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Carol Perkins: Billy Graham and the salvation of Bill Wilson

The death of Billy Graham evokes memories of the evangelist and profession of faith in Christ by an important Edmonton, KY business man.
Next earlier column: Carol Perkins: Always the same girl - 19 or 90

By Carol Perkins

The world is now celebrating the life of Rev. Billy Graham and mourning his passing. I was one of those millions who planned my TV time around one of his many Crusades. I watched as a young girl and then later with Guy. What drew thousands to stadiums around the world? His message and his style of presenting God's word? What I liked was his simplicity. Some ministers make the journey to Christ sound very difficult, but not Billy Graham. "God loves you. He will forgive you of your sins right now." He never talked about hearing voices or lightning bolt moments. He didn't dwell on HOW you got there but focused on how easy the trip was to Jesus. Those who filed down out of the stands might have been waiting all their lives to hear that. So many times we hear about the wrath rather than the love.

I did not attend his Louisville Crusades even though I wished now that I had, but my good friend Connie and her family did. I wrote about their experience in my book, A Girl Named Connie, and I want to share a few words from that book now. From the words of Connie Wilson.... "My dad (Bill Wilson) was a churchgoer, a valued part of the Edmonton Baptist Church, but had never been baptized. There was something in his personality that could not get out of his seat and walk down front in the presence of others. However, this troubled him.

"When he learned that a Billy Graham Crusade was going to be at the fairgrounds in Louisville, he wanted to go. 'We'll all go with you,' my mother said. My brother was only five, but we traveled to Louisville and joined the thousands of others who had come to hear this great preacher. Going to Louisville was a long journey back then before interstates and air-conditioned cars.

"At the end of the message and as soon as George Beverly Shay began singing, 'Just As I Am,' Dad looked at us and said, 'I want to go down there.' This was so out of character for him. I said, 'Dad, so do I. I will go with you.' I was only twelve. We made our way down the bleachers and through the crowd, and when Rev. Graham asked who accepted Jesus, Dad raised his hand. That was the first time I had ever seen my father cry.

"On our way home later, Dad said, 'You do know I can't go back home and do this in front of the church.' I knew he couldn't so I said, 'Jesus knows your heart, so nothing else matters.' Then I said what Billy Graham had said, 'God Loves You.'

"I think that the older a person is before he makes a commitment to serve God the more difficult it is to profess his faith. Bill Wilson could not stand in front of other businessmen and be vulnerable. My dad and I were baptized at the same time. I was thirteen so he was around forty. I don't remember how this came about, but I do remember how happy I was that day. I was listening to the various accounts of his life and one clip seemed to be just for me. Rev. Graham said, 'Make each day count.' I fail to do that and thought about how ironic seeing this was after I had just had a conversation with Guy about that topic. Now maybe I will take his words and make each day count."

This story was posted on 2018-02-22 12:02:49
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