My Visit to Montreat
Recently, I was in Montreat, North Carolina, at the home of Billy Graham.
As the Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, this was a tremendous privilege for me. As I think about it, virtually all of the ministries that I am engaged in are in some way impacted by the leadership of Mr. Graham. (This includes Christianity Today, where this is published, which was started by Mr. Graham under the editorship of Carl Henry.)
Mr. Graham’s impact upon evangelicalism is unmatched and will stand as a testimony for generations to come. Although I was unable to meet with him while I was there due to his frail health, I was able to see where he, Ruth, and their children lived and get a glimpse into his daily life. I wanted to share some photos I took that inspired me with the hopes that they would have a similar reaction in you.
Here is the view from the Graham’s living room window, overlooking the Black Mountain Range. The word Montreat is a portmanteau of the words ‘mountain’ and ‘retreat.’ You can imagine how this home was a special place for Mr. Graham and his family to ‘retreat’ from the pressures of a global ministry.
I was there most of the day with Will Graham. Will, like his grandfather and father, is an evangelist, in addition to running The Cove. Will showed me some of the nooks and crannies of this simple home, telling a funny story here about one of the kids who used to hide in there.
Here, Will is standing by the huge wood-burning fireplace. The mantel bears the title of Luther’s greatest hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” carved in German.
One of the chairs in Mr. Graham’s office (in his nearby offices) bears the insignia of Wheaton College. Mr. Graham graduated from Wheaton in 1943. Needless to say, his legacy here looms large, as I am writing this in the actual Billy Graham Center.
David Bruce, Executive Assistant to Mr. Graham, dropped in. Here, Will and David are telling me stories as I sit behind the desk of the Mr. Graham. He’s not been in that office for a long time, but it is as he left it, with his favorite picture of Ruth Bell Graham.
And here I am. Ready for action.
Actually, I hold the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair at Wheaton College, but was shocked for find that, well, there really is no chair (we ordered the chair I am sitting in right now from a catalog).
So, technically, THIS is the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair, and I’m not worthy to sit in the physical one, or the academic one, but it was a thrill to do so.
Finally, there is a fascinating collection of pictures showing Mr. Graham meeting with U.S. presidents, often for prayer and counsel. I have heard that Mr. Graham has personally met with more presidents than any other living person.
These meetings span nearly 70 years, from Harry Truman to Barak Obama. President Barack Obama visited Mr. Graham at his home at the end of his weekend mountain vacation in April 2010. He was the first sitting president to meet with Mr. Graham at his home. And he visited with President Trump before he was president, which is the last picture on the right.
I won’t soon forget my pilgrimage to Montreat, and I am especially thankful to be part of preserving his legacy of solid evangelistic fervor. A few minutes ago, I preached in Wheaton College chapel. I preached on the priority of gospel proclamation, and I thought to myself, “I pray we preserve the legacy of gospel proclamation here.”
It is an honor to serve at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. My hope is that through our ministries, his legacy will continue to live on. But more importantly, that all of us would go and share the good news of Jesus as freely, boldly, and winsomely as Mr. Graham has done for more than seven decades.
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.