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Billy Graham & The Salvation Army

God’s spokesman in the twentieth century valued what the Army stands for.

The Rev. Billy Graham offers encouragement to two workers searching for survivors in the debris following the massive earthquake that hit San Francisco in 1989.

I didn't really know Billy Graham, although I had heard him preach soon after I had dedicated my life to Christ and the ministry of The Salvation Army. I met him once at a gathering of Salvation Army Advisory Board, Council and Women’s Auxiliary members.

The gathering was the Territorial Advisory Organizations Conference in Orlando, Florida in 1988.

This conference was designed to encourage, orient, train and celebrate these business and civic leaders to participate in and promote The Salvation Army's ministry in cities, towns and communities through the Southern United States.

The theme was “Vision for Victory” and the idea was to concentrate plenary sessions, workshops and seminars on how we Salvation army workers—both staff and volunteers—could together plan for a future that would forward the mission and ministry of The Salvation Army and look objectively at the methods that would best and most effectively and efficiently achieve the Victory in Christ.

Using connections and relationships with Advisory Board Member Charles Towers, we were able to engage Billy Graham to speak at the opening session.

Rev. Billy Graham observing Salvation Army Centennial with Comm. Paul Kaiser, 1965.

The event was historic on two counts. First it was Dr. Graham’s first time to address Salvation Army volunteers in a conference. Second, it was the first time that any Salvation Army gathering of this kind was broadcast via satellite communications to communities (22 of them) across the southern United States.

Dr. Graham spoke eloquently, passionately as he always did about the value and importance of people having character traits of integrity; personal security in and from God; priorities focused on the important things of life and vision of what ought and can be with God’s help.

Dr. Graham spoke sincerely and complimentarily about William and Catherine Booth and the early days of the mission they started that became the worldwide Salvation Army. Of Catherine he reminded us of her strong support of William’s choice to continue his “street evangelism” and when faced with a choice about changing his methods she cried out “No.”  Graham said, “That no from Catherine in London's east end changed the whole course of human history."

As he concluded his talk that night, Dr. Billy Graham said some of the most amazing words I have ever heard in reference to The Salvation Army:

Commissioner Andrew Miller presents Rev. Graham with the William Booth Award, 1989.

"There is no group of people I'd rather be with. I have admired you, love you and felt at one with you all over the world. Many times they (Salvation Army personnel) have been my interpreters. Ya'll seem to know all the languages of the world.

"Every time I see your uniform, tears come to my eyes and I thank God for what you stand for both spiritually and materially in helping the hungry and broken hearted.

"When I see you at Christmastime, somehow or another I've always wished in my heart that I had been one of you, that I'd been in the Army, because you're doing all the things that I want to do and dream of doing and in my heart feel I should do."There will be many who will remember Billy Graham and his thousands of crusades and millions of converts, but I will be remembering a night in Orlando when he wanted to be one of us, and I will be praying that we will be who he thought we were.

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