I am ever so grateful for Ruth Graham. Without a woman like that, who let her husband Billy roam the earth preaching the Gospel, someone like my father might never have committed his life to follow Jesus Christ.
The blessing of being with Ruth only came to me a few times. Back in 1986 I served as a summer intern at her home church in Montreat, North Carolina. Ruth was gracious enough to take time out of her busy life to encourage a young man preparing for Christian ministry. The first time we chatted together was in the car on the way back home from her hair-dresser! We got to talking about our beloved Presbyterian Church. For all of its faults she felt it was important to remain active in the church and thereby try to make it better. Her father, of course, was a medical missionary to China. Growing up on the mission field Ruth never lost that sense of being a missionary in all situations--even being a missionary to her own church.
On another occasion Ruth invited me to her mountain-top, log cabin home for dinner, along with a small group of people from the church. I don't remember all we talked about that night. But I do remember the meal was delicious and Ruth showed far more interest in everyone else at the table than we did in her. She was asking too many questions to let any of us ask her questions about herself. She obviously lived by Paul's maxim: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3).
On yet another occasion I had the privilege of sitting with Mr. and Mrs. Graham on their porch, overlooking the beautiful North Carolina mountains. We chatted about so many topics I don't remember them all. And Billy showed that same interest in me that Ruth had. It was very hard for me to get in the questions I wanted to ask him. I especially enjoyed watching how Ruth entered into the conversation. She wasn't afraid to disagree with her husband or make her opinion known on certain topics!
Ruth was also a woman who displayed great compassion towards others. When Ruth heard about my father falling and breaking his hip, back in 1997, she immediately wrote a telegram to let him know that she and Billy would be praying for him.
Later that same year she wrote a delightful letter to my parents congratulating them on their fiftieth wedding anniversary:
"Dear Jim and Alice,
"You are one of the happiest memories we have of the Los Angeles crusade. God did incredible things at Washington and Hill. (To this day I love the smell of sawdust.)
"One of the neat stories I remember was told me by the little night watchman who slept under the platform. One night he heard someone stumbling around among folding chairs and when he called out, 'Who goes there?', the voice replied, 'I just came back to find Jesus.' So the little night watchman led him to Christ.
"God certainly has had His hand on your lives and the lives of your three sons. What an incredible ministry you have had and are now having as people see how a Christian handles Parkinsons. Bill does not shake much but he does have some hilarious memory lapses.
"Did I ever tell you the day after Daddy was buried the family was gathered around Mother in their home when the phone rang. I answered it. It was Mickey Cohen on the other end of the line. He simply said, 'Please give your mother my darndest condolences.' I loved it. And God certainly gave her 'His darndest condolences.'
"Have a happy celebration together. It has been a blessing just to count you among our dearest friends.
"Our love to you both
Ruth (for Bill too)"
Now, I am sure, the angels in heaven are having a celebration of Ruth's homecoming. But we who are left behind here on earth will certainly miss her, until we too get to go home.
My thoughts and prayers, alike with the thoughts and prayers of many around the world, are with the Graham family at this time, and especially with Billy. May the Lord comfort them all as only He can.