The Mothers of the Ministry: Training Up in the Faith

May 4, 2022

Categories: Billy Graham

Billy Graham’s mother, Morrow Coffey Graham, was a woman of faith. While she made sure her children had all they needed physically (good food to eat, clothes to wear, and a comfortable home), she also made sure they were nurtured spiritually. Before Billy Graham was ten, his mother had him memorize the Westminster (Presbyterian) Shorter Catechism. On Sunday afternoons, Morrow Graham would gather the family around her and share a Bible story before the afternoon milking time on the family’s dairy farm.

Morrow Graham holds a young Billy Graham

In his autobiography, Just As I Am, Billy Graham recounts these times of Bible study and prayer: “When [my parents] read the family Bible in our home, they were not simply going through a pious ritual. Mother told us that they had established a family altar with daily Bible reading the very first day they were married. They accepted that book as the very Word of God, seeking and getting heavenly help to keep the family together. Every time my mother prayed with one of us, and every time my parents prayed for their sons and daughters, they were declaring their dependence on God for the wisdom and strength and courage to stay in control of life, no matter what circumstances might bring. Beyond that, they prayed for their children, that they might come into the kingdom of God.”

And come into the kingdom they did. Weeks before his 16th birthday in November 1934, Billy Graham walked to the front at a revival service and committed his life to Christ. That moment started him on the path that would one day lead him to sharing the Gospel around the world. It was the example, prayers, and support from his parents that would drive Billy Graham’s commitment and his own legacy.

Billy Graham’s parents, Morrow and Frank Graham

As Billy Graham grew, he met and fell in love with a beautiful young lady named Ruth Bell, child of medical missionaries. Ruth Bell had grown up in China and understood from watching her own parents just what it meant to live a life dedicated to Christ.

Gigi, Anne, Bunny, Ruth and Billy relaxed with the family dog in Montreat.

Later, after marrying Billy Graham, she was a devoted mother who cared for her five children through their periods of rebellion. Franklin Graham wrote of his mother, “But my mother, like most mothers, had her own way of getting her point across. She always sat up and waited until I got home—no matter what time it was. It really bugged me because it made me feel guilty. I don’t know how many times I tried to slip in late. There she would be, dressed in her robe, sitting in her rocker with a book or a Bible on her lap. ‘Thank God you’re all right,’ she’d say. That was it! She never lectured me or made threats… Mama would just smile, say good-night, and go to her room. No matter how I begged her not to wait up for me, she was always there with the light on when I arrived… I began to feel ashamed that Mama was losing sleep waiting up for me. I knew my mother well enough to know that she was not going to change her ways, so I had to change mine. I finally just gave up and started coming home earlier. I ended up with a curfew of my own making!”

Ruth Graham with Franklin Graham

Both Morrow Graham and Ruth Bell Graham demonstrated what it means to be a godly mother who prays and cares for her children through all of life’s turmoil. Their legacy continues through their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren as they have grown to live lives honoring Christ as Lord.

“She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” Proverbs 31:27-28

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