Billy Graham (1918-2018)

For six decades, the tall sturdy frame of evangelist Billy Graham graced the TV screens of living rooms the world over. His unmistakable voice boomed over the radio in cars, tool sheds and stores, and left lasting auditory memories with most who listened. The message he had was almost always the same: the Gospel, in its simplest possible form, delivered with decipherable honesty and earnest. It was this plainness in speaking, as well as in his living, that endeared him to millions across the planet.

Early Years: From Dairy Farm to Bible School

Billy- or William Franklin Graham Jr, as his parents had christened him -was born in 1918, to a dairy farming family in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was the year in which the first world war ended- but that seemed a somewhat faint and far off reality from the quiet town which the Grahams called home. Billy’s later life was spent lacing the air waves with his charming Carolinas accent; perhaps God left nothing to chance when putting together the aspects of this exceptional evangelist’s personality. Apparently not even his speech.

Graham’s parents were practising Presbyterians (his mother moreso), who attended the local denominational church with their children on Sundays. They did have regular family devotions as well; but it’s not clear that young Billy was initially stirred by any of the early exposure he had to the Christian message.

It was at a revivalist meeting that Billy Graham got converted. The year was 1934. Mordecai Ham, a travelling baptist preacher, had come into Charlotte and was holding revivalist meetings. Billy was invited to attend by one of his father’s workers, and it was there that he made the formal decision to commit his life to God. Commentators point out that his wasn’t the storybook ‘bad boy turning to Christ’ event; master Graham was no mischievous fella. But he was gripped enough by Ham’s preaching about sin and salvation, to make a life altering decision that day.

Two years later, Billy completed high school. He hadn’t been an exceptional student by any stretch of the imagination; at one point, a teacher of his had warned that he might not make it out of school. Nevertheless, he scaled this hurdle, and went on to study Theology at the Bob Jones College in Tennessee. It’s safe to say that his issues at school probably came down to an apparent nonchalance about school work on his part. After all, he was in fact a bookish lad in his own right- it’s said that he sometimes got so immersed in his reading that he seemed to grow oblivious of his own self.

The Making of an Unshackled Travelling Evangelist

Graham’s time at Bob Jones wasn’t the happiest in his life. He found the rules too stringent, and the doctrine taught and practised there rather shackling (the institution’s authorities were so strict with their students, they screened whatever correspondences came in to them, and what they sent out. Feeling stifled of real spiritual freedom, he transferred to the more relaxed (but nonetheless conservative) Florida Bible School.

His trouble with the Bob Jones College hints at what was a severely polarized church at the time. The liberal Christians, wary of the supposed threat posed by the advances in science and the secularization of society, had retreated to an understanding of the Bible as not inerrant, while racing out of their pews to embrace the ‘progressive’ world beyond their church walls. Conservative Protestants were doing the exact opposite: they stared in defiance at the liberalizing society, railed against what they believed was America’s multiplying evils, and affirmed a straight jacket literalism in their exegesis of the Bible.

But Billy was learning (perhaps not very consciously) to thread a reasonable middle path. In later years, he would come under fire from both sides of the divide: liberals would label his preaching “too simple,” and conservatives would condemn him for being unnecessarily cozy with liberal ideals.

After completing his studies at the Florida Bible School in 1939, Graham enrolled at Wheaton College, hoping to get grounded in the ministerial work he was looking to begin. There, he met Ruth McCue Bell, the grand daughter of a missionary, who would later become his wife. And it was in this period that he preached his first sermon (in a small baptist church), at the behest of an academic dean at Wheaton.

In the decade that followed, Graham briefly pastored a church, worked with a Christian youth organization, and oversaw an alliance of Christian schools. It was at the end of this time that he turned towards itinerant evangelism.

The Start of a Remarkable Ministry

Chroniclers of Graham’s long life point to his visit to California in the early 1950s as the time in which he began to grow in prominence. He had been invited by a Christian organization, Christ for Greater Los Angeles, to preach in their city. When he did begin to deliver sermons there, his simple, earnest message drew people to his meetings. Secular historians say it was down to his charisma; many who were in the crowds insist that it was more the compelling nature of his sermons that brought the masses to the large meeting tents.

Some have said that his popularity was helped by local media’s favourable coverage of his crusades, which was in turn the result of his having admirers in the media circles, and his vocal opposition to communism. In a world increasingly torn between Communism (and its associations with militant atheism) and capitalism (cast as allowing for the freedom of religious observances), Graham’s condemnation of the former was sure to endear him to the US’s anti-communist elite and common people.

While it’s reasonable to view his preaching within the historical context in which it took place, we would be rewriting history if we gave it credit for Graham’s success at bringing people to Christ. The single most important factor in the success of his ministry was his dedication to the ‘total Gospel’, and its effectiveness, shown in the transformed lives of those who embraced the message. Besides this, it’s hard to explain how an increasingly skeptical Western society (one in which ‘theologians’ proclaimed that God was dead) would turn out millions of people to hear a preacher repeat the old fashioned gospel?

Going Global

In time, the crowds at the meetings grew so large, and the work of organizing such gatherings became so complex, that Graham and his friends decided to incorporate the ministry. They named it the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).

With wider media coverage and a more sophisticated media structure, Graham was able to reach other parts of the United States. Millions more were ministered to, and the conversions numbered in the hundreds of thousands. By 1952, the BGEA made its first landing in the United Kingdom.

It was in England, where the state of religion was represented by a staunchly liberal church, that Billy Graham’s international evangelism truly began. Many thought he would not be nearly as well received there; the Brits were supposed to be more measured, prim and proper, not given to the outward expression of emotions and overly simplistic teachings that characterized the American evangelist’s crusades. But they were wrong. After initial opposition by officials within the Church of England, Graham did finally set foot in the UK. And the crowds were just as big (and emotive) as the ones in the United States.

By the time he delivered his final sermon in 2005, Billy Graham had preached to over 215 million people across the world. He was a known bearer of the gospel, recognized for the way in which he was able to persuade his audiences with it. Between his going global and retiring in the mid 2000s, he had touched every inhabited continent of the world with his message. Thanks to his efforts, many accepted Jesus as their saviour.

An Uncommon Man’s Legacy

Graham’s influence stretched over the entire spectrum of human endevour. He was friends with (and counselor to) heads of state, from Dwight Eisenhower to George W. Bush. It’s reported that he had a good relationship with the Queen of England, Elizabeth II. He was also known to have spoken out against dehumanizing the underprivileged, including Black South Africans who were oppressed under that country’s White minority rule for the greater part of the 20th century.

It’s hard to exaggerate Graham’s impact on the Church’s approach to evangelism. His organized, media savvy organization helped take the Gospel farther than most had managed up until his time. His preaching, which emphasized mere (basic) Christianity, became a template for others who came after him.

Billy Graham passed on in February 2018. The world- or much of it -eulogized him. Countless words were spoken of his voice and looks, but also of his humility, faith and love. It’s certain that the man himself would have wanted to be remembered simply as a servant of Jesus, who put the resources of the age to good use in making the truth of God known to all people.

Ikenna Nwachukwu ©2019

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Slavery

I spoke to Runs girl once,
She said her anger is her source
As she was forced to this life
By her Uncle who came like a thief in the Night and her virginity was the casualty
So the penalty is death for all those who now commit the crime of sleeping with her
She blames they, them
For the mayhem she cause their Marriages
‘I wouldn’t pay for damages when my case has been adjourn’
Everyone I told turn a blind eye to my hurt
Now my heart burns with hate
If you stare at me, your fate might be a night to that hell I have been put through
I and my crew will screw all of you till you forget your wives and call us Boo
She like many others are Nigerian avengers
Fighting the ghost of their abusers
And I too felt her pain
A slave to a past that had been stained,
But can be snow if she chooses to let his light glow
Even if life has given her a low blow as she wrestles with her past demons
She can tag him in
He will guarantee her the win
Then the will to talk of his saving grace with pride
Everywhere she goes, she sows seed of hope to girls like her who are still slaves to rippers of souls
Tell them the past matters but the future is what they want to see and behold

Victor Isoje
(c) 2018

Barren Mother

I have an empty well of a belly.
My womb has known nothing but dying blood all my living years.
I have thought of no one but myself,
Fed no one but myself,
Placed no one before myself,
How do I have a womb except it was made to bear another, and yet
I have no idea what it means to pour a part of myself into another.
“A breast feeding mother?”
That’s a foreign name to me.
“A bread winning father?”
Who dares call me?
I am my own hero,
My own salt,
My own light in a shady place,
Come with me and I’ll lead you into the darkness.
I’d snuff the life out of my light because I do not want to share it.
I’m an evil already happening,
A menace waiting to be uncovered.
My tactics are new everyday
Yet my mind is old.
I am a dirty, dirty soul with a clogged up heart and a rigid body.

This is why I have come before the Rock of Ages,
Before The fire that purifies without consuming to ashes.
My tears produce more salt now than I have ever thought to produce.
I do not know when I ever took lessons from the ocean
But my ill will like waves come crushing over me.
I am caught up in my own dirt web,
Spun in my own fear.
I have come to you as a barren womb in need for a child.
I was born to be mother, now may I know a child?
I have come as a fruitless tree in its season.
As hungry fire,
I’m desperate.
As a docile branch,
I submit.
I accept defeat.
Let your rains fall on this arid land again, Lord.
I admit nothing was ever my own;
As I am left with nothing now I am reminded where I come from.
Give me one child, Yahweh ‘tis All I ask.
Surprise the quick-to-conclude with Your quick-to-deliver.
Let them know when their calling-me-barren tongues call me mother,
Let them know from every side of the flipping coin earth,
That You make the Barren Mother.

Adaobi Chiemelu
(c) 2018

The Fire of Revolution

If you truly want a revolution
You must be willing to watch your life fade
From before your own vanishing eyes

If you crave for the heavens showered
With bright red flames and blinding white light
You must care to be consumed with it

The rebirth you long for
Isn’t held in familiar bosoms
Is never at home with soft couches, tamed roses and sweet homely dinners

The freedom that’ll last forever
Is an intense joy and a harrowing pain
Stabs of rejection, and lingering loving embraces

If you truly want a revolution
You must be willing to watch your life burn
And glow

If you want a revolution that lasts forever
How about a death that scorches us into unending life?
How about Christ, Revolution Eternal?

Ikenna Nwachukwu
© 2018

Dear stranger

Dear stranger,
Do not hold down your doubt, your anger,

Life is no ordinary poem,
With lines, stanzas and rhymes,
Life is no ordinary Odyssey,
With storms, fear and courage,

‘No’ your breath is more,
Breath of life is more than,
a poor poem, a poor journey,
And so I say,
Let the apparition show,
Let the street overflow,
With the words of psalms,
May the words of proverbs,
And Matthew fly across your mind,

But please dear stranger,
Do not restrict your doubt, your anger,
Let them challenge the Psalm,
And proverbs and all,

And when your inner man is ready,
And your reasonable war over,
Throw away all the broken armors,
Of doubt and anger and sit still,
For awhile by the river,

For I am the crown, the king,
The light, the peace,
The truth, life eternal,
In me every road,
Leads the way home,

Dear stranger,
Do not resist your doubt, your anger,
But come, follow me.

Ugwu David C
© 2018

Life After Death

It is so ridiculous
How we fear death
A riddle, cool course
Why we want to live on earth

Life is to death
As death is to life
Man is to earth
As earth is to man

It’s OK we die
Because it’s a metamorphosis for one to live
At some point, we will say goodbye
To the old hives, we’ve lived

Failure could be death
Challenges could be death
Depression could be death
But the ability to overcome, prompts a new life

Definitely we will die someday
And there awaits us another life
The believers call this eternal
When we shall become immortal
But until we die, can we live such

Adethatwrites
© 2018

A Portrait of Sacrifice, with Blood as Paint

A band of butcherers chant,
As they drag crying sheep through,
Smashed rocks and dirt clouds,
Swarming, to slaughter point,

Its fluffy coat sheds, to mingle,
With mud puddles and grim slime,
It swims in darkened blood,
And sways, to torturers’ feet stomping,

As shredding skin paints the path,
To the altar, with red hue,
A portrait of life takes shape:
Suffering, to death,

But if through its last cries,
It sees losing self could be worship,
It’ll fall, to paint its dying as,
Living worship to God, “Sacrifice Infinite”.

Ikenna Nwachukwu
© 2018

False-Truth

I’m not good enough,
Daddy is taking Ada out for the third time because she aced her exams and I did not,
It’s the 4th time I’m being dumped for the better one who happens to bear my second name,
Yes! I took the pain to please my team and they chose David instead to take the lead,
Right now, I can’t look my wife in the face because I was not strong enough to rescue our only son before the car exploded in my face,
It’s 5 of 5 times I gave my opinion only to be overlooked by Tunde my coworker,
Who later brushed it up at the board meeting and was given a cool offer,
I even bet my life savings on the victory of my soccer club and the other club won,
And now I remember that it was momma who never believed a word a say because of the lie I told when I was two,

So, before I take my baby steps to death,
let me tell you that life has left me bullied by these thoughts and actions and betrayals and my pride with many rejections,
I even resulted to alcoholism but.. wait,
My religion abhors it so I’m formerly depressed,
These are the few I can tell,
I don’t want to tingle your ears,
And so far, all gesture given to me have been a clue for my escape away from this wicked world,

This was my life until I met one who told me I was made for so much more,
“Though the world’s pressure be heavy on me?”
But one sure word,
“Though I have been tagged as a sore looser and my dreams are dying”
But one true word,
“Though the stem of a tree be cut off and it’s roots wither but with the scent of water…
..That tree will grow again”

So before you pull the trigger to your brain,
Or drink that mixture,
Or have a last look at the beautiful skies as you sink in to the deep,
Or tie that rope to your neck,
Or write your last letter,
Give me the chance to rescue the hero in you,
Let me a minute to whisper to you that you are the one the skies have been waiting for,
Allow me to give you this scent of hope that there’s one who believes in your breath,
Your scent, your accent, your color, your posture, your smiles,

I mean your tears a so treasured so much that every drop sends a signal to the one who created you,
Truly you’re the apple of his eyes,
And these misdeeds are remodeling you into a masterpiece,
Your past do not define your future,
You are equal and more to that problem you’re facing,
You’re the champion waiting to happen,
So don’t give up, hang in there!
And just before another ‘false truth’ comes knocking at your mind’s door,
Accommodate this one truth,
“You are good enough!”

Azubuike Hannah
© 2018