Throughout 2021, we’ll be honoring our local heroes by showcasing items given to Billy Graham by law enforcement, firefighters, and military personnel throughout the course of his ministry.
In 1952, Billy Graham’s ministry was growing rapidly. He was involved in radio, television, and film, preaching sermons, holding Crusades, and even authoring a book. However, even in the midst of a full ministry schedule, Billy Graham felt an urge to visit the troops in Korea for Christmas.
With the loving approval of his wife Ruth Bell Graham, the support of his ministry team, and cooperation from the military, Billy Graham embarked on his journey to spend Christmas in a warzone. He was accompanied by Bob Pierce and Grady Wilson. On their way into Korea, the team stopped in Japan where Billy Graham was given the field rank of major general by General Mark Clark, commander of U.N. and U.S. Army forces in the Far East.
Within his first week in Korea, Billy Graham preached 14 times to more than 7,000 soldiers. Over 1,000 of the soldiers made decisions for Christ. “Men of every rank came forward, many in tears – and they were tough, rugged men! – to receive Christ,” Billy Graham later recalled about the event.
Billy Graham and the team witnessed the harsh realities of war during their time in Korea. They ministered to soldiers in hospitals, met with men on their death bed, and braved the harsh climate and winter storms. “It was thirty degrees below zero, and we were grateful for the clothing that the military had supplied: big gloves, thick boots, military hats with the chaplain’s cross, and even heavy underwear,” Billy Graham shared.
The Christmas of 1952 in Korea made a huge impact on Billy Graham. He left with a greater appreciation for the military and an even deeper knowledge of the suffering happening in the world. “I wept more in Korea than in all the past several years put together,” Billy Graham said. “These experiences changed my life. I could never be quite the same again. … I felt sadder, older. I felt as though I had gone in a boy and come out a man.”