Jesus Christ was drawing people of all tribes and tongues to reconciliation with the Savior.
When I would tell her how the Lord is working through the ministries of the BGEA today to draw millions of souls to Him, her eyes sparkled and her soul rejoiced. Nothing made her happier than knowing men, women and children were coming to find rest and refuge in the Savior.
This article, taken from Decision magazine, was originally published in August 2007.