Billy Graham’s “Strange Things”

Last Thursday we marked the one year anniversary of Billy Graham’s passing, the culmination of a remarkable life and legacy. This March, the BGC Archives pauses to commemorate the beginnings of Rev. Graham’s evangelistic ministry as a fledgling undergraduate preacher at Wheaton College in 1941.

The BGC Archives holds thousands of Billy Graham’s sermons and talks, on paper, wire recordings, phonograph records, audio tapes, digital files, films and videos. He delivered these messages in a wide variety of locations and circumstances, both in the United States and abroad, from the Sports Stadium in Berlin where Hitler once orated, to the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference in Monterey, CA, to the National Cathedral in Washington DC after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Of all the Billy Graham sermons the Archives contains, one of the most interesting as well as the earliest in the collection is “Strange Things.”

265-17-149 Strange Things combined

The entire sermon outline of “Strange Things,” dated November 5, 1941. Over its lifespan, the document has obviously been folded in half, stored in a three-ring binder, and taped down the middle to hold it open during preaching.

When Graham arrived on the Wheaton College campus as a twenty-one-year-old  freshman in 1941, he had already completed a thorough three-year course in Bible at Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College). In addition to his coursework at FBI, Graham spent hundreds of hours preaching in churches across Florida and Georgia, held several multi-day evangelistic campaigns, and evangelized on street corners, over the radio, and from caravan to caravan in one of the country’s first trailer parks.

1941-09-13 Daily Journal

September 13, 1941 article from the Wheaton-based Daily Journal 

After matriculating at Wheaton, Graham continued to preach while a student, accepting invitations from churches across the upper Midwest. Before long, he was called to pastor his very own congregation—the United Gospel Tabernacle in Wheaton, IL. Dubbed “The Tab” by locals, the United Gospel Tabernacle started as a prayer and Bible study group before morphing into a nondenominational church, drawing congregants from both city and college.

In the fall of 1940, the Tab was pastored by V. Raymond Edman, a professor of history  and acting interim president of Wheaton College. When asked to assume the presidency permanently, Edman resigned his role at the Tab and recommended Graham as his replacement. Already familiar with his preaching style, the congregation ratified Graham as their new pastor. Between September 1941, when he became pastor, and June 1943, when he graduated from Wheaton College, Graham preached at the Tabernacle over a hundred times. The Tab was a popular service for Wheaton undergraduates to attend on Sunday evenings, and many who saw and heard him preach there agreed that Graham’s style in later years remained much as the same as his student days. While perhaps a little less vocally and physically enthusiastic, the sermons Graham preached at the Tabernacle were not significantly different from the messages he preached before packed stadiums over the next several decades of evangelistic ministry.

1941-10-03 Record

An advertisement for United Gospel Tabernacle services in The Record, the student newspaper of Wheaton College. August 19, 1942

During Graham’s tenure as pastor, the United Gospel Tabernacle met in the Wheaton Masonic Temple, a few blocks from the college campus.

UnitedGospelTabernacle

The Masonic Temple in downtown Wheaton. Though devastated by fire in 1948, the Lodge was rebuilt nearly identical to the original structure.

The rented assembly hall featured a slightly raised platform with a simple pulpit and piano. Every Sunday, volunteers lined the hall with several hundred folding chairs before services commenced with hymns, prayers, and finally a sermon from Graham. His messages were always evangelism-oriented, calling listeners to respond to the call of Jesus Christ. Wheaton undergrad Ann-Lisa Madiera, a classmate of Graham’s and the Tab’s pianist, recalls the young preacher’s energy and conviction:

“He had something to say, and he said it so well, and . . . his whole control of his voice and the crescendos and decrescendos that all went with that message, you know, he was an enthusiastic preacher I would say. . . . He was enthusiastic about the message that he had to give and, well, the fact that the place was full every Sunday says something” (Oral History Interview with Ann-Lisa Madiera, Collection 74, T67.

Another student attendee remembers Graham’s budding talents as a communicator.

“Oh, he was tops. There was no question about it. And I think it was obvious that he was going to go places…. You could sense his heartbeat. That it was really coming from his heart. It wasn’t just knowledge that he picked up in college. I would say that’s the main thing. It came from his heart. You know, you can go to college and get a lot of knowledge, but it doesn’t always get down to the heart….  [His preaching style was] very plain. Very simple, very clear. You couldn’t mistake understanding what he was saying” (Lorraine Payne, Collection 74, T63).

Graham’s reputation as a preacher continued to grow during his undergrad days, and he often arranged for guest speakers at the Tab when he accepted weekend preaching invitations across the Midwest and especially throughout the summer vacation.

Record June 1, 1943

An advertisement from The Record, highlighting the end of the academic term and Billy Graham’s final weeks as the Tab’s pastor. Graham graduated from Wheaton the same month. June 1, 1943.

The BGC Archives holds thousands of sermons Graham preached over the course of his ministry, but only one from his days as the Tab’s pastor—”Strange Things” (Many records from the United Gospel Tabernacle were lost when the interior of the Masonic hall, including the church office, was gutted by fire in 1948). The typed outline below is annotated in what looks like Graham’s handwriting and dated November 5, 1941, only a few weeks after Graham became the pastor of the Tabernacle. November 5th was a Wednesday, so the message may be a Bible study Graham presented during the Wednesday evening prayer meeting, rather than a Sunday sermon. But it contains the same emphasis that his classmates remembered from his sermons—the power of Jesus to confound the world, forgive sins, and save souls.

265-17-149 Strange Things part1

This original manuscript is much worn, possibly reused for multiple preaching occasions, clearly previously folded and held together by clear tape. The number 850 at the top of the first page was one assigned by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association staff many years later, when they created an index of all Graham’s sermons.

265-17-149 Strange Things part2

The sermon outline describes the “strange things” of Jesus—how strange the Pharisees and Sadducees found this man who said such outrageous words, knew their thoughts, and performed miraculous deeds. Graham’s conclusion was a fitting introduction to the message he would continue to preach for the next sixty years: “That man is well saved who can glorify God in his own house. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, but until his sins are forgiven he has lost his chief end.”

A digital copy of “Strange Things” is available to view here on the Billy Graham Sermon Database, along with other sermon outlines and transcripts from the 1940s to the 2000s.

Reminiscences about Graham by his Wheaton College classmates, including his congregants at the United Gospel Tabernacle, are available in Collection 74: Ephemera of Billy Graham.

The Travels of Corrie ten Boom

001b

Corrie ten Boom on her travels.

Dutch evangelist and writer Corrie ten Boom is likely best known today for her best-selling autobiography The Hiding Place. Published in 1971, The Hiding Place describes the ten Boom family’s courageous efforts, inspired by their Christian faith, to hide Jewish refugees during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The book documents the ten Boom’s harrowing work in Amsterdam, ultimate discovery by the Nazis, and Corrie and her sister Betsie’s experiences in Ravensbrück, a women’s concentration camp in northern Germany, where Betsie died of starvation in December 1944. To date, The Hiding Place has sold millions of copies worldwide and was adapted into a film of the same title by World Wide Pictures in 1975.

While Corrie ten Boom’s legacy of love, sacrifice, and forgiveness during the horrors of World War II is remembered and celebrated, less well-known is her Christian service after the war. Following her release—due to a clerical error—in December 1944, Corrie returned to the Netherlands where she established a home called the Schapendunien for concentration camp survivors. That same year she founded the Ten Boom Foundation (reorganized as the Corrie ten Boom Stichting in 1960) and published her first account of her wartime experiences titled Gevangene En Toch… Herrinneringen Uit Scheveningen, Vught En Ravensbruck (1946). From 1945 until she retired from active ministry in 1977, Corrie became a sought-after writer and evangelist, publishing books in multiple languages and crisscrossing the globe to speak at events sponsored by Youth for Christ, J. Edwin Orr’s Revival Fellowship Team, the International Congress on World Evangelization, and eventually under the auspices of her own Foundation, among many others.

Today, the BGC Archives is home to an assortment of Corrie ten Boom materials, including family photo albums, recordings of evangelistic messages, personal correspondence, and Corrie ten Boom Stichting publications.

Corrie ten Boom Passport 1966_Cover Page

Corrie’s 1966 passport, which includes her signature at the bottom and describes her with blue eyes and “greying” hair.

This February, the BGC Archives features its collection of Corrie ten Boom’s passports. Spanning 1948-1971, these documents record Corrie’s burgeoning evangelistic ministry, as she traveled through various military occupation zones in post-war Europe and later around the world. For the next three decades, Corrie visited more than 60 countries and six continents, proclaiming the Christian gospel of forgiveness and reconciliation. A sampling of countries included in Corrie’s passports include: East and West Germany, the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Japan, South Africa, Spain, Hong Kong, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, Hungarian People’s Republic, Poland, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cuba, Mexico, USSR, Brazil, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ethiopia.

The five passports below offer a brief glimpse into the extraordinary life of a Dutch watchmaker’s daughter who did not begin official ministry work until the age of 54, but whose remarkable story of Christian perseverance and forgiveness remains just as compelling today.

ctb passport 1950 cover image

Corrie ten Boom’s 1948 passport, issued three years following her release from Ravensbrück.

Corrie’s 1948 passport above lists her occupation as “Director of a sanatorium,” referring to the home she founded for concentration camp survivors in the Netherlands.

ctb passport 1950 us zone

A travel pass issued to Corrie ten Boom in December 1948 granting permission to enter the US Military Zone of Germany.

In 1949, Corrie rented a former concentration camp in Darmstadt, Germany, where she established a center for displaced persons and other war refugees, offering a safe place to recover from the trauma of the war. She continued to raise funds to support the camp until it closed in 1960.

ctb passport 1952 cover image

Corrie’s 1952 passport is the only one held by the BGC Archives which lists ten Boom’s occupation as a “Missionary.”

Corrie’s 1952 passport reflects her growing evangelistic ministry outside of Europe, including travels to east Asia and Israel (see below).

ctb passport 1950 japan

A tourist visa (right) permitting entry to Japan in April 1952, declaring Corrie ten Boom is “Approved for entry into Japan by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers.” The wax stamp bears the imprint of the Dutch embassy.

ctb passport 1952 israel

Above: a travel visa to Israel issued in May 1953. Fourteen years later, the State of Israel recognized Corrie ten Boom as Righteous Among the Nations for her service to the Jewish community during World War II. As part of the recognition service, Corrie planted a tree in the Garden of the Righteous at the Yad Vashem (World Holocaust Remembrance Center) in Jerusalem in December 1967.

ctb passport 1963 cover image

Corrie ten Boom’s 1963 passport. Note that she lists her occupation as an “authoress.”

Corrie ten Boom’s 1963 passport reflects her growing career as a writer. Her first book, Gevangene En Toch (1946) was revised for an English edition in 1947. By 1963 she had published Amazing Love (1953), Common Sense Not Needed (1957), Viele Fragen? Nur Eine Antwort!, Defeated Enemies (1962), and Not Good If Detached (1963). Corrie also expanded her writing into newsletters in Dutch and English, updating supporters on her activities.

1964 east germany_rostock

Corrie’s travel visa to East Germany in 1964, her first foray to East Germany following her release from Ravensbrück.

1964 marked another momentous occasion for Corrie ten Boom—a return to Ravensbrück concentration camp in what was then East Germany to speak to locals about her experiences as a prisoner there. In her newsletter, Corrie wrote, “Now I could tell here how I had come through alive and victorious, not through my faith, which was weak and wavering, but carried by Jesus Himself.” For more details about Corrie’s 1964 travels to Ravensbrück and Auschwitz in 1964, see the page from her newsletter It’s Harvest Time! at the bottom of the page.

ctb passport 1966 cover image

In Corrie’s 1966 passport, she recycled a previous passport photo and changed her occupation to “evangelist.”

In 1966, Corrie was invited to address the World Congress on Evangelism, an American-led conference held in Berlin whose stated theme was “One Race, One Gospel, One Task.” Organized and sponsored by Christianity Today and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the Congress papers and reports illuminated the shifting center of global Christianity from Europe and North America to the global south. Corrie would late speak at the Congress’s successor, the International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974.

ten boom 1967

Corrie ten Boom’s 1967 passport. Her occupation is left blank.

Though increasingly plagued by ill health, Corrie’s later years were just as busy and brought increasing international fame. Corrie spent her 75th birthday working with World Vision in war-torn Vietnam where she earned the moniker “Double-old Grandmother.” In 1968, Corrie published The Hiding Place, a retelling of her wartime experiences in Amsterdam and Ravensbrück, which became a best-seller and BGEA-produced film in 1975. That same year, the Beje, the ten Boom home in Amsterdam, opened to the public as a museum commemorating the family’s heroic sacrifices during the war. Corrie retired from evangelistic ministry in 1977 and relocate to California, where she suffered a series of strokes and in 1983 died on her birthday (April 15) at the age of 91.

For more information about Corrie ten Boom’s life and ministry, visit Collection 78: Ephemera of Corrie ten Boom.

Below: The November-December 1964 issue of Corrie ten Boom’s newsletter, It’s Harvest Time! This issue describes Corrie’s first visit to East Germany since her release from Ravensbrück.it's harvest time!

 

Ruth Bell Graham and Peace With God

Archival materials find their way to the Billy Graham Center Archives in a myriad different ways. Some materials arrive en masse, in shipping pallets or moving trucks. Other materials wander through the Archives’ doors an item or two at a time. While most collections consist of preplanned donations, other items find their way to the Archives’ vault by way of serendipity—a chance discovery in a grandparent’s attic or secondhand bookseller.

In much the same way, this first edition copy of Billy Graham’s Peace with God traveled a circuitous road to the BGC Archives. Discovered in a yard sale by a casual browser, the book’s fly leaf revealed a startling previous owner: Ruth Bell Graham.

TitlePage

The fly leaf of this first edition copy of Peace With God lists the Graham family home address in Little Piney Cove, Montreat, N.C. and contains Ruth Graham’s revisions for the second edition, published in 1984.

Not only did the slim, dark green first edition belong to Ruth Graham, its pages are riddled with her annotations. The unsuspecting yard sale browser quickly realized the unique value of the book and donated it to the Billy Graham Center Archives in 1997, where it is now housed in Collection 15: Papers of Billy Graham.

PineyCove

Ruth Graham’s distinctive, sloping handwriting

After finding home at the Billy Graham Center Archives, more details emerged about Ruth Graham’s copy of her husband’s celebrated book. Published by Doubleday & Company in 1953, Peace With God was Billy Graham’s fourth book, but quickly became his most recognized. In his 1997 autobiography, Just As I Am, Billy Graham describes the laborious process of writing Peace With God, dictating the first draft into an old-fashioned Ediphone in just ten days. Graham submitted the final manuscript in August 1953 and Peace With God was published three months later, dedicated to Ruth’s father, L. Nelson Bell and becoming an immediate best-seller. To date, Peace With God has been translated into over fifty languages with millions of copies disseminated around the globe (284).

BillyandRuth_1993

Billy and Ruth Graham standing in front of Blanchard Hall on the Wheaton College campus, 1993.

While Ruth Graham would later become a published author in her own right, she played a pivotal role in the creation of her husband’s first best-seller. “Ruth was my greatest helper in giving me ideas,” Graham writes in Just As I Am, “She has always been a storehouse of stories and illustrations” (284). The Graham’s writing collaboration is all the more illustrated by Ruth’s personal copy of Peace With God, which contains her revisions for the book’s second edition, published in 1984. The best-seller was more than thirty years old when work began on the second edition, and Ruth’s sharp eyes and apt judgments worked to bring the book up-to-date while retaining its core message. With her bold, distinctive handwriting, Ruth covered the pages of Peace With God with marginalia and yellow sticky notes, offering suggestions, observations, quotations, and writing tips. Ruth begins her revisions with a brisk style suggestion on the book’s half title page (“When using quotes, either give credit or avoid quotation marks”) before moving on to overhaul the table of contents, where she re-titled nearly every chapter and section and shuffled their order, changes that appear in the second edition of Peace with God.

pwg table of contents

Ruth Graham’s revised table of contents for the second edition of Peace With God.

In the book’s second chapter, Ruth reflects on the current status of the Bible in American culture, scrawling across the top of page 24: “Bible reading required in Catholic schools in Poland; forbidden in Am. schools.” She also added sticky notes recommending an unidentified Hebrew University study on modern Bible translation and a clipping on the Big Bang Theory. An oft-repeated maxim of Ruth’s, identifying the Bible as “our one sure guide in an unsure world,” appears on pages 24 and 31.

One Sure Guide

A favorite truism of Ruth’s, “One sure guide in an unsure world,” is repeated several times in the book’s second chapter, “The Bible.”

For chapter six, Ruth proposed “The Day After” in lieu of its original title, “After Death—What?” and added several quotations from C.S. Lewis in the margins: “War does not increase death; Death is total in every generation” and “The only certain thing about life is death” (68).

Lewis_Death

Ruth’s revisions for the beginning of chapter 6. Under the original title she has written, “Should be closing chapter” and recommends “a better verse” in place of I Samuel 20:3.

Quotations from C.S. Lewis are not the only new voices Ruth Graham added to the second edition of Peace With God. Alongside the Oxford don, Ruth suggested quotations from a range of figures, including Blaise Pascal, Bishop Goodwin Hudson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ronald Reagan, her brother-in-law, evangelist Leighton Ford, and various newspapers and theological works, such as W. G. T. Shedd’s Dogmatic Theology.

MLK quote

In chapter seven, “Why Jesus Came,” Ruth adds a quotation attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr, describing the crucifixion as “The only pain to wring a cry from Him. He was tasting the doom of the damned” (94).

This broad range of authors, theologians, and even politicians reflect Ruth’s own personal reading habits and awareness of social trends. Her comments range from theological statements to cultural observations. On Billy Graham’s central chapter, “The New Birth,” Ruth observed, “Need a statement on the misconception and misuse of being ‘Born Again'” (133), and she later worried about changing attitudes toward sexual ethics in the American Church. “In view of current divorce rate among Christians—needs rewriting” she recommended for Billy’s chapter on the Christian life. Her notes on chapter 15, “The Christian and the Church,” reflect her experiences as a child of missionaries in China and her concern for Christians undergoing persecution around the globe. Headlining chapter 15, Ruth writes, “Needs rewriting in light of E. Europe, N. Korea, the DRC and other countries today” (173). A few pages later she adds, “Keep in mind the ‘underground church, the house churches'” (176).

SocialObligations

Pages 186-187 are two Ruth Graham revised most heavily, reflecting her criticisms of “stingy Christians” and the Church’s failure to provide for the needy, while voicing her concern about “The Social Gospel (no such thing, there is only one gospel).”

Ruth Bell Graham’s voluminous revisions for the second edition of Peace With God offer a glimpse into both the Graham’s collaborative work in evangelistic ministry and a sketch of Ruth’s own personality—her curiosity, assertiveness, humor, and unwavering commitment to what she believed was right. In the Preface to the first edition of Peace With God, Billy Graham thanks his “loyal and faithful wife, who has read and reread the manuscript” (8). In the second edition published thirty years later, he credited “my wife, Ruth, who worked many hours on its revision” (10). Whatever the mysterious circumstances that brought Ruth Graham’s personal copy of Peace With God from Montreat, N.C. to an obscure yard sale to Wheaton, Illinois, the Billy Graham Center Archives is grateful to now hold this item documenting those “many hours.”