This month June writes:
Last month (August) was a significant month for us as we celebrated our 60th Wedding Anniversary (Diamond). It was on August 16, 1958 that we were married at Salem Chapel, Bedminster Down, Bristol.
This month in our sermon series we are drawing to a close of the series of messages looking at the lives of the Old Testament Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph – 81 sermons in all.
We have examined the lives of these great men and learned from their experiences, warts and all. As I have reviewed and prepared these sermons to be uploaded onto our website I have been blessed all over again by the truths contained therein. The Word of God is as alive and relevant today as when these messages were first preached.
Our featured sermon for this month is entitled, “The last hours of a Godly man” and is an exposition of Genesis 48, and the death of the elderly Jacob. In part of that chapter Jacob looks back over his life and reviews the way the Lord has led him.
It seems especially appropriate therefore that as we have celebrated our Diamond Anniversary we, too, have looked back over our 60 years of marriage and marvelled anew at the grace of God which has “led us all the way.”
In the life of Abraham, we learned that wherever Abraham went he “pitched his tent and built his altar”. And we have tried to make that true of us also. Our married life has been divided exactly between two continents – 30 years in England, the land of our birth, and 30 years in the U.S.A., the land of our adoption.
In the UK we have lived in Bridlington, Hull, Weymouth, Chessington, Bournemouth, Welwyn, and Milford on Sea. In the U.S. we have lived in Wilmington, Delaware; Washington, DC; Fort Lauderdale; and, most recently, Davenport, Florida. Now in the UK we have come to rest(!) in Poole, Dorset. In each of these places we have endeavoured to “pitch our tent and build our altars” of worship and service for the Master. Wherever we have lived we have learned much, and made precious friendships which last to this day. Only recently we had the joy of visiting with a friend, now in his 90s, from our earliest married days in Bridlington, on the beautiful east coast of Yorkshire.
In all of the places mentioned above Harry has had the inestimable privilege of preaching the Gospel of God’s Redeeming Grace – from student conferences with IVF; as a Methodist local preacher; in churches both small and large; at great conventions such as Keswick; and in as diverse places as Japan, Brazil, Canada, Bonaire, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands; as well as by translation in churches in many different countries throughout Europe. In addition there was the Kerygma broadcast that was aired on various stations in the U.S.A., and to the countries of Southern Africa from Trans World Radio in Swaziland.
We are at best sinners saved by grace alone, through Christ alone, and conscious of our own weaknesses and inadequacies. We marvel that God in His goodness has permitted us to serve Him and we look back over our lives in “wonder, love and praise.”
We have been blessed with four children, Tim, Alison, Richard and Nicola. All are now married with families of their own. Tim and Alison are located in England, while Richard and Nicola live in the United States.
We ask you to pray with us that for the rest of our lives, in what months or years remain to us and with the limitations of failing strength that comes with old age, we may be enabled to continue the ministry we believe the Lord has given us for today in making available Harry’s sermons and writings on our website.
We have chosen for our featured hymn this month, the hymn “Great is Thy faithfulness” as perfectly embodying our gratitude to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who called us to dedicate our lives into His service as a young newly engaged couple at the Keswick Convention, 1957.
“Through many dangers, toils, and snares, we have already come; ‘Tis grace that brought us safe thus far, and grace will lead us home.” John Newton
I end with the words taken from Acts 20, verse 24, with which Harry currently ends his correspondence.
“…if only I [we] may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me [us] – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”
Harry wrote the words below on the afternoon we heard of the Homecall of Rev. Billy Graham. They originally appeared on our Home Page. For Harry’s personal tribute to the influence of Billy Graham’s ministry in his life, scroll down on this page.
February 21, 2018
I write these words on the afternoon of February 21, 2018, having just heard the news that my spiritual father and honored friend, Rev. Billy Graham, has been called Home to Heaven at the age of 99 years.
He will be reunited with his beloved wife, Ruth, and the team members, George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows, who were such an important part of his ministry.
At last he will see his Savior, the Lord Jesus, face to face. If ever a preacher deserved to hear his Lord’s words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” it would be this great evangelist. Only eternity will reveal how many countless thousands owe their salvation humanly speaking to his faithful and tireless preaching, always centered on the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2 KJV).
REV. BILLY GRAHAM – A PERSONAL MEMORY
MY SPIRITUAL FATHER
On 2nd March 1954 I was in London on leave from my military service in Germany. All the British newspapers were headlining the fact that a young American preacher intended to hold Gospel meetings in a 12,000-seater Arena called Harringay. Since my friends and I had little money and admission was free we decided to go and sample it.
Most newspapers were hostile to Graham. One asked if there were not enough sinners in America to convert. Another described him as a flashy slick salesman, in it to make money. Another said, “he will use all the tricks of the modern demagogue.” London was plastered with 30,000 posters showing just the face of the evangelist and the bold words, “Hear Billy Graham.” Most pundits predicted it would be an embarrassing failure.
This hostility – some of it vitriolic – only created more curiosity. Including mine. My cousin and I had a personal interest because both my father and his father were preachers.
I would have said I was already a Christian but I had no appetite for the Bible, and my life was far away from being a Christlike life. I had been a failure at school; made to leave at sixteen; now living for a variety of pleasures. However, at 19 years of age, I knew my heart was empty, without purpose or ambition.
So, we three fellows and three girls squeezed into a tiny Austin 7 car and off we went to Harringay Arena.
It was the second night of the Harringay meetings. In spite of pouring sleet and rain, to our astonishment the arena appeared to be packed. I enjoyed the large choir and was riveted by Billy Graham’s preaching. I do not know what text of scripture he preached on, but he gave an invitation to go forward at the end to show you wanted to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord. Several hundred went forward. I did not.
As I have said, I thought I was already a Christian – of sorts. Nevertheless, I knew something powerful had happened in my heart during that meeting. God had done something profound. I wasn’t sure what.
Crowded back into the Austin 7 everyone laughed and chattered away but I was very quiet. Eventually a girl friend asked, “Harry, what is the matter with you?”
“Nothing,” I replied.
She persisted, “Well, you are not behaving as you did before.”
I said eventually, “As a matter of fact, I don’t believe I will ever be the same again.”
Now, sixty-four years later, I know that night God saved my shriveled-up, empty soul. I was born again by the Sovereign work of His Holy Spirit.
I waited for three days to see if it had all been just an emotional experience which would soon fade away. It was not. I telephoned my Dad, 200 miles away, “Dad, I have some news. I have been saved.”
“Have you, son. How did that happen?”
I told him about Billy Graham and I heard my father sobbing at the other end of the phone. When he regained control he said, “I have prayed for this every day of your life.”
Of course, I gave thanks to God for our Christian home, the prayer example of my Godly father, and faithful teaching of numerous Sunday School teachers. When I went to Harringay I had a heart prepared.
On my return to my RAF station near Hanover, Germany, I discovered I had been reassigned and would share a room with an airman called Alf Harvey. When we met I liked Alf at once but told him what had happened to me at Harringay and that I was now a born-again Christian. As he listened tears came into his eyes. He told me he was a “backslidden” Christian. By this he meant he once had given his heart to the Lord Jesus but had since grown cold. Together we knelt and prayed, and did so from that day on. The Lord had it all arranged.
Night after night the arena was not only full but thousands would have to listen over loudspeakers set up outside. On the first Saturday, 30,000 people waited outside unable to get in. The organizing committee took up their option to continue for three months. Every Saturday there had to be two meetings to accommodate the crowds.
Twelve thousand gathered in Trafalgar Square for an open-air service – the largest crowd since V.E. Day. On a warm, sunny, Good Friday (April 16th) an open-air rally was held in Hyde Park at which the police estimated there were 50,000 present.
At the end of the three months Billy preached at two final meetings on a grey May Saturday with persistent rain. The first meeting, was in the White City Stadium where 65,000 people braved the cold drizzle to hear him. June, then a teenage schoolgirl, was present at that meeting, having traveled up from Bristol with hundreds of others on a specially chartered train. Later the same day Billy preached at the old Wembley Stadium, so full with 100,000 people that the authorities allowed chairs to be placed on the “hallowed turf” to make the total capacity 122,000.
During the period of the Harringay services over 2 million people had heard the Gospel. Tens of thousands had made a commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.
I remember standing on the underground platform one night with hundreds of people on both sides of the track. Suddenly a lone voice started to sing, “To God be the glory, Great things He hath done.” It sounded to me as if all the hundreds of people joined in. For me it seemed to be a foretaste of Heaven.
Most press and other critics were completely won over by this Godly, humble preacher whose sole authority was the message of the Bible. He would say over and over again, “The Bible says…” and “Come to the Cross.”
He addressed students at both Oxford and Cambridge and, like Daniel in the lions’ den, the London School of Economics. The University President introduced him to the packed hall as the first clergyman to ever stand on that platform. As Billy Graham rose to speak, a student crashed through an upstairs window and stood scratching himself like an ape. Loud applause.
When he could speak Billy said, “He reminds me of my ancestors.”
When the laughter died down he added, “Of course my ancestors came from Great Britain!” This brought the house down. Thereafter they gave the evangelist a polite hearing.
He had an extended meeting with Prime Minister Churchill and prayed with him.
On his departure from the UK one headline read, “Come back soon, Billy. Britain needs you.”
Billy Graham did come back. One year after Harringay, it was to Scotland and Hampden Park.
After this he was invited to preach to the Royal Family at the Chapel Royal in Windsor. During later crusades he was invited to private audiences with Her Majesty the Queen.
In 1955 also, there were meetings at Wembley Stadium and in 1957, at Madison Square Gardens, New York. There, a six-week series of meetings was extended for sixteen weeks.
Our friend, George Verwer, founder of Operation Mobilisation, was one of the thousands saved at Madison Square Gardens.
Dr. Graham has been a friend and adviser to every President from President Truman to President Trump.
Most recently, President Trump spoke movingly of Dr. Graham’s ministry as his body lay in state in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC; and the President and First Lady Melania Trump attended his funeral at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.
June and I watched the live stream of the funeral service as we were putting the finishing touches to this article.
MY SPIRITUAL FRIEND
You will not be surprised to learn that I always dreamed I might be able to actually meet Billy Graham and thank him personally.
Of course, June and I attended subsequent British Crusades whenever we could and even helped with the preparations for the 1966 Crusade at Earls Court.
Around that time, I had written to Rev. Joe Blinco, a Methodist minister and evangelist who had joined the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association staff. He was a friend of my father, and I was considering a call to full-time preaching ministry. I was asking for Rev. Blinco’s counsel and advice. He arranged for us to meet at Earls Court, and we sat together talking in the middle of the arena with all the hubbub and noise of preparation. He suddenly pointed to the front and said, “Look, Harry, someone has just brought Mr. Graham into the arena to look around.”
Then he added, “Would you like to meet him?”
That was like asking me, “Is the sun hot?”
June and I stood in line and were warmly introduced. Mr. Graham was very cordial as I thanked him for Harringay. Then he greeted June graciously and, in what seemed a few seconds, it was all over. All I could remember was how tall he was, how tanned, and incredibly handsome.
I was so grateful to God for granting me my wish. However, being a greedy fellow, I thought how good it would be to actually spend quality time with him!
Almost 30 years passed after Earls Court, and although at various times it seemed my longing would be fulfilled, it never happened. I must be satisfied that I would meet him again in Heaven.
Then, in the mid-1990s we relocated to South Florida where we met and formed a close friendship with Stephan and Gigi Tchividjian. Gigi is Billy Graham’s eldest daughter. Stephan went to be with the Lord some years ago, but our friendship with Gigi continues to this day.
In November of that first year Gigi phoned me and surprised me by asking, “What are you guys doing for Thanksgiving?”
For readers who do not know, “Thanksgiving” in the United States is celebrated on the last Thursday in November. It is a reminder of the thanksgiving meal of the earliest Pilgrims who landed in New England in 1620 seeking freedom of religion. Today, Thanksgiving is a national holiday when families especially do their best to gather together for it. Traditionally the meal must include roast turkey. It is the biggest holiday of the year – rather like Christmas in the U.K.
Gigi knew we had family in both England and America. England was 3,000 miles away; and our American families were in Wisconsin and Boston respectively – each well over 1,000 miles from South Florida. In other words, we would be alone, but full of thanksgiving anyway.
“You are coming to us,” she said.
I thanked her for her kindness but demurred. I felt that the Tchividjian family (seven children, some married with families) would surely not welcome strangers gate-crashing such an occasion.
Gigi knew what would persuade me. “Daddy and Mother are coming and want to meet you.”
Ah, well! I was quite sure Rev. and Mrs. Graham had never even heard of us but – who could resist that?
June prepared some desserts to take with us but, alas, just as we were leaving she was stricken with a Ménière’s attack (one of several over the next few years). She insisted that she needed to be quiet, and would be OK with time, and that I should go, if only to take the desserts. She would join us when the attack had passed.
I had a relaxed and lovely time with Mr. Graham and Mrs. Graham. It was all I ever dreamed of – except June did not arrive, and therefore I left early – only to find that the Ménière’s attack had not abated, and she had been unable to drive to join us.
Following that first encounter several others occurred over the next 15 years, including visits to the Graham mountain home in Montreat, North Carolina. Memories we will both treasure, as are the letters we received from both Billy and Ruth (they insisted that we used their first names).
I began to exercise a writing ministry producing booklets with Bible messages and accounts of Christian History. Eventually, over several years, 26 booklets were produced, each approximately 7,000 words long, and each sent out when ready to a mailing list. Eight of them were revised and gathered to form the book, “When the Road is Rough and Steep”. Three others, on the subject of Revival appear on this website. Along with this went my itinerant preaching and radio ministry.
Both Billy and Ruth were very supportive of my writing ministry. Ruth wrote and said, “Keep the Florida factory flowing!”
How can I forget when Billy said, “I don’t see enough of you!” Or – June, sitting by Ruth’s bed just a few weeks before the Lord called her Home. When I joined June at her bedside, Ruth said to me, “I’m praying for….”, and mentioned a member of our family. How gracious.
I end with this. So long as the Lord keeps you in this world He will surprise you with blessings. Not, perhaps, everything you ask for, but He will choose, “good things” (Matthew 7:11).
As for us, one text which sums it all up is Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory…”
We saw our friend Billy Graham just once more when he had become rather frail. Once again, I thanked him for his faithful preaching that God used on March 2, 1954 to save my soul. He replied, “It was all God’s doing.”
June said, “Yes, it was all God’s doing, but God uses instruments and He has certainly used you down through these years.”
Yes, indeed, God certainly used him. June told me of a cartoon she saw on Facebook a day or two after Billy died. It pictured Billy arriving at the gates of Heaven – being welcomed with the words, “There are millions here waiting to greet you and thank you.” Inside going off into the distance were faces, and faces, and faces, of every color, shape, race, gender, size, age.
If you have read the obituaries (the Daily Telegraph wrote a full page), you will have read that this man of God preached in 185 countries and reached – with the addition of radio, TV, and other outlets – more people than any other preacher in history. Millions indeed.
“To God be the glory, Great things He has done.”