- The Washington Times - Friday, August 26, 2005

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With self-deprecating jokes and a heartfelt call to never be “ashamed of the Gospel,” the Rev. Billy Graham helped break ground on a library and museum yesterday aimed at telling his story to the world long after he is gone.

Mr. Graham, 86, held what he has said will be his final revival meeting in June in New York City, and gave no indication yesterday that he has changed his mind. He joked about his difficulty hearing and urged supporters attending the private ceremony to carry on his life’s work of spreading the Christian faith.

“In traveling different places, the Scripture that has deepened in my heart is where the apostle Paul says he is not ashamed of the Gospel,” Mr. Graham told an audience of about 400 who gathered under a tent in a corner of the parking lot of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s headquarters. “There’s one Gospel and there’s one way to God, and that’s through Jesus.”

“That’s the heart of the Gospel and that’s the heart of what we’ve declared through the years,” he added.

Mr. Graham is afflicted with fluid on the brain, prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease. Driven to the site of the ceremony in an electric cart, he used a walker to get from the cart to the stage and out to the groundbreaking site.

The $25 million, privately funded library is expected to open in 2007. Officials with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association have estimated the 40,000-square-foot facility will attract some 200,000 visitors annually.

The structure is being designed to look like a dairy barn similar to the one around which Mr. Graham grew up in rural Mecklenburg County, outside what was then the small city of Charlotte.

Mr. Graham’s life took a new direction in 1934, when the 16-year-old committed himself to Jesus at a tent revival staged by the evangelist Mordecai Ham on Charlotte’s Central Avenue.

Visitors to the library and museum will enter through a massive glass cross placed in one side of the barn, through which light will stream into the building.

Multimedia exhibits will illustrate Mr. Graham’s journey from farm boy to the world’s most famous evangelist. Also in the building will be Mr. Graham’s archives.

The family homestead where Mr. Graham grew up will be a short distance from the main exhibit building. Moved to Fort Mill, S.C., in the mid-1980s after being purchased by evangelist Jim Bakker for his Heritage USA theme park, the home is being relocated to the museum site.

The Rev. Franklin Graham, who has succeeded his father as head of the evangelistic association, predicted hundreds, if not thousands, of visitors each year will be brought to the Christian faith by visiting the museum.

“Every person who comes into the library has to come through the cross,” he said. “From the time he enters, to the time he leaves, a person is going to be presented with the truth of the Gospel.”

He and other speakers said the museum’s goal is not to glorify Billy Graham, but to show how God used him.

“Because he was obedient and said, ‘Yes,’ God took him out of that dairy barn and literally took him around the world,” Franklin Graham said.

The younger Mr. Graham smiled as he talked about one aspect of the planned museum that has drawn much attention.

“We’ve got a talking cow,” he said to much laughter, adding that the mechanical animal will be an attempt to reach young visitors. “How do you get young people engaged? … This milk cow is going to talk to you, is going to talk to the kids.”

Asked after the ceremony whether he planned to return for the museum’s opening, Billy Graham appeared determined.

“I certainly hope so,” he said.

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