ll my life, I've loved machines that are fast, loud, even
dangerous. Whether it's piloting a plane, riding the wind on a dirt bike or
cruising in my old pickup, I get a kick out of driving these machines. What I
don't love are roller coasters, especially when they start down. I'd much
rather be in a cockpit 20,000 feet up in the clouds than sitting in a ride 40
feet above the ground with someone else at the controls.
Maybe that's why, as a young man, I was so reluctant to surrender my life to
God. I wanted to be in complete control. I thought becoming a Christian would
mean settling for a boring life, living by other people's dull rules. I wanted
to live hard, fast and free, and to experience life on the edge.
Today I know what an exciting adventure the Christian life really is. I have
found lasting peace and joy in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ--and
all the excitement and adventure I ever wanted in serving Him.
As president of the Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse, I've
traveled to crisis areas throughout the world to bring physical and spiritual
help to victims of war, poverty and disaster. I've flown across closely guarded
borders, trekked over rough terrain in some of the most remote areas of the
world, and worked in war zones with bullets flying and artillery shells
exploding. The greatest thrill of all, though, is to see individuals, families
and communities transformed as we show God's love and share the good news of
I've also had the privilege of preaching the gospel to more than 1.6 million
people on four continents as an evangelist for the Billy Graham Evangelistic
Association. Nothing can compare to the experience of giving an invitation and
seeing thousands of people come forward to make decisions for Christ.
Growing up the son of Billy and Ruth Graham, I've had a unique vantage
point from which to observe both their words and deeds. My verdict: They are
A few years ago in an outdoor amphitheater in Raleigh, North Carolina, my
father and mother were there as I shared the gospel with a standing-room-only
crowd--the first time my mother had ever heard me preach. If it hadn't been for
Mama and Daddy, I would never have been standing on that platform pointing
others to Christ. I thank God for Christian parents who loved me and prayed for
I believe walking, not just talking, the Christian life is the most
effective way to win your loved ones for Christ. Growing up the son of Billy
and Ruth Graham, I've had a unique vantage point from which to observe both
their words and deeds. My verdict: They are real.
You may think it's a given that Billy Graham would love his son and
namesake--but let me tell you, I worked hard over the years to make sure that
loving me was no easy task! When I was growing up, I did a lot of things that
tested my parents' love.
During my teen years, I slowly became more and more rebellious. I wasn't
rebelling against my parents as much as I was rebelling against authority in
general and God in particular. I was afraid if I surrendered my life to Christ,
I'd have a spiritual straitjacket on me. I wanted to do my own thing.
My mother is a spirited woman, and I'm sure I get plenty of my spunk from
her. One morning when I wouldn't get up for school, she walked into my room,
grabbed the ashtray by my bed, and dumped cigarette butts and ashes all over my
head. So I started locking my door. But Mama wouldn't give up. The next
morning, she slid a firecracker underneath my door. I sprang out of bed
thinking a bomb had gone off.
I wasn't about to give up either. I locked my door and wedged a wet bath
towel underneath it. The following day, I was awakened by the squeak of a
window opening in the next room. When I peeked out my window, I saw Mama
crawling on all fours across the porch roof toward my room, a cup of water gripped in her
teeth. She was planning to douse me! I slammed the window shut just in time to
avoid a soaking. Always a good sport, she sat back on the shingles and
These confrontations with Mama weren't mean or bitter. My parents made it
clear what they would accept or reject in my behavior, but they never squashed
my personality or demeaned me as a person. I'm sure God gave them the wisdom to
know that if they pushed me too hard to conform, I might take off running and
never come back--not just away from them, but perhaps from God too.
By throwing in generous doses of humor and fun, our relationship was full of
grace with space for the tensions to ease. I didn't always agree with my
parents, but I always respected them. And I never doubted that they loved
Even when I got expelled from a Christian college. When I arrived home, I
saw Mama standing on the front porch. It was one of the few times I can
remember not wanting to look her in the eye. I barely had the nerve to extend
my arms for a hug. I didn't need to. Mama wrapped her arms around me and kissed
me like always, welcoming me back home.
During those years when I was rebelling against God, and disappointing and
often embarrassing my parents, it would have been easy for Mama and Daddy to
respond to me in anger. They didn't though. They maintained biblical standards,
but they didn't harp on the things I was doing wrong. They prayed faithfully,
treated me with love and respect, and waited patiently. That was a powerful
force in bringing me to my moment of spiritual decision.
On my 22nd birthday, Daddy said to me, "Franklin, your mother and I sense
there's a struggle going on in your life. You're going to have to make a choice
either to accept Christ or reject Him. You can't continue to play the middle
As I've grown in the Lord and sought to do His will, I've been blessed
to have these two special people as encouragers and confidants, and I continue
to learn much from them.
Daddy had seen right through me. I'd always thought I could fool my
I went to church, sang the hymns, said the right words. But my sinful life
was no secret. Standing there with the man I loved and wanted to please more
than anyone else on earth, I felt joyless, empty, lonely and dirty.
A few weeks later, my summer job took me to Jerusalem. One evening, instead
of going to the bar for a couple beers, I went to my hotel room. I sat on the
bed, smoking a cigarette and reading the third chapter of John in the New
Testament. My father's words haunted me.
Suddenly, I had an overpowering conviction that I needed to get my life
right with God. I put out my cigarette and got down on my knees beside the
I poured out my heart to God, confessed my sin and asked for His
I told Him that if He would take the pieces of my life and somehow put them
back together, I was His.
Mama and Daddy's response was that of the loving father that the Lord
described in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). There was no
condemnation for all the heartache and embarrassment I had caused them.
They greeted me with open arms.
As I've grown in the Lord and sought to do His will, I've been blessed to
have these two special people as encouragers and confidants, and I continue to
learn much from them. The faithful witness of my parents constantly challenges
me to press on in my Christian walk. My prayer is that, in years to come, my
children will be able to say the same.
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