“Were it not for hope, the
heart would break.”
– Scottish proverb
In a broken-hearted world, the absence of hope is
Everyday, marriages dissolve, addictions abound, governments
corrupt and natural disasters wreak havoc.
Overworked, over-caffeinated and disconnected,
people increasingly seek solace in temporary remedies that can numb or pacify
for a moment; but offer no real solution. They offer no hope. And in a time when
hope has been pushed aside for so long, many have even forgotten what it means.
Billy Graham hasn’t.
For over 70 years, Rev. Graham has watched this
world ebb and flow along cultural, spiritual, moral and racial divides. He has
learned the language of lost generations and lived a life above reproach, but
not out of reach of the rest of us. He has opened his heart, his home, his life
for a single purpose.
Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His great
love for us, Rev. Graham has given all of us hope…simply by sharing his.
This year, Rev. Graham celebrated a monumental
birthday as only he would — by giving a gift to us. As his 95th year commenced,
he, along with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and various partners
unveiled My Hope. A book, an album, a movement with the singular intent of
honoring the life of Billy Graham by honoring the God of whom he has proclaimed
the truth for over 70 years. On November 7, the world watched as Rev. Graham’s
final sermon, The Cross, aired. The poignant message was the capstone of a
movement that includes partnerships with churches, publishers, artists and
Fittingly, one of those artists was introduced to
Jesus, while watching a bold, passionate man deliver a sermon on television.
Only 13 at the time, this boy was drawn in by the
simplicity of a message of love and surrender and forgiveness. That night, that
boy accepted Christ into his heart. Fast-forward a few years and that kid, aka
Matthew West, is joining hands with fellow artists whose lives have been
touched by the life and work of Billy Graham.
“I asked Jesus into my heart watching him,” shares
Matthew. “And here I am having the chance to write a song dedicated to Rev.
Graham and all his years of preaching and ministry. It was an honor.”
Matthew joins the likes of Kari Jobe, Amy Grant,
Israel Houghton, tobyMac, Nichole Nordeman, Darlene Zschech, the Newsboys Lacey
Sturm and Michael W. Smith, among others on the album that bears the name, My
Hope. Each artist was charged with writing a song that represented Graham’s
ministry. Michael W. Smith served as one of the four executive producers on the
album, pulling together a lineup as esteemed as Graham’s career. To Michael,
the experience was not only gratifying, but fondly nostalgic.
“I met him [Rev. Graham] in the 80s while I was on
tour with Amy Grant,” shares Michael W. Smith. “During one youth night in
Cleveland, Ohio, in 1994, we opened along with DC Talk. We made history and got
a lot of opposition from lots of folks back then who couldn’t believe there
would be a rock concert before the preaching. He [Rev. Graham] brings that up
from time to time. It was a pivotal moment for him and the world.”
That was but one of the many pivotal moments of
which Rev. Graham has been a part throughout his ministry; a legacy that has
continued with son Franklin Graham and grandson, Will Graham, and has set their
ministry apart throughout the world.
Strum, former front woman of FlyLeaf, who recorded two songs for the My Hope
project, has traveled with Franklin Graham, playing Rock the River events along
the Mississippi River. She shares that when Franklin asked them to be a part of
the event, she was somewhat skeptical.
had just decided we weren’t going to do anymore Christian shows, because when
we would play, the speaker would often be completely out of touch with what was
going on and say something we would never want to say to our audience,” shares
Lacey. “When Franklin asked us, we really wanted to meet him to learn why he
response brought Lacey to tears then and even now, as she shares.
said to us, ‘These kids are hopeless. Everyday they face the possibility of
death. They need to know how they can be saved from going to hell. If we save
someone from suicide and give them a positive message so they don’t kill
themselves, but don’t introduce Jesus, what good have we done?’” Lacey recalls
with fond tears in her voice.
a solo artist, Lacey continues to travel with the Grahams, sharing her own
story of hopelessness redeemed, as well as a song she wrote to bring her testimony
to life, “The Reason.”
wrote the song about my testimony but it wasn’t recorded for the longest time,”
she shares. “When they did this record [My Hope], they wanted to use it.”
acquiesced, recording a compelling rendition of “The Reason” as well as another
song written for this tribute record, “Mercy Tree.”
am I?” she says softly. “To be a part of this is amazing. I can’t believe I
ever even got to meet Billy Graham. And when I did, it was one of the most
loving encounters I’ve ever had. It was as if he was honored to meet me. He
understands who he is. That’s the key. He’s presenting something in such a
humble way out of love. You can see his thankfulness for his own salvation. He
understands that he is someone who said yes to the Lord.”
and authenticity are running themes as others reflect on the life and
personhood of Rev. Graham.
didn’t grow up in a Christian home,” says Tommy Coomes. “After I became a
Christian I saw him preach at Anaheim Stadium. I thought, ‘There is a really
big God standing behind this preacher.’ It was a touch of God’s spirit. The
fruit was there. The first time I met him, he shook my hand and said, ‘Thank
you for being here to help me.’”
been a great friend,” adds Michael W. Smith. “Every time we’re together he
wants to know how the kids are doing, how my wife is… He believes in me and
continues to thank me.”
For a man who has earned a reputation of humility,
the grace and gratitude that shine in his eyes, his smile, his words are larger
than life, and are part of his legacy.
It’s a legacy of hope and of promise, redemption and
It’s a legacy that will continue on long after this
95th birthday because Billy, his team and his family have a singular goal.