On File

Christianity In Action

Billy Graham and The Salvation Army

“Rev. Dr. Billy Graham was an inspirational man of God with an extraordinary ministry and a passion for revival. I am sure that many Salvationists will be personally grateful to him for his involvement in their own conversion experience. Worldwide, millions of Christians will be reflecting on the global rallies which led so many to faith in Jesus Christ. From preacher and pastor to presidential spiritual advisor, his calling was evident.” — General André Cox

In 1972, Billy Graham held a crusade in Cleveland, Ohio. Colonel Henry Gariepy, then co–administrator of the Salvation Army’s Hough Multipurpose Center, received a call from Dr. Howard Jones, associate evangelist of the Billy Graham Association, requesting that Graham visit the center. “He would like you to take him to visit the center and then to a low–income black and a low–income white neighborhood,” said Jones. Graham, before he preached in a city, made a habit of visiting people in the most need.

“This invitation was a great honor and responsibility,” wrote Gariepy in his book Challenge & Response: A Documentary On Christianity In Action In The Inner City, In Response to riots, racism, poverty, crime, and spiritual need. “I served as a member of the executive committee for the Northern Ohio Crusade and was privileged to respond to such a request.”

When Gariepy met Graham and Jones at their motel, he was greatly moved by Graham’s demeanor. “I have never met anyone as open and as relaxed to be with as Billy Graham. He made me feel immediately at ease.”  As they rode for 25 minutes into the city, they talked about the Army’s ministry in the inner city, as well as social and racial issues. “He evidenced a concern for both blacks and whites living in poverty,” said Gariepy.  They toured the Hough community where in 1966 a civil rights revolution ignited in anarchic riots. “We witnessed some of the visible signs of urban pathology,” said Gariepy, “vandalized buildings, deterioration, and debris.” Graham visited the homes of local residents who lived across the street from the center.

Graham also saw hundreds of children and youth participating in the Hough Center’s various programs. In the gym, he took off his suit coat and shot baskets with young men. At poolside, he leaned over and chatted with swimmers. Their photo appeared on page one of the Cleveland Press.

After the tour, Graham remarked, “This is really Christianity in action. You are serving where the need is great. Whenever we think of Hough, we will remember you in our prayers and the work you’re doing here.”

“From the Hough Center, we went to the west side of Cleveland with its low income white neighborhood and diverse ethnic groups,” wrote Gariepy. “It was an inspiring, unforgettable, and treasured experience that came because of the ministry of the Hough Center.”

During the final Sunday meeting of the crusade, Gariepy and Brigadier Walter C. French, then divisional commander, were privileged to be on the platform with Graham. That day in Cleveland Stadium, 50,000 people witnessed one of God’s miracles. There were 2,531 seekers who came forward to receive Christ. That group was among the 19,828 inquirers during the 10–day campaign. “The greatest joy of all this is to see people brought to God through faith in Christ,” wrote Gariepy.

In 1989, a massive earthquake hit California. Graham spent two days with then Commissioner Paul A. Rader, praying for and encouraging people who had been devastated by the quake. Graham spoke and prayed with families who were temporarily sheltered in tents provided by the Army.

Graham, who donned an SA relief team jacket, said, “I regard it as a great honor and privilege to wear the Salvation Army jacket and to be associated with their work in this disaster. I have always wanted to wear a Salvation Army uniform!” Following this visit, the Billy Graham emergency relief fund donated $100,000 to the cause.

by Warren L. Maye

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