Thank you, Billy Graham! Because of you, I am a life that was changed

Dr. Billy Graham was called home to heaven Wednesday morning. The news moved me to tears—because he has probably touched my life more than any other person on the face of the earth.

While watching one of his old crusades on television, someone once asked me if I thought it would last for all those folks going to the front at the the end of his sermons. I couldn’t answer for them, but I could certainly answer for me.

As a six-year-old child, I went with my mother to attend a training session for volunteers to help at one of his crusades. At the end of the service, the music played and people began to leave their seats, streaming towards the front of the convention hall—a sight seen at his services countless times around the world.

I leaned up and asked my mother what they were doing. When she explained that God had touched their hearts and they were going forward to pray, to ask God to forgive them of what they’d done wrong, and to give their lives to Him, I said, “I want to do that.” That day, I accepted Jesus into my heart—a moment that changed my life forever.

My mother explained that God had touched their hearts and they were going forward to pray, to ask God to forgive them of what they’d done wrong, and to give their lives to Him. I said, “I want to do that.”

Many years later, I had the opportunity to visit the Billy Graham Library, the home of many of the items collected through the years of his ministry. The tour was touching as the scope of what he’d accomplished for God became evident, from his beginning while preaching at old-time tent meetings to reaching millions through his televised crusades.

There were items at the library from gangsters who’d turned from their guns to Jesus. There were photos of him with presidents and other notable figures. And in one of the rooms, there was a simple plaque that made me cry when I read it. It depicted Dr. Graham’s spiritual heritage and what God could do with an ordinary life.

It began with Edward Kimball, a Sunday school teacher who led a shoe clerk named D.L. Moody, to Christ.

D.L. Moody touched the heart of F.B. Meyer, a young man who became a great preacher. He came to America and was used to reach a student named Wilbur Chapman.

Wilbur Chapman went on to work for D.L. Moody, and Wilbur hired ex-baseball player Billy Sunday as his assistant. Billy Sunday went on to become a noted preacher, and his evangelistic club invited Mordecai Ham to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he preached in a tent meeting.

And under that large canvas tent, a young man named Billy Graham was saved.

It was an impressive story of how the faithfulness of a Sunday school teacher and a young shoe salesman led to Billy Graham reaching the world for Jesus. But what made me cry that day as I read about this was that the story didn’t end there—because I met Jesus through Dr. Graham’s ministry.

And then I had the privilege of praying with all three of my sons as they asked Jesus into their hearts. And now two of them are following in Dr. Graham’s footsteps, preaching the Gospel and reaching another generation for God.

Dr. Graham is gone home to heaven now. It’s time for us to pick up his torch and to carry on his message. Thank you for your faithfulness, Billy Graham. Because of you, I am a life that was changed.

Michelle Cox is a speaker and the author of "When God Calls the Heart" and the "When God Calls the Heart Journal." Visit her at WhenGodCallstheHeart.com and at just18summers.com.