This article originally appeared in the November 13, 1995 issue of Christianity Today.
In the foreword to their daughter's book Passing It On, Billy and Ruth Graham recount an episode when Ruth administered some "biblical discipline" on the children. As she ascended the steps, switch in hand, she heard the eldest daughter, Gigi, call out, "Mother, you can't blame us, it was the Devil!" When Gigi saw the expression on her mother's face and the switch, fully deployed, she added, "But as soon as he saw you coming, he left!"
While Billy won the masses in Los Angeles, Boston, London, and Budapest, Ruth chased away devils at home and reared the five Graham offspring to grow up loving their daddy, despite his prolonged absences. "The children could have grown up resentful or bitter," she says, but instead they "love and respect their father enormously."
Ruth Bell Graham was born in Tsingkiangpu (now called HwaiYin) in the Jiangsu Province of China, the second daughter of Dr. L. Nelson and Virginia Bell. Ruth's twofold prayer as an earnest 12-year-old was, first, to become an "old maid" missionary to the tribes of Tibet and, second, to die a martyr's death. ("My older sister would hear me praying and go to her room and say, 'Lord, don't listen to her.'") Ruth concedes that she "would have made a terrible missionary" and that her martyrdom imitates that of the beloved disciple "who was entrusted with the martyrdom of long life."
Reaching her seventy-fifth year and reflecting upon the legacy that she and her husband of 52 years have forged, Ruth says, "I really felt I had the best part of everything. Through the years I have vicariously enjoyed Bill's trips around the world, but I loved to stay home with the children." She points to the ...