As Billy Graham celebrates 95 years of life and 70 of them spent preaching we wanted to take you closer than you've been before, to life at 95 for Reverend Billy Graham.
7 On Your Side's Amy Wood was one of the few journalists in the world invited inside the party. She spoke with Graham's dear friend and pastor of 20 years Don Wilton and his granddaughter and her husband Jerushah and Chris Armfield about life in Montreat for this 95 year old.
"We started dating when we were 15, so he's know Daddy Bill for a long time," Jerushah told Amy about her husband Chris' long relationship with her famous granddad. Family members call Billy Graham - "Daddy Bill."
Jerushah and her husband visit as often as they can. "He's 95 years old and so, he's got about two or three windows in the day that he can actually have free and that's between therapy or naps. It's a pretty low key life for him right now."
A low key life with some guilty pleasures. And Billy Graham's late wife Ruth had one too.
"You just finally had to say, that's what she wants, give the woman some Hagen Daz. Same thing with Daddy Bill - he loves his Krispy Kremes and he loves his McDonalds cheeseburgers,"
Jerushah's mom is Gigi - Billy and Ruth Graham's oldest child. She lives just minutes away from Billy Graham's mountain top home.
Jerushah tells Amy, "I think he gets lonely. I think people need to realize, and my mom did years ago, that, you know, he might be Billy Graham, but he still gets lonely. He still wants people around him, and so she tries to get up there and have at least one meal with him a day. It's just a sweet relationship."
Don Wilton, his pastor says Rev. Graham remains sharp. "He always wants to talk about what I just preached on, I mean that's that's standard."
Rev. Graham has spent 20 years tuning in for Don Wilton's Sunday morning sermons, through his TV ministry, The Encouraging Word. Rev. Graham struggles to see and hear, but during weekly meetings between these dear friends - he has no problem praying.
Dr. Wilton tells Amy, "The news is very important, so every time I am there I read the newspaper to him the headlines we discuss things I explain to him, what's happening with legislation. He frequently stops me and prays for the President, prays for our leaders, the members of Congress, many of whom contact him regularly." Dr. Wilton continues, "He prays at any time, I mean just suddenly, and there is this passion and compassion for we the American people."
During a recent visit with her grandad, Jerushah says she made an inspiring discovery. She tells Amy, "We went into his own personal bathroom, and up on the walls was, I don't even know what font, probably 50 font - scripture that he has had printed out and put on the walls so he can continue to memorize it. And I remember looking at that and thinking if I were 95 and I were Billy Graham, I would probably think, I've got it you know, I don't need to keep memorizing scripture. But he just, I mean he inundates himself with it."
Family tell me Rev. Graham's renewed passion to preach his final crusade is a change. Jerushah's husband Chris: "When Ruth passed away, I would ask him every year before new years, what are you looking forward to the next year?" "He'd say I'm looking forward to dying, and I'd say Daddy Bill you shouldn't say that."
But two years ago Chris says that changed. "I said, what are you looking forward to and he said I want to preach again."
Jerushah says, "It's great that he still doing his ministry and still spreading God's love, but I'm also glad that I still have my grandfather, you know."
She says, "at 95 years old he is losing his hearing he is losing his eyesight and every time we walk into his house he looks at chris and says tell me about the church in Greenville.
That's right, Jerushah and Chris launched the city lights church in Greenville a year ago.
"And his passion for the Lord and his desire to follow Jesus is still as hot and the central focus of his life."
Jerushah works on the ThankYouBilly.com website! "When you grow up as the grandchild of Billy Graham as soon as anybody finds out who you are they want to share their story and how Billy Graham affected their lives.
She knows her grandfather's final sermon, this living room crusade called My Hope America, will lead to even more ThankYouBilly.com stories.
"He wanted to preach one more time, we all would have loved that to be in person somewhere and it just wasn't going to happen, so they came up with all different ideas."
" My Hope to me is like the cherry on the top of that purpose driven life," says Graham's pastor Don Wilton of First Baptist in Spartanburg - the church Billy Graham turned into for 20 years and joined 10 years ago.
"I am one of those people that has had the privilege of getting real close to him. The closer I've got to him the more I've realized how this man walks with the Lord." says Dr. Wilton. He turned into Rev. Graham's sermon coach for My Hope. "For me personally it was a very spiritual experience. of the highest order. I cannot explain it to you."
Rev. Graham and Don taped every week for a year and a half.
"Time after time i was sitting with this incredibly dear man that I love so much, who has been used so incredibly across the world, culturally, socially, nationally, internationally, and I have stared into those eyes for long hours and I have seen God speak through an individual person."
Dr. Wilton says Rev. Graham didn't love the results at first.
"He looked at the final product the other day with me and he looked at it and he said its just too much of me in there. He said this has got nothing to do with me. It's all about the Lord."
Dr. Wilton continues, "It was a conversation between two very close friends and in the final analysis I think we were just having a conversation with the Lord."
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