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Inside story

I was making my way down Black Mountain in North Carolina in the fall of 2009, heading for Charlotte, when I decided to call my Mom. Not the usual thing a guy then in his late 50s does following a meeting—but this wasn't just any meeting.

"Mom, you'll never guess who I just spent an hour with," I excitedly blurted out, my words in overdrive. "Billy Graham!"

I then waited for the effect of that name to sink in. And it did. With silence.

One second. Two seconds. Five seconds. Silence.

"Mom," I repeated several times, thinking my cell connection was kaput."You there?"

Finally, in her quietest church voice, she replied: "Really?"

"Yes mom," I said, "really!"

At which point, she was "transported" back over 65 years to a Saturday night Voice of Christian Youth rally at the Masonic Temple in downtown Detroit. There, as a girl of 15 or 16-years-of-age, she was brought to hear an evangelist by her boyfriend who was on-fire for the Lord.

He had ulterior motives, to be sure. He was falling in love with this girl—but he knew their courtship could not go much farther unless she too committed her life to Christ.

As the story is told, the evangelist my future father had hoped would be convincingly delivering the altar call that night was unable to attend for some reason, so another evangelist—unknown to either teen—filled in.

That other evangelist just "happened" to be Billy Graham himself! And that night, by the grace of God alone, my Mom's eternity was redirected.

God graciously used Mr. Graham to set the foundation—the cornerstone—of what would eventually become a family of four. Ours was a home marked by an infectious love for Christ and his Word, where Gospel witness was a forgone conviction (and enthusiastically delivered to anyone who darkened our doorway), and where the name Billy Graham was held in highest esteem.

Professing Christ as a young boy, then asking him to truly be Lord of my life while a freshman at the University of Michigan, I took refuge in, and drew spiritual nourishment from, the Word of God and from an assortment of Christian authors and periodicals—like Christianity Today, the publication Graham himself envisioned in 1953 and started three years later.

And as only God would have it (for I hardly felt qualified to work for such a vaunted periodical), my own chapter of the Graham-Smith-story fell into place when I came to work for Christianity Today in 1984 as special projects editor.

It was like I had come home.

* * *

Much has changed in the ensuing 28-plus years of my own CT involvement , but not that singular, rock solid "Graham-commitment" to the Gospel and to what God's redemptive plan made manifest in his Son Jesus means for the whole of our lives and witness.

That's why in print or in pixels, you can always be assured that the Cross will be held high in everything CT does and that Christ will be honored as the only way, truth, and life.

Such majestic Truths have never been more critical. Which is why CT's role of "Creating Christian content that changes the people who change the world" is so very important and so at the very core of all we do.

You know that, of course. Which is why you've partnered with us. And if you haven't, then let me encourage you to be watching for what's ahead in 2013. You too may find yourself changed.

* * *

As for my Mom whose eternity was so radically changed that momentous night so long ago when Graham "the replacement evangelist" preached the life-giving Gospel: She is now with her Lord and Savior, having eagerly and lovingly embraced eternity on November 20, 2012 after a Christ-honoring 16-year-battle with breast cancer.

She too has come home.

Harold Smith
President and CEO

Follow me on Twitter @HaroldSmithCT

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Laban G. Gitau

January 12, 2013  5:28am

In 2004, I was engaged in mission amongst the Turkana of Kenya, and met an American girl also on a mission with others for Christ. She shortly fell ill and had to be flown to Nairobi for treatment. When I later visited her, she was excited as I surmised she did not have many visitors. I gave her my new copy of the Book of Jabez. A friend had the year before heard me preach in our morning devotions on the Jabez verses and asked whether I had read the book, to which I replied, "No" He said, "But you have shared as if you have already read it." He mailed me one. I came to America in 2011 and in the first Goodwill store I entered, I saw the Book of Jabez at the book section. My excitement at the small book went through the roof when I opened it and discovered it had been owned by none other than Billy Graham. He had inscribed his name on it. I felt this was impartation. I read and posted it to my daughter in Kenya who had also missed reading of the first copy. I feel blessed, Laban

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Tess Marcelo-Tadeo

December 21, 2012  11:20pm

I am on the verge of tears when I read your story! I'm too encountered "Pastor Billy Graham" when he had crusade in Manila, Philippines way back in 1977. I was brought there also by my Christian boyfriend. Even though there are no follow ups by the local church, but I believed that God has planned for me when I accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. I became a wayward Christian but God molded me into a fine clay. Now I can say, I am riped to conquer the souls that God commissioned me to share His Good News. Thank you and a Merry merry celebrations of God's plan for us! Love in Christ from Saudi Arabia, Tess

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December 20, 2012  11:03am

Harold, what a wonderful story -- about Billy and your mom. Christmas blessings to you and Judy!

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Elaine Young

December 19, 2012  6:07pm

My mother passed today, 12/19/2012 after falling down in home a couple of weeks age,89yr old but I still wanted a miracle, didn't happen, I think God wants people home ( in Heaven ) to celebrate his birthday. Merry Christmas

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Linda Webster

December 19, 2012  1:30pm

Thanks for sharing your "roots" with us. I'm sure your mom is walking the streets of glory with her King! My parents passed on a few years ago and it just seems the memories become sweeter as the days go by. My dad passed in December 1999, and it was like Chritmas time was a gift to us of loving family support and comfort. I pray this chritmas will be the same for you as well! God bless you!

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