As Billy Graham is mourned around the world, the passing of the great evangelist has a personal impact for many TWR veterans.
Widely admired, a confidant of world leaders, better known than most movie stars, Graham centered his life on passionately proclaiming the gospel and using mass media to carry that message to untold millions. TWR’s worldwide network of powerful transmitters and local radio stations was a major broadcaster of his popular program, Hour of Decision, in multiple languages.
"Dr. Graham was a friend of TWR, visiting our main European broadcasting center in Monte Carlo many times, and his programs were aired on TWR for decades,” TWR CEO Lauren Libby said after Graham’s passing at the age of 99 was announced Feb. 21, 2018. “I met him once when I was on the air at the Graham station in North Carolina. He was a humble, gracious man who certainly influenced the spiritual fabric of the entire world.”
Billy and Ruth Grahams’ visits to Monte Carlo came relatively often, recalls Tom Streeter, a former director of Southern European ministries for TWR. The city on the Mediterranean coast was a place both to get over jet lag prior to Graham’s crusades in Europe and to recuperate afterward. Also, Graham’s publisher sent the evangelist there to concentrate on writing his books. In fact, a TWR staff member acted as Graham’s secretary while he completed one of his volumes.
TWR’s international staff held Sunday services in the local French Reformed church, the only English services in the principality of Monaco, recalls Duane Gow, TWR’s European director at the time. “Billy and Ruth were frequently in our services and sometimes spoke in our staff meetings, as well,” Gow said.
The relationship went deeper than the agreement between TWR and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to air Hour of Decision in many countries. Gow recalls consulting with Graham during a visit to Monte Carlo in the 1980s about an important opportunity to bring four young people to work in TWR’s Russian ministry. Only temporary support was available for the prospective staff members.
Graham telephoned a friend who was a Christian businessman in Switzerland and introduced Gow.
“I made an appointment to see the businessman, and my wife, Millie, and I drove to Switzerland to meet the gentleman and his wife,” said Gow, who is now retired. “Long story short, the man fully supported all four of the young people for four or five years. It never would have happened without Billy's intervention.”
The connection between the two media-specializing ministries extends back to a time before there even was a TWR or a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Billy and Ruth Graham and TWR founder Paul Freed graduated from Wheaton College, their years overlapping in the early 1940s. Freed passed away in 1996, and Ruth Graham died in 2007.
And finally, another serendipitous link: The homegoing of Billy Graham, the preacher who used the airwaves to tell the world about Jesus Christ, came just one day before the 64th anniversary of TWR’s first broadcast of gospel programming.
Picture: Billy Graham, right, is greeted by TWR missionary David Carlson at Nice airport, just down the French coast from Monte Carlo, in 1970.