Saturday, May 25, 2013

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA: THE BILLY GRAHAM LIBRARY AND FAMILY HOMEPLACE

After our tour of Charleston and Savannah, we returned to Charlotte, North Carolina, to catch our flight home. There isn't a lot to do in Charlotte, but everything we looked at mentioned the Billy Graham Library just outside of town. We had nothing else on our itinerary and an hour to kill, so why not?

Billy grew up on a 300-acre dairy farm a few miles outside Charlotte.  The 2,400 square-foot two-story home, where he lived from age nine until he went away to college, has been moved twice, first in 1984 to Praise the Lord's Heritage USA site (a religious theme park in Fort Mill, South Carolina), and then in 2006 to this site next to the Billy Graham Library (the building with the cross-shaped door/window), about four miles away from the original farm.
The site reminded me of the Joseph Smith Birthplace in Sharon, Vermont. Tasteful landscaping and native forest surround the complex, and friendly guides/missionaries are on hand to answer any questions.

 The home is decorated in what the site's literature calls "the comfortable mixed style Mother Graham [Billy's mom] enjoyed in her later years, with items from various decades--including some original furnishings and memorabilia."


It is nice to breeze through the home, which is really a reproduction rather than a restoration, but the true attraction is the Billy Graham Library.  The term "Library" doesn't refer to its collection of books, although it does include "Ruth's Attic Bookstore," named after Billy's wife. The building is actually a museum detailing Billy Graham's life and work (similar to a Presidential Library) and a crusade center.
 There are several rooms that display memorabilia from Billy Graham's life and ministry:

This photo from 1947 shows the enormous crowds the twenty-nine-year-old Billy Graham drew for his sermons.  
Louis Zamperini, the Olympic runner and World War II Japanese prison camp survivor who Laura Hillenbrand wrote about in her fabulous book Unbroken
attended a rally very similar to this one just two years later, and it changed his life.
Zamperini and Graham.  Read the story about Zamperini's conversion here.
I love the line-up on the marquee in this 1972 photo:

The bookstore, complete with a larger-than-life statue representing the Parable of the Sower, is impressive:
I think some of the seminary teachers I know would love this little statue:
While visitors are waiting for a tour, they can also visit the Graham Brothers Dairy Bar:

Since we were a bit pressed for time, we couldn't take the full tour, but we did walk through all of the exhibit areas.  There was quite a bit of information about the Grahams' lives, including Ruth Graham's childhood with her missionary parents in China and Korea:

On a full tour, visitors catch a bit of the revival spirit in this room:

Footage of some of Graham's sermons plays in another room:
At the end of the tour, guests are asked to commit to receiving Christ as their personal savior, and are given time to meditate,  pray, and speak with missionaries:
Guides/missionaries are friendly but not pushy, and I suspect our experience there was not unlike the experience an evangelical would have on Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

Just like LDS historical sites, the grounds around the house and complex are exceptionally well-groomed. Religious music was being piped through strategically placed speakers, creating a lovely, peaceful atmosphere. A Memorial Prayer Garden lies at the edge of the woods at the end of this cross-shaped brick walkway.


 Billy Graham's wife of 64 years, Ruth, died in 2007 and is buried in this garden area:
 There is a nice spot for Billy right next to her:
Can anyone translate that kanji for me?
Regardless of your religion, I think the Billy Graham Library complex is well worth the hour or two it takes to visit.  Graham's influence on the Christian world has been immense, and it is interesting to learn a little bit more about his life and work.

And if you are interested in the Billy Graham/Louis Zamperini connection, watch this video:



Yay! Officially caught up on all our travels, just in time for another trip . . . 

4 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading about this visit from Bob's view, and now from yours. What an incredible man. I do love Ruth's headstone.

    Thanks for including that video from Louis Zamperini! I loved the book, and it was interesting to see and hear him.

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  2. Now I really need to read Hillenbrand's book. You guys really did cram a lot into one trip. I thought it was interesting that she had a rug in her kitchen.

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  3. The chinese character means "Righteousness". Pretty cool because it is a composite of two glyphs, the top glyph meaning "Lamb" and the bottom "Me".

    In essence, the Lamb of God (Christ) covering me = Righteousness.

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    Replies
    1. What a beautiful sentiment. Thank you for sharing that.

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