MONTREAT, N.C. – Sarah Palin on Sunday dined and prayed with the Rev. Billy Graham, who has counseled presidents and other politicians for decades.
Graham had never met Palin, who is scheduled to stop at Fort Bragg in eastern North Carolina on Monday to promote her memoir, "Going Rogue: An American Life." The former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and members of her family flew into Asheville in the western part of the state, then went to Graham's mountaintop home in nearby Montreat for dinner.
Billy Graham said it was an honor having Palin in his home to join his family for dinner and that they took the opportunity to pray together.
"I, like many people, have been impressed with her strong commitment to her faith, to family and love of country," he said in a statement. "I appreciated hearing her speak of her own spiritual journey and her life in Alaska."
Palin was joined by her parents, Chuck and Sally Heath, aunt, Katie Johnson, daughter, Piper, and son, Trig.
"Daddy feels God was using her to wake America up," Franklin Graham told the Charlotte Observer.
Palin told reporters at the airport that she that she believed meeting with Billy Graham was "a once-in-a-lifetime honor," the Charlotte Observer reported. She said Graham had been an important, influential figure in helping to pass along "issues that matter," the Charlotte Observer reported.
Graham's son, Franklin, got to know Palin early this year in Alaska and he invited her to North Carolina. She accompanied him as Samaritan's Purse, a Boone-based international relief agency he heads, delivered 44,000 pounds of groceries to Alaskan families who had been hit by a harsh winter in villages along the frozen Yukon River.
Samaritan's Purse has an office in Alaska, and Franklin Graham owns a cabin in the state. He also leads the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which his father founded decades ago.
The 91-year-old Billy Graham said he shared his memories of preaching in Anchorage in 1984. Graham, who has suffered from ill health for some time, has been dubbed "America's pastor." He has counseled U.S. presidents from Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s through George W. Bush and is known worldwide for his preaching and activism.
"Life in the spotlight is not easy and I pray that whatever lies ahead for this family that their faith in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, would remain strong and that God would put a hedge of protection around her and all those she holds dear," Billy Graham said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.