- (Photo: BGEA)
The Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., was officially reopened to the public Wednesday after having been closed for several months of renovations.
To mark the reopening, a ceremony was held Tuesday that was attended by Billy Graham, himself, who has been largely out of the public eye for the past couple of years due to health-related issues.
At a dinner following the dedication ceremony, the 91-year-old preacher said the library, “which has been largely the vision and the work of Franklin, has gone far beyond our expectations.”
“The reason we decided to renovate it was to make it a different type of library that would totally and completely honor the Lord Jesus Christ, where people could find Christ in almost every place,” said Graham. “And I’m grateful to those that have worked and prayed, and I believe that God is going to use it in the future.”
Graham had initially rejected the idea of constructing the library, not wanting a memorial or museum to honor him or his works. But after his son Franklin, who heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, assured him that the building would function as an ongoing evangelistic ministry and not a shrine, the elder Graham gave his support.
“He (Billy Graham) wanted it to be about the Lord Jesus Christ,” Franklin Graham said Tuesday. "That’s what my father preached all of his life and continues to this day. He wants to focus men and woman on Jesus Christ, God’s Son."
Unfortunately, however, after touring the library following its opening in May 2007, the elder Graham reportedly said it was “too much Billy Graham.”
The dairy barn-shaped library – modeled after Graham’s early childhood home in Charlotte – housed a repository of Graham's personal papers, including his correspondence and sermon manuscripts; rare film footage; and more than 350 photographs recognizing the 60-year legacy of the world renowned evangelist who has preached to more than 210 million people across six continents.
It also featured some of Graham’s historic evangelistic events; his innovative use of radio, television, and films to reach out to millions of people around the world; meetings with presidents and world leaders; his work for racial equality and religious freedom; and a glimpse into his personal life.
"He (Graham) doesn't want attention to go to him," said Graham's younger sister, Jean Ford, after the library’s initial opening. "And yet it just does."
In light of this and other issues, the library was closed for renovations – changed so that there would be a clear presentation of the Gospel as visitors go through from room to room.
“We want this library to be like an ongoing crusade,” Franklin Graham said in remarks at Tuesday's dedication ceremony inside the lobby of the library.
"This library is a ministry, and that's what we wanted. That's what we intended," the 57-year-old evangelist added. “And these changes that we have made have strengthened the ministry.”
Among the additions to the library are new video presentations, a glimpse at the current ministry activities of BGEA, and testimonies of those whose lives God has touched through the evangelist’s ministry.
Also added were thousands of books from Graham’s personal library and other artifacts, such as his desk and chair, a Bible he used for preparing sermons and one of his briefcases.
In his prayer of dedication for the library, Billy Graham prayed for God’s blessing to be upon the library “in a new way.”
“Bless Franklin, as he leads our whole organization and Samaritan’s Purse, and Lord I pray that you bless the people that work here,” he prayed. “We commit this library and museum to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Having preached to over 210 million people in over 185 countries, Graham is believed to have spoken face-to-face with more people in more places than anyone in history.
He has also been a friend to every U.S. president since Harry Truman and has been listed by the Gallup organization as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World” an unmatched 52 (45 consecutive) times.
Since retiring from public ministry due to his failing health, Graham has been largely confined to his home in Montreat, N.C. The aged preacher has suffered from Parkinson's disease for about 15 years, has had fluid on the brain, pneumonia, broken hips, and recently revealed that he is suffering from prostate cancer.
His wife, Ruth Bell Graham, died four days after her 87th birthday in 2007.
Ruth Graham was buried at the Billy Graham Library, where Graham said he too would be later buried one day.