The Billy Graham Library: Proclaiming Christ
April 1, 2007 - As visitors walk into the lobby of the Billy Graham Library, which opens in June, they will get an idea of what the Graham Dairy Farm and the life of a young Billy Graham might have been like in the 1920s and ’30s.
by Amanda Knoke
In addition to displays that will clearly articulate the Person and Message of Jesus Christ—and challenge visitors to consider His claims—a self-guided tour through several exhibit rooms will highlight various aspects of Billy Graham’s ministry over more than six decades.
To begin the tour, a video features six men and women from various backgrounds who discuss major life questions that everyone faces—questions that Billy Graham has spent a lifetime answering from God’s Word. Guests then pass into a theater to see a short video highlighting the history of Billy Graham’s public evangelistic ministry as well as his ministry beyond the pulpit to world leaders, soldiers and victims of tragedy.
The Beginnings of a Ministry
The first display room is a re-creation of the setting of Billy Graham’s first major “tent meeting” in downtown Los Angeles in 1949. Guests step onto what looks like a sawdust floor and pass by several rows of chairs and a platform with an upright piano, a Bible and an old-fashioned microphone.
Originally scheduled for three weeks, the 1949 Los Angeles Crusade grew to eight weeks as the hunger for the Gospel burst forth in one of America’s great cities.
Photographs of Billy Graham’s childhood and parents are displayed above the platform, and visitors learn more about his early years: his love for cars and sports, and his dreams to become a major league baseball player—before he committed his life to Christ in response to a message by traveling evangelist Mordecai Ham.
Visitors will also learn how Billy Graham made use of radio, television and film in spreading the Gospel message early in his ministry. An exhibit focusing on these modes of communication displays a fifties-era radio booth, a TV studio and an old-fashioned movie screen—on which clips are projected from several BGEA films. A 90-minute segment from each medium highlights its respective significance in the ministry.
Ruth Bell Graham and her role in her husband’s life are featured in an exhibit room that includes a household scene from her years with Billy and another scene from her childhood in China. A large Korean-style gate, representative of Ruth’s years in what is now North Korea, frames a video screen that displays footage of her as a young girl and as a mother raising her children while Billy was traveling. Photographs capture Ruth and Billy during their Wheaton College days in Wheaton, Ill., and also at their home in the mountains of North Carolina.
More Than Just Crusades
Another room focuses on Billy Graham’s public response to national and international crisis situations. The exhibit is created as a storefront with an array of TV sets from different eras, which flash news footage from times of discrimination, violence and political unrest. Actual news reports demonstrate how Billy Graham offered the message of Christ to the nation as it walked through integration issues, Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination, the Vietnam War, anti-war demonstrations and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Guests will travel back to the time of the Berlin Wall in one room, complete with barbed wire, guard posts and barricades that show what life was like in communist Eastern Europe. Video recordings document how, despite the effect of the Iron Curtain, God allowed Billy Graham to speak in nations like Russia, Romania, Yugoslavia, Poland and Hungary during a period when little or no Christian activity was allowed there.
The last exhibit room features photos and information about three historical international conferences for evangelists: Lausanne, Switzerland (1974); Amsterdam 1986 and Amsterdam 2000. Thousands of evangelists from around the world attended these meetings to be encouraged, equipped and challenged in their ministries. Coverage from each of the conferences is projected on three large video screens and features participants who tell how the conferences influenced their lives and ministries.
End of the Tour
At the conclusion of the self-guided tour, guests watch a short video that completes the stories of the individuals who posed the “life questions” at the beginning of the tour. Then they move into a theater where they watch a seven-minute video that includes a montage of Crusades over the course of Billy Graham’s ministry. After the final video, guests can view photos and learn about the current ministries of BGEA.
Throughout the tour, visitors discover historical landmarks of Billy Graham’s ministry and, through his life, what it means to be a committed follower of Christ. The Library is set up—as was Billy Graham’s wish—to be an ongoing Crusade that will offer people the opportunity to trust Christ for the forgiveness of sin and to put their faith in Him for the hope of an eternal life in the presence of God.