Consider it Billy Graham’s last crusade, one that will draw the faithful long after America’s most famous religious figure is gone.
On a wooded site in his hometown–just off Billy Graham Parkway, no less–the Billy Graham Library will be dedicated May 31 at a private ceremony expected to feature former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Former President Jimmy Carter also is likely to attend.
The ex-presidents are likely to be upstaged, though, by the guest of honor. The 88-year-old evangelist is scheduled to come down from his mountain home in Montreat, N.C., for a rare public appearance to address the crowd of 1,500 invited guests and assorted national media.
If his fragile health allows him to make the trip–he can barely hear or walk and his vision is poor–Graham’s message will echo the one his ministry hopes visitors take from the library: The glory should go to God rather than the lanky farm boy who preached the gospel to hundreds of millions of people around the world.
And yet, once visitors get a look at the old photos and crusade footage that fill the 40,000-square-foot library, it might be a tough sermon to sell. Even for Billy Graham.
“He doesn’t want attention to go to him,” said Graham’s younger sister, Jean Ford, of Charlotte. “And yet it just does.”