- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 31, 2007

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter this afternoon were scheduled to headline a dedication ceremony for the Billy Graham Library, a $27 million facility celebrating more than 60 years of the evangelist’s ministry.

About 1,500 guests are expected to attend the event outside the 40,000-square-foot library, which is slated to open Tuesday.

“The message of Billy Graham’s preaching will be here for another generation,” said the Rev. Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, during a morning media tour.

The library is meant to be an extension of Billy Graham’s ministry — not a tourist attraction, Franklin Graham said.

He added that his father’s first impression was “It’s too much Billy Graham,” to which the younger Graham responded, “The message that you’re preaching — that’s the dominant theme here.”

The library, five years in the making, includes a self-guided, 90-minute tour of multimedia displays, photographs and other memorabilia depicting the life of Billy Graham, 88.

It’s housed under the facade of a barn — a nod to the Billy Graham’s childhood on a humble dairy farm four miles away.

The lobby is designed to resemble a barn, with high, wood-beamed ceilings, bales of hay, metal milk cans and a 1930s-era farm truck.

Visitors are greeted by an animatronic cow named Bessy that tells the story of a young William Franklin Graham.

“Billy Frank went on to preach the good news,” the cow says. “Some people him God’s ambassador.”

In video testimonials, Christians share their experiences of welcoming Jesus Christ into their lives.

The free tour continues through six exhibits, four galleries and two theaters portraying Billy Graham’s ministry, which association officials say has reached more than 210 million people on six continents.

One exhibit is modeled after a 1949 Los Angeles tent revival, dubbed the “Canvas Cathedral,” during which a young Billy Graham preached for eight weeks.

Another exhibit is dedicated to Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth Bell Graham, which Franklin Graham said is his father’s favorite.

The final theater broadcasts a seven-minute video montage of Billy Graham Crusades, or sermons to thousands of people — some brought to tears by his message — packed into stadiums.

The goal of the library and of the evangelistic association, Franklin Graham said, is to continue to spread the message of the Gospel around the world.

“My father’s message all of his life has been the cross,” Franklin Graham said.

He motioned to a large cross propped against the wall in one exhibit.

“This is the message of this library — right here,” he said.

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