February 21, 2018
This afternoon in Israel while riding on a bus from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, I learned of the death of the greatest evangelists of our time, Billy Graham, age 99. It is with a heavy heart that I join the Biola community in grieving his passing.
I remember as a boy in Boston hearing my father talk about 1964 when he and other local clergy members joined Rev. Graham on stage for his evangelistic crusades in the Boston Garden. My father talked about those nights when thousands of people gave their lives to Christ. These men and women entered the Garden as sinners and a few hours later exited among those saved by grace.
As a family we watched this dynamic evangelist on television preach the gospel, and then we’d sing along with the closing hymn, while buses waited, “Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bid'st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come! I come.”
The crusades, which originally launched here in Los Angeles in 1949, grew to spread throughout the U.S. and even into remote African villages. These crusades would sometimes last for weeks and positioned Rev. Graham as the internationally known evangelist of our time.
As I receive news of his passing away, I am with Asian and American pilgrims journeying through the Holy Land, and we’ll culminate next week in Jerusalem pondering the once-for-all work of Christ on the cross. It was the cross where Rev. Billy Graham, born a decade after Biola was founded, also culminated his messages, every time.
Biola University was established on the corners of Hope and Sixth Streets 110 years ago to prepare men and women to share the good news of the cross: Jesus Saves. So central was this message to our founders that we perched on the rooftop of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles neon signs proclaiming that eternal truth, “JESUS SAVES.”
As I reflect on Rev. Graham’s passing I am more convinced that as a university we must never retreat on our commitment to evangelism. It’s the heart of who we are. May the “Jesus Saves” truth that was embodied by our founders, illuminated on our rooftop and lived out passionately by Billy Graham be our zeal and urgency moving forward.
Join me in keeping the Graham family in your prayers.
Barry H. Corey
President, Biola University