“One evening in 1934 in a place called Charlotte in North Carolina there was a real, old style, tent meeting evangelistic mission in progress. This was something in the tradition of all those mission preachers who had travelled over middle and western America since the middle of the last century. On this occasion the missioner was a man called Fowler Ham, who had been brought over from Louisville to inspire in the farming people a Christian message in the midst of the great depression they were going through.
The tent and the speakers platform were actually situated on a farm belonging to a man called Frank Graham. The setting was as rude as the rhetoric which came from the plank-floored platform; even the aisles were covered with sawdust to lay the mud which these farming people had brought in from the fields. And yet, night after night throughout the mission people packed in, often more than five thousand at a time, filling every seat. The tent had open walls so that the people could bring boxes and sit on the edge of the crowd, listening.
Among them was a teenage boy, the son of the farmer who owned the farm where the mission was taking place. He had not at first thought much of the mission until he heard the preacher take out his text, ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that who-so-ever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life’. Somehow this got under the skin of the young man and made him think. The next night he turned up again with a friend. The preacher, in his usual dramatic manner, started off by suddenly announcing, ‘there is a great sinner in this place tonight’. It was quite a usual ploy with him; he did it every night. On this occasion the words reached right into the soul of the teenage boy listening, so much so that, at the end of the meeting when members of the audience were invited to go forward and make themselves known as those who accepted God and Christ, the young man turned to his friend suddenly and said, ‘let’s go’. So they did and Billy Graham was converted. The most successful evangelist of the twentieth century from that moment began a career which has had no looking back. When he spoke about it afterwards, when he was famous worldwide, Billy Graham said ‘It was as simple as that, and as conclusive. There were no tears, no blazing voices, no gift of tongues. Have you ever been outdoors one day when the sun suddenly breaks through the clouds? Deep inside, that is how I felt, The next day, I am sure I looked the same. But to me everything looked different. I was finding out for the first time the sweetness and joy of God, and being truly born again’.
Billy Graham 1500 Illustration For Preaching & Teaching p453-454