Billy Graham Library Warms the Season
Thousands Brave Cold Temperatures to Experience the World's Greatest Story
December 15, 2010 - The cold temperatures did not stop the masses from attending the third annual Christmas at the Library.
We, as their parents, lay a spiritual foundation, and things like Christmas at the Library can be used to build upon that foundation.
By Joy Allmond
Since December 1, thousands of people braved below-freezing temperatures to be warmed by the message of the Messiah through Christmas at the Library.
A Red Hat Society from Gastonia, N.C., called “T&T,” came donning their red hats, as customary for their gatherings and outings. The Red Hat Society is an international network of women with local chapters in many communities that exist for fun and fellowship.
They are among the many who have braved the below-freezing temperatures to enjoy the outdoor components of Christmas at the Library: the Christmas Carolers, live Nativity and carriage rides.
“Our group name, T&T, stands for ‘This and That.’ And it also means ‘dynamite,’” joked Nancy Westbrook, a member of the group. “We love Billy Graham and what he stands for and what this place means. Most of us have been here several times.”
Training Children in the Way They Should Go
Chuck Hastings and his wife Teresa brought their son Jaden to experience Christmas at the Library. This is the first visit for the Hastings family. “It’s good to have something different to visit in the Charlotte area at Christmastime. For me personally, I want bring those core values to my son that I was taught when I was small,” said Chuck.
His wife Teresa agrees. “We want him to understand the true meaning of Christmas, especially these days, when the word ‘Christmas’ seems to be taken out of so much,” she said. “Jaden saw the live Nativity. He liked the live animals. We have been talking to him about the birth of Jesus and reading the story to him from his children’s Bible. Because we have been doing that, more of the story came together for him when he saw baby Jesus represented at the live Nativity.”
Sue and Mike Sardelis feel the same way. “I wanted to bring my family here, just knowing that Billy Graham is a wonderful evangelist and being a part of the Charlotte community,” said Sue.
They brought their young daughters, Samantha and Rebecca, to experience the true meaning of Christmas at the Billy Graham Library. The Sardelises want to stress to them that there is more to Christmas than presents and say they’ll definitely be back next year.
A Story for the Ages
Meanwhile, young children were gathered around a storyteller as she read books about the true meaning of Christmas. Wide-eyed and attentive children sat on a rug as Perry Smith dramatically read J is for Jesus, the story of the candy cane and how it relates to Jesus as our Savior. J is for Jesus is the book that inspired the theme for the annual Teddy Bear Tea on December 4.
Smith, a seasonal volunteer at the Library, is a retired elementary school teacher. She believes that volunteering at Christmas at the Library is a way to combine her love for Jesus with her giftedness with children.
“I volunteered to read stories because of my background. It’s been a joy to be in this environment,” said Smith. “I love to be a part of helping boys and girls know about Jesus, while reading the story in an animated way. It makes it fun for them and for me.”
Micah and Carolyn Bomgaars brought their three young children, Kate, Sophie and John, to experience Christmas at the Library. 11-month-old John is here to celebrate his first Christmas. This is the third time for Kate, who is four years old, and Sophie, who is three years old.
Story time seemed to be a favorite among the Bomgaars family members, even the parents.
“The girls love to talk about this all year long. It is so good to go somewhere where the real meaning of Christmas is presented. Over the years they have come and are making memories here at the Billy Graham Library,” said Carolyn.
“It's important for them to come back year after year. We, as their parents, lay a spiritual foundation, and things like Christmas at the Library can be used to build upon that foundation.”
Husband Micah shares her sentiments. “It’s really important for them to hear the message of Christ in Christmas and it helps that every reader they’ve had has been engaging and quite gifted at interacting with the children. I like the fact that they are going to come and be engaged in the real Christmas story,” he said.
A Different Library Experience
Many people who attend Christmas at the Library have experienced the Billy Graham Library before, but not in the context of Christmas. Now they are back for a different kind of experience.
Scott and Cindy Dodgens of Star, S.C. visited the Graham home place when the Library was closed for renovations earlier this year. They heard about Christmas at the Library and made a mental note to come back. Cindy remembers the feeling of peacefulness that resonated in her spirit when she was here before.
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“I felt it was important to come here to celebrate Christmas because of the calmness I felt when I visited the grounds in the spring. I even thought to myself that if I lived and worked in Charlotte and had a bad day, I would come eat lunch here to get through the rest of it!”
Like the Dodgenses, Jeanne and Bob Johnson of Charlotte have been on the grounds before, but not in the Library. They were outside for the Billy Graham Library dedication in 2007.
The Johnsons, who are personal friends of Cliff and Ann Barrows, have been gospel singers for 50 years, having sung with Cliff Barrows at the senior adult events at The Cove. They are also known as having sung with the famed gospel music group, The Speers, and have been featured on several of the Bill and Gloria Gaither Homecoming singing videos.
“We met Cliff and Ann Barrows at church a few years ago and got acquainted. We went with them to Jubilate (an annual gospel music festival held on New Year’s Eve). Went into a nice friendship that has lasted several years,” said Bob.
“Because people like Cliff and Franklin Graham have led this organization with the integrity on which it was founded, it makes us happy and proud to be here and celebrate Christmas in a place dedicated to the Lord and with the BGEA name associated with it.”
As wife Jeanne was exploring some of the gifts given to the Grahams from around the world, she took note of one particular gift: a letter from former Secretary of the U.S. Treasury John Connolly with one of the first dollar bills printed that bore his name.
She pointed through the glass and said, “This is one example of how Billy Graham is loved and respected outside the walls of Christianity and ministry. He is one of the greatest examples of a Christian we know, and that is one of the reasons we are so thrilled to be here tonight, celebrating the birth of our Lord.”
For Christmas at the Library hours and information, be sure to visit the Billy Graham Library Web site.