Friday, June 15, 2007

Ruth Bell Graham Lived Halfway in Heaven

Ruth Bell Graham

"I am so grateful to the Lord that he gave me Ruth, and especially for these last few years we’ve had in the mountains together. We’ve rekindled the romance of our youth, and my love for her continued to grow deeper every day. I will miss her terribly and look forward even more to the day I can join her in heaven."

- Reverend Billy Graham

Read at Ruth's funeral, her favorite Bible passage:
Romans 8:24-39


I'm saddened today to learn of the passing of Ruth Bell Graham, wife of Reverend Billy Graham and beloved mother to their five children, grandmother to 19 grandchildren, and great-grandmother eight great-grandchildren. She died at the age of 87 on June 14 at her home at Little Piney Cove in Montreat, N.C. The Voice of America reports that in a statement, Billy Graham said Ruth was his life partner, and that he felt the two of them were called by God to work as a team. Reverend Graham said that his wife was such an integral part of his ministry that his work would not have been possible without her support.

Ruth Bell was the daughter of a missionary surgeon in China. Fellow students at Wheaton College in Illinois, Ruth and Billy Graham married the same year that he graduated in 1943.

A brief biography from UNCTV:
Ruth McCue Bell began her life in Qingjiang, China, the daughter of medical missionaries. In China she and her sister, Rosa, witnessed war tragedies daily. Ruth developed an acuity for animals and babies and tried to save several young animals and birds from starvation. Once she found a sickly baby abandoned in a ditch, as "imperfect" babies often were in that region. Although her father tried to revive the baby, he did not succeed.

Ruth developed a strong belief in God from a very young age and vowed never to marry. In 1932, she attended school in Pyeng Yang and was terribly homesick. Her journal writing and poetry, which she had started as a young child, began to adopt a sad and lonely tone, mirroring her feelings. While she was lonely, however, she developed a sense of independence and self-assuredness that would prove invaluable as she matured.

Although Ruth felt that God was calling her to be a missionary overseas, as she progressed through college she softened her vow that she would never marry. She dated several men and rejected a few marriage proposals. Billy Graham, however, fascinated her and she was instantly drawn to his spirit and dedication to God. Three months after they had met, Billy asked her to marry him, just before leaving for a mission trip. On August 13, 1943, two years after his marriage proposal and about a year and a half after Ruth returned to Wheaton College, Billy and Ruth were married.

Besides raising their five children in Billy's frequent absence, Ruth designed their home in Montreat, NC. Often ignoring Billy's requests when he was at home, Ruth supervised the workmen and found many of the building materials herself while the house was being built.

Whether she was accompanying her husband on a crusade or talking to someone over lunch, Ruth ministered to people in her own way. In her younger days, she worried that she did not meet people's expectations of the wife of a famed evangelist. However, letters and verbal feedback reassured her that she was making a difference.

Ruth was by no means a conventional "preacher's wife." She rode on a motorcycle during one of Billy's crusades, and whipped a sign from a man's hand during an antiwar demonstration, nearly getting arrested. In 1974, six years before she would return to visit her hometown of Qingjiang, Ruth fell 15 feet from a wire that she had rigged from the roof for the children to swing from, severely damaging her spinal cord and suffering from a concussion. Although her resulting injuries may have slowed her physical movements, she continued to travel with her husband for years and resumed many of her activities.

When asked by a reporter what Ruth called her husband, she said called him "Bill," musing "How in the world can you call a grown man, who is 6'-2 'Billy'?"

When Reverend Graham was asked by the same reporter:

"So many people turn to you for advice; to whom do you turn for advice? Is it Ruth?"

Reverend Graham said:

"Yes, I would say she's my greatest confidante..and helped me on my sermons. She's a great student of the Bible."

In 1997, Ruth had nearly died from more than one dangerous bout with spinal meningitis from which she'd recovered. A reporter asked Reverend Graham about their marriage and about Ruth's health:

Q: What is the secret to your enduring marriage?

Reverend Graham: Whew. Oh, you'd have to ask [Ruth], she's here. (Laughs) It's her. I mean she's been a marvelous person to be able to stay here, raise five children, 19 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. She's been the one that 's done the work and kept up with them and talked with them and loved them, taught them the Scriptures and so forth. She let me travel all over the world preaching the gospel. I think if there is any secret in our marriage it's Ruth. There's very few women that I've ever known like her. She was born and reared in China; she went to school in North Korea..

Q: Did your wife's illness earlier this year test your faith at all or strengthen it?

It [didn't test] my faith because I knew she was going to be all right whether she lived or died, because she lives half-way in Heaven anyway.


My thoughts and prayers are with the Graham family today.

There is a lovely obituary and dedication (with photos) to her here.

One Of Mrs. Graham's Favorite hymns..

In Tenderness He Sought Me
by W. Spencer Walton

In tenderness He sought me,
Weary and sick with sin;
And on His shoulders brought me
Back to His fold again.
While angels in His presence sang
Until the courts of Heaven rang.

Oh, the love that sought me!
Oh, the blood that bought me!
Oh, the grace that brought me to the fold,
Wondrous grace that brought me to the fold.

He washed the bleeding sin wounds,
And poured in oil and wine;
He whispered to assure me,
“I’ve found thee, thou art Mine”;
I never heard a sweeter voice;
It made my aching heart rejoice!

He pointed to the nail prints,
For me His blood was shed,
A mocking crown so thorny
Was placed upon His head;
I wondered what He saw in me,
To suffer such deep agony.

I’m sitting in His presence,
The sunshine of His face,
While with adoring wonder
His blessings I retrace.
It seems as if eternal days
Are far too short to sound His praise.

So while the hours are passing,
All now is perfect rest,
I’m waiting for the morning,
The brightest and the best,
When He will call us to His side,
To be with Him, His spotless bride.

Oh, the love that sought me!
Oh, the blood that bought me!
Oh, the grace that brought me to the fold,
Wondrous grace that brought me to the fold.