90: Greta Van Susteren

90: Greta Van Susteren

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 90 •
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN

Recipient of the American Bar Association’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Journalism and host of Fox News Channel’s On the Record

The first time I met Reverend Billy Graham was at his ninetieth birthday party in 2008. It was an incredibly special occasion and I was thrilled to celebrate this birthday with the Reverend, his family and his many, many, many friends — some friends had known him fifty years!

We all hoped he would speak to the room full of birthday celebrants and he did not let us down. As you might expect, he spoke about his faith and family — but we also got a taste of his sense of humor. At one point during his speech it seemed like Reverend Graham was getting a bit sad, but then suddenly he changed gears, caught us off guard, and said he would see us at his ninety-fifth birthday. His good cheer, sharp mind and good heart were contagious. He made us all feel good — no, great.

At one point during the evening, I introduced myself to Reverend Graham. To my great surprise he told me he watches my show, On the Record, on the Fox News Channel. People often say they watch to be polite — but I believed him because he immediately quizzed me about a recent interview I had done with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. He not only watched, he paid close attention. I was beyond flattered! It was a memorable moment for me — and yes, I confess to having bragged later about the fact that Reverend Bill Graham watches On the Record.

Two years later, in December 2010, I had the opportunity to sit down with Reverend Graham for an interview at his library in North Carolina. It was the first interview he’d given in years, so I was honored to speak with him on-camera and share his story with our viewers.

Because of my twenty years in news, I have met exceptional people — from American Presidents to world leaders. Many have made an enormous impact on the world — but none has come near to creating the impact that Reverend Graham has made. He has made an impact on Presidents — he has met every U.S. President since World War II. But even more than the famous world leaders, he has made an impact on millions and millions of people from around the globe whose names we don’t know. Everywhere I go I run into people who tell me they have heard Reverend Graham preach or read his books and each says he changed their lives.

Reverend Graham’s list of accomplishments seems endless and I could have interviewed him for hours. There were so many questions to ask — including how he became the world’s most well-known evangelist. How did it start?

Reverend Graham told me about his time at Bible school in Florida during the Great Depression when he was about eighteen or nineteen years old. He was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the economic struggles facing so many. Reverend Graham told me that he used to wander around the streets witnessing incredible hardship and he would ask God to give him direction and purpose in his life. One night, he told me, he was lying on the eighteenth green of a golf course near the Bible school campus, surrounded by palm trees and darkness. In that moment, Reverend Graham said he heard the Lord call on him to preach the Gospel and he never looked back.

In pursuit of this calling, Reverend Graham went on to study at Wheaton College near Chicago, where he met classmate and future wife Ruth Bell. [By the way, I would have loved to have known her!] The two would go on to have five children. As Reverend Graham recounted his story to me, I could almost feel his love and devotion to his family. He spoke fondly of the big Christmas celebrations he and Ruth would put together for the children, which consisted of Christmas morning prayers followed by opening gifts under the tree.

I know he is a humble man, but I hope Reverend Graham knows how much he helped people. I also hope he realizes that his legacy continues — with his children.

Over the years I have become close friends with his son Reverend Franklin Graham. Franklin is the president and CEO of the international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse. I’ve traveled with the younger Reverend Graham and Samaritan’s Purse to North Korea, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic and witnessed the extraordinary work Franklin and Samaritan’s Purse do. They are doing relief work — saving lives — all around the globe. They also from time to time risk their lives — for instance, doing relief work in Sudan and South Sudan — just because they want to help.

The elder Reverend Graham’s spirit of giving and compassion can be felt around the world and now through the work of his children and those who have been inspired by his family.

It is truly remarkable to look at the way his influence has transcended generations and borders.

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