66: Mike Nawrocki

66: Mike Nawrocki

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 66 •

Voice actor, writer and director; co-creator of the popular children’s animated series VeggieTales

Billy Graham has touched my life in big ways. To tell my story, I must go back to the mid to late ’70s. My dad was in the Air Force, so I grew up in a military family. We moved around a lot, and at the time, my dad was transferred from Denver to Washington, D.C. When we had difficulty selling our house, he went to D.C. ahead of us and ended up moving in temporarily with his commanding officer.

We had grown up going to church but my dad was strict and oftentimes distant, and by the time we joined him in Washington, he had changed considerably. His commanding officer was a believer, a Christian, and my dad had come to know Christ as a result of just spending time with him and then living in his home.

So for us as a family, experiencing this brand-new dad upon moving to Washington, D.C. was just amazing, and we started going to a church in town. It was a Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination, and I started to become involved with the youth group there. I saw kids there who really loved God and I saw how that affected their lives.

So I was well prepared for what I call my Billy Graham moment, which came in 1977. I was eleven years old. I remember that I was sitting down watching TV, and it just caught my eye — there was a Billy Graham crusade on. I forget where he was, but I do remember being drawn into it. I was at a point in my life where I was ready to hear the message. I remember very vividly Billy Graham preaching the Gospel message and the biblical verse he would frequently quote near the end of his message: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in…” (Revelation 3:20).

In that moment, just sitting there and watching Billy Graham on TV, I came to know Christ. Basically, I just invited Christ into my heart, saying, “Yes, I’m a sinner; I’ve been separated from God. I would love just to know Christ as my Savior.” I had already known the effect such a statement had had on my parents, and at the church I’d seen how God has an effect on people’s lives and can make a real change. Now Billy Graham was there to make everything very clear to me and just say, “Okay, this is how we are separated from God, and this is what Christ offers us.” And by that He meant Christ’s sacrifice and the promise that He has for us, giving us the ability to have communion with Him, to know Him, and to be redeemed.

I don’t remember having seen other preachers on TV, but I remember the clarity and the tenderness with which Billy Graham spoke, and I felt very drawn to him as a speaker. The Gospel made so much sense to me, having him explain it. I don’t know why.

I just remember feeling happy at the time. We were going through tough times in our family but I was seeing how God was changing my dad, and how He was working in the lives of my mom and brothers. It was all very real to me. It made perfect sense. I’d seen the before and after.

So that was my Billy Graham moment. That one decision set the path for the rest of my life.

A couple of years later I felt like God was calling me to the ministry. I went to Crown College, a small Christian college in the Minneapolis area, where I took a number of Bible and theology classes. That was where I met Phil Vischer, on a student ministry doing puppetry. He and I became great friends, and I soon found myself making children’s movies and television shows. That led to VeggieTales, which Phil and I created together.

I am still a Christian believer, and that is a huge part of what we do with VeggieTales. We create shows that remind kids that God made them special and He loves them very much. Our motivation is to bring kids closer to God and to tell stories that parents can use as a resource to share biblical values with their kids. That’s born out of my decision to accept Christ into my heart, and my belief that God loves us and wants a relationship with us.

I continue to study the Bible every day, for work and for personal understanding. I consider what I do in VeggieTales to be a ministry because we’re teaching kids Bible lessons and biblical values, all based on a biblical worldview, which comes from studying Scripture.

And in so many ways all this started with Billy Graham and his ministry. It was through Billy Graham that I made that decision for Christ when I was an eleven-year-old kid watching him preach. With the simple clarity of his message, Billy Graham touched my heart and changed my life. As someone who has been devoted to ministering to children, it would not surprise me to learn that in many ways, Billy Graham’s influence is having a similar impact on eleven-year-old kids today.

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