Honoring Many Who Served With Billy Graham

April 8, 2024

Categories: BGEA Ministry

A group of former ministry leaders who worked with Billy Graham came together with current staff for a Senior Team Retreat at the Billy Graham Library, April 4–6.

The Billy Graham Library hosted a bit of living history as many of Billy Graham’s executive team and their spouses gathered for a Senior Team Retreat in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The ministry leaders represent thousands of individuals who have served with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) in its 74-year history. Many were joined by their spouses at the three-day event.

“On behalf of Franklin Graham and Will Graham, we were honored to welcome some significant leadership from past BGEA history,” said David Bruce, executive vice president of the Billy Graham Library and Billy Graham Archive and Research Center.

“From its inception in 1950, there have been a number of people who served directly with Mr. Graham and other original founders of the ministry—Cliff Barrows, George Beverly Shea, George Wilson, and others.

“We want to thank those who served before us,” Bruce said. “To honor them with our encouragement and prayer is a wonderful opportunity for all of us who currently serve here.”

Crusade pianist John Innes (pictured here), along with many other attendees, served directly with Mr. Graham and his original ministry team—Cliff Barrows, George Beverly Shea, George Wilson, and others.

Looking Back—and Forward

Former Crusade pianist and organist John Innes stepped right back into his role during the gathering.

Reminiscing on more than four decades of ministry, his eyes sparkled as he recounted the 1992 Moscow Crusade, which also featured music from the Red Army Choir.

“Billy Graham had never been allowed to preach at a stadium [in the Soviet Union],” he explained, “only in churches. The government allowed him to preach at Olympic Stadium and people came by the thousands.”

Hearing about the ongoing ministry, Innes was especially excited to hear more about Search for Jesus, BGEA’s internet evangelism, which began in 2011.

“It makes it possible to reach literally the entire world,” he said, “which was never possible before. I just thought that was absolutely astonishing with all the people who come across the [ministry’s] websites.”

Jesus and the Gospel

For 84-year-old Joel Aarsvold, the emphasis has always been on one thing:  share the hope of Jesus Christ.

The former vice president of finance remembers a certain Bible verse prominently displayed at evangelistic Crusades around the world: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV).

“Being focused on that is very, very meaningful,” Aarsvold said. He and his wife, Dawn, traveled all the way from Minneapolis, Minnesota—home of BGEA’s original headquarters.

Reflecting on 47 years with the ministry, Aarsvold said they felt blessed to attend. “That BGEA feels it’s important we come,” he said, “is very gracious.”

Dr. Jim Henry shared encouraging messages during the retreat.  He served as a leader in Billy Graham’s 1983 Orlando, Florida, Crusade.

The speaker and former pastor noted what a privilege it is to honor and encourage the former team.

“They have a love for Jesus, a love for the ministry, and a love for people,” he said.

“They’ve given BGEA the integrity, the heart, the labor, the investment of their gifts, and their professionalism to a wide scope of ministries within the organization.”

“Since the beginning of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 1950, thousands of individuals have served this ministry to help bring the Gospel to people around the world,” said David Bruce. “There are countless stories, great personal examples, and a long list of faithful people.”

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