Evangelist Billy Graham Turns 90

billy-graham.jpgBilly Graham, the American preacher who harnessed the media and made Christian evangelism a global phenomenon, will celebrate his 90th birthday.

“I never expected to live this long… it is hard to believe I have
reached the age of 90,” Graham said in a statement posted on the
website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), which he
founded in 1950.

Graham was born on November 7, 1918, four days before the end of World
War I, on a farm in Charlotte, North Carolina, and grew up during the
Great Depression.

At age 16, he met a traveling evangelist in Charlotte and “made a personal commitment to Christ,” BGEA says on its website.

He was ordained a Baptist minister in 1939 and, after graduating from Wheaton College in Illinois in 1943, was pastor at a Baptist church before joining Youth for Christ, an organization which ministered to youth and servicemen during World War II.

But it was a “crusade” — a festival of evangelism — in Los Angeles in
1949 that propelled Graham to global prominence. A year later he
founded BGEA.

From the start of the association that bears his name, Graham harnessed
the media to spread his message of evangelism around the world.

His weekly “Hour of Decision” radio program has been broadcast around the world for more than 50 years, and television specials
featuring Graham and his son Franklin, who took over at the head of
BGEA in 2000, are aired during peak viewing hours several times a year.

In 2002, BGEA launched “My Hope”, a project to reach 60 countries
around the world through television with Graham’s message of evangelism.

BGEA also spreads its Christian message online, and in 2006, nearly
7,000 people around the world found Jesus Christ online, the
association says on its website.

The evangelical dynasty begun by Graham and carried on by his son
Franklin and grandson Will, also takes its message of Christianity to
the masses through an internationally syndicated newspaper column, a
600,000-circulation magazine published in German and English, and more
than 125 films.

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, BGEA set up the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, which administers spiritual aid in times of crisis.

The Rapid Response Team now has a database of more than 2,800 chaplains
and volunteers who are specifically trained to deal with emergency
situations.

Said by a spokeswoman for BGEA to be in good health for his age, Graham
will celebrate his birthday with a private family dinner near his
mountainside home in North Carolina.

Graham still plays a role in the running of BGEA and keeps abreast of current affairs.

He closely followed the US presidential election, and urged Americans to pray for President-elect Barack Obama, saying he “faces many challenges.”

“I urge everyone to join me in pledging our support and prayers as he begins the difficult task ahead,” Graham said.

Source: AP

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