The nearly 60-year service of Evangelist Billy Graham, who has preached the Gospel in more than 185 countries and territories, was honored Monday by former President George H.W. Bush, who called the reverend the "conscience of our nation."
Graham accepted the 2006 George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service as a pastor who has given guidance to people of all faiths throughout the nation and overseas.
"To be honest, when you first contacted me about this award I was very reluctant to accept it," Graham said to former President George Bush, according to The Associated Press. "The words 'public service' usually bring to mind someone who has been active in government or politics, or perhaps a business leader or philanthropist. But that has not been my calling."
While his calling has been to help people look beyond this world and onto the next, he has come to accept that his "commitment to Christ makes [him] more concerned about this world," he said.
Graham has spoken live to more than any other person in the world, reaching an estimated 200 million people in more than 185 countries and territories. In every consecutive year since 1947, the world renowned evangelist has been on his feet preaching the message of Jesus Christ.
"No matter how deep one's faith, sometimes you need the guidance and comfort of a living, breathing being," said Bush, according to AP. "For me and so many other oval office occupants, that person was Billy Graham, the nation's pastor."
Americas pastor joins former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger among those honored in previous years.
As one of the most admired people in America, Graham has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1983) and the Congressional Gold Medal (1996), but last night he called the Bush award "the greatest honor" he ever had.
Billy Graham: God's Ambassador
In related news, the extraordinary life and ministry of Billy Graham has been captured and documented onto film - Billy Graham: God's Ambassador - which is slated for an Easter 2006 release.
"This documentary remind us of the difference that can be made when we surrender our life to Jesus Christ and allow Him to use us for His glory," said Grahams son, Evangelist Franklin Graham, in a released statement.
The documentary will air nationwide beginning Easter weekend and is available on DVD and VHS.