(Photo: A. Larry Ross Communications)
Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing released a new book this week that contains stories about Billy Graham as told by politicians, celebrities and religious leaders who were impacted by the evangelist and his message.
The book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me: 101 Inspiring Personal Stories from Presidents, Pastors, Performers, and Other People Who Know Him Well, is the first in the Chicken Soup book series' 20-year history to serve as a tribute to a single person.
The book contains stories about Graham as told by every living U.S. president. It also contains some from evangelical leaders, such as Rick Warren, Joel Osteen and Craig Groeschel, and from other religious leaders, such as Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and activist Ela Gandhi.
Larry King, Dan Rather and Kathie Lee Gifford are among the television personalities who contributed to the book, which also contains stories from actors, athletes, musicians and several of Graham's family members.
A. Larry Ross, who wrote the book's forword and has handled Graham's media and public relation for 32 years, told The Christian Post on Wednesday that the respect shown to Graham by the contributors, who come from a variety of ideologies, faith backgrounds and worldviews, is "remarkable."
"In an era where confidence in institutions is crumbling and even religious organizations are being scrutinized, or Christian leaders criticized, for behavior inconsistent with their beliefs, Mr. Graham has long modeled courage and character and conviction, and stood as an example of how to finish well," said Ross.
Ross says Graham, who turned 94 in November, is physically limited because of mobility issues, hearing loss and age-related macular degeneration, though his mind is still sharp and active.
"The lion still has a roar," said Ross, who added that Graham is working on another book and has expressed an interest in preaching again.
"One of the things that's most encouraging to me about this book [is] I think in some respects this book is going to introduce Mr. Graham to a whole new generation of people who didn't know the evangelist or may not have had a chance to heard him speak," said Ross.
Steve Case, chairman and CEO of Revolution LLC and co-founder of AOL, writes in Billy Graham & Me that one of the remarkable things about the evangelist in his later years is that he has an apt memory.
"If you just mention some topic he will say, oh, I remember when this happened, or that happened," Case wrote in the book. "It's almost like a Forrest Gump movie about someone who has managed to be present at every pivotal moment in history for many decades."
Many of the stories shared in the book put the humility, love and faith of Graham, who Ross describes as "self-effacing," on display.
"I am humbled by the gracious comments the contributors to this book have made about our ministry – although only God deserves the credit for any impact it has had," Graham writes in the book's afterword. "I am not a great man – but I do serve a great God, and I give Him all the glory for whatever my associates and I have been able to accomplish over the years."
More than 100 million books in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series have been sold in the U.S. and Canada alone since 1993. Books in the series have also been translated into more than 40 languages and sold in more than 100 countries.
A press release from A. Larry Ross Communications says the publisher is making a contribution to support the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which has a mission of reaching as many people as possible with the Gospel message.