A Tribute to Ruth Bell Graham

Last Thursday, I was driving in my car, listening to the radio, when the news announcer interrupted the broadcast to inform us that Ruth Bell Graham passed away.  Normally, I’m not one to get all choked up and teary eyed about things, but I couldn’t help myself.  There I was, crying on my steering wheel, for somebody that I knew next to nothing about.  All I knew was that she was Billy Graham’s wife. 

I think that my initial reaction stemmed from my realization that she must have been the backbone to Billy Graham’s ministry.  Now that I’m married, I recognize how important a woman’s role is in supporting her husband.  Without a strong woman behind him, I’m certain that Billy Graham wouldn’t be the evangelist that we all know and love today.  All these thoughts washed over me, the moment I heard about her death.

Since then, I’ve spent a couple days reading a little bit about this woman, whose death moved me to tears.  Fortunately, when famous people die, there tends to be a flurry of media activity to chronicle their lives.  I took advantage of these resources to learn about this remarkable woman.  Let me share with you some of the gems that I gleaned from her testimony.

Ruth Bell Graham was born in China, to missionary parents.  She attended Wheaton College, where she met Billy (those Christian Colleges are great places to snag stellar Christian guys; I can testify to that too!).  After their first date, Ruth knew what she wanted from life.  She prayed, “If You let me serve You with that man, I’d consider it the greatest privilege in my life” (qtd. in Newsweek).  God answered that prayer, but it wasn’t an easy path that she’d chosen.  Billy’s ministry left her frequently alone, raising 5 children, largely by herself. 

Ruth’s faith sustained her while her husband was away, and while she faced the challenges of raising her family.  Her daughter, Anne, recalls her mother’s devotion to God. She would find her mom each morning in her bedroom, all alone, at her large desk, with many translations of the bible open around her, studying the Word. 

In a 2006 radio interview, Ruth Graham (named after her mom) explained her mother’s attitude about Billy’s ministry, which left her home alone with the children (to listen to the Midday Connection interview online, click here).  Ruth Bell Graham clung to a verse in 1 Samuel:  “For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike” (30:24).  She believed that her ministry was to take care of the home and the children, Billy’s “baggage.”  While Billy was away preaching to thousands and leading many to the Lord, she was doing the Lord’s work back at home.  Her reward would be just as great in the end.

Well done, good and faithful servant.

Published in: on June 18, 2007 at 11:18 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Amy. This is a nice tribute you have posted. I did the same thing on my blog too. Like you, I knew very little of Ruth Graham, except that she was Billy’s wife and they had five children. While watching one of Billy Graham’s Crusade Classics on TBN, Ruth was on the platform and speaking to the audience. What an amazing woman she was and a legacy she has left to her family. God bless you. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  2. Wow Amy,

    When I was attending high school in Portland, Oregon; I went to a Billy Graham crusade. It was pouring down rain, what do you expect? Everybody’s hair was a mess.
    What do you expect? My best friend had given me access to the Memorial Coliseum and I went to a private bathroom to fix the mess of the rain, as he had worked there. That night I was able to approach Billy Graham; Next too him was his wife Ruth, she put her hands into mine and gentlly squeezed it.
    Even today, although that was 27 years ago, I remember the tiny hand that she had and the enormous warmth.
    I was a real “baby” christian back then, but I knew I needed that same strength that she had……I do in alot of ways. Thanks Ruth..You are at His feet and the angels are singing.
    A great post!!!

  3. just feel like with the home-going of Ruth Bell Graham, we have lost a great Christian lady and also example of what a christian woman shd be – i saw the tribute and taped it – how hard it must be for her family and for her husband – i know he misses her so much – did not realize until her passing the pain she lived in day by day – she will be missed

  4. I loved that God took her home first, so Billy Graham could publically praise his wife and give her the credit that she deserved. If he had died first, I’m not sure the media would have been quite so informed about her role in his life.

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