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Saturdays with Billy: My Friendship with Billy Graham

Saturdays with Billy: My Friendship with Billy Graham

by Donald Wilton

Learn More | Meet Donald Wilton
Don’t be a prude, or snobbish, but let your life glow for Christ. We are lamps shining in the darkness.
- Billy Graham

It was as though my car just knew where we were going. The drive was breathtakingly beautiful. Regardless of the time of the year, the Blue Ridge Mountains insisted on beginning the conversation I would have on that day with Billy Graham. The haze that clung to the sides of the hills and mountains gave the appearance of smoke. As the view came into focus, the haze seemed to roll down the hillsides while settling peacefully on the gurgling waters of each meandering river I crossed. It appeared God was speaking: “Look unto the hills from whence comes your help. Your help comes from the Lord!” (Psalm 121:1–2, paraphrased). In thinking back now, how many times Mr. Graham said this to me.

The towns flashed by, and the endless stream of cars and trucks seldom interrupted my conversation with God. Hendersonville, North Carolina, simply ran into Biltmore and then the magnificent Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. It would have been unthinkable not to take the Black Mountain exit and enter into this place that lay so deeply embedded in the heart of every conversation I had with God.

Black Mountain is a quaint little town. Most days find it teeming with visitors, all soaking up the warm embrace of its lovely sidewalks, shops, and cafés. At this point my motorcar automatically seemed to know which way to go. The stone archway that welcomed all to Montreat, North Carolina, signaled an immediate left turn taking us past George Beverly Shea’s home. How many times had this dear man faithfully reminded the world, “I’d rather have Jesus than anything”?

The two-mile drive up the winding road led to the entrance of the Graham home that began at the gate. This was no ordinary gate. The brief pause, followed by the swish of the card, and the wait for the inevitable and slow, but deliberate swing away from the car and toward my destiny. Seemed like this was about to be a visit to heaven. For me, at least.

The narrow but enchanting drive up to the house was wonderful. Especially the swimming pool delicately carved out between two hills at the joint. Oh! What about the little cottage that seemed to wave at me and say, “He’s in!”?

It was Saturday with Billy.
The dogs often came out to offer their opinions and sidle up to my car, looking curious but somewhat disinterested. China, even though a very loving and docile Rottweiler mix, could look a little intimidating at times, but Lars, the German shepherd, although big and tough, was always available for a little charm. “Hello, Lars, and how are you today, my good fellow?” I would say. He responded by wagging his tail.

The house always looked friendly and inviting. I surveyed the parking lot and noticed which cars were there and which ones were not. Each one represented faithful servanthood of the highest order. Such amazing people, so giving, so loving—each with countless recollections of a vast world out there represented and embraced by just one man in here.

I opened the side door and entered. To my left was the comfortable sitting room. To the right, the kitchen. Yes, that warm, beautiful place in that warm, beautiful house. This was the home of Ruth and Billy Graham. This place perched on the lofty hillside overlooking forever, it would seem. This place, this retreat, this refuge, this rest, this relaxation, this quiet. Now, this world. It was as though Billy Graham’s entire world could be found in the home. Nevertheless, the memories lingered of the world he knew so well out there, filled with people and places of every kind and description.

This was Saturday, and time was of no consequence between friends.

This was Saturday, and time was of no consequence between friends. Our conversation took place over a long time and was watched over mostly by the dogs and the cat. Always accompanied by great food prepared by precious people, or by favorite foods delivered from restaurants “down there.” Over the years, this Saturday conversation took place around the kitchen table, in the sitting room, or in the study, surrounded by books and countless pictures of family and close friends. It also took place many times outside in the yard, sitting on favorite chairs while sipping great cups of coffee or simply eating hot dogs together. There the distinctive split-fence wooden railings had their own message and conversation of wonderful times past and the calm assurance of things to come. Those railings seemed to offer the proverbial invitation, so deeply etched into the heart of the evangelist. The invitation to “look out unto the hills” where only the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ could offer hope, joy, and forgiveness to a lost and dying world (Psalm 121:1, paraphrased). The invitation to “look out” to the nations and see that the “harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37). Mr. Graham knew it. He had seen it. He heard the call of God. He had lived on that mountain for decades. This was where God spoke to him and through him times without number. This was where his soul-spirit was rekindled. This was the one place, in all of God’s creation, that this one light for Jesus was ignited and set on fire. This piece of beautiful real estate was Billy Graham’s haven of rest. This was where he would recharge his batteries and find solace and comfort for his weary bones. This was where the family lived that he loved so well. This was Billy’s home—the home where a deep friendship was forged between two pastors. One, most certainly America’s pastor, and the other just a local pastor and friend.

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