The Implications of Evangelist Billy Graham and his Family For Taiwan's Christianity (by Alain Haudenschild)
The recent days with Franklin Graham reminded us not only that Christians in Taiwan are prayed for worldwide, but also how far the Grahams family personal contributions to Taiwan’s Christianity over all those years of have influenced this countries development. Franklin who came for the Taipei Franklin Graham Festival just followed in dad’s footsteps, proclaiming the Gospel to the nations, and helping Taiwanese and Asian expatriates to commit their lives to Jesus
Having preached to millions on every continent, Billy Graham has earned recognition as an outstanding symbol of Christian mission efforts to bring the Gospel to the present generation and the nations. - The so called “Billy Graham Crusades” have been held in most of the major cities in the United States and in more than fifty foreign countries.
Looking back we can see several steps: William Franklin Graham, Jr., generally was known to the world as Billy Graham, was born on November 7, 1918 near Charlotte, North Carolina and was the first of four children of William Franklin and Morrow Coffey Graham. He was raised in a Christian family which regularly attended the Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church. In 1934 Evangelist Mordecai Fowler Ham preached on a series of revival meetings in Charlotte, stirring up considerable controversy with his charges of moral laxity in Charlotte’s high schools, finally resulting in Billy Graham decision to commit his life to Jesus Christ.
In the fall of 1936, Billy Graham entered the Bob Jones College in Cleveland, Tennessee. He transferred in January, 1937, to Florida Bible Seminary (now Trinity Bible Institute) from which he graduated in 1940 with a Bachelor’s Degree in theology. He began preaching on street comers and at rescue missions and small churches. Family members of V. Raymond Edman in Florida helped him due to his recognized preaching ability and Christian character to complete his education at Wheaton College. He graduated in 1943 with a Bachelor’s Degree in anthropology. While still a student, he preached and become pastor of the United Gospel Tabernacle in downtown Wheaton. – At Wheaton College, Billy Graham met fellow student Ruth Bell, who later became his wife. She was a daughter of a distinguished missionary surgeon, Dr. L. Nelson Bell and spent her childhood in China and Korea. After graduation in August, 1943, the Grahams married and began their first pastorate at a Baptist church in the Chicago suburb of Western Springs.
It is well known that the ministry of Billy Graham has touched lives all over the world. He has traveled very often far, preaching to the people in many nations and to many presidents. - His largest Crusade was with one million in Seoul, Korea in the spring of 1973.
After spending some time with a radio program (Songs in the Night) where he had preached every Sunday he persuaded George Beverly Shea, a popular Christian soloist, to join him. Not too long ago he became vice president of Youth for Christ based in Wheaton. In 1945 the local Youth for Christ organizations throughout the country merged together, forming one organization under Torrey Johnson’s leadership. Rev. Johnson made Billy Graham his assistant. His devotion for Youth work gave him many open doors. For the next four years, Billy Graham traveled all over the United States, Canada and Europe speaking at rallies and organizing Youth for Christ chapters. He had a deep impact on individuals and large groups because of his sincerity and personal dynamism. Gradually, as he began to hold evangelistic rallies on his own, his work for Youth for Christ tapered off, and in 1948 he resigned from the staff, although remaining an active friend of the organization. He was becoming well-known in American evangelical communities. At the end of 1949 Billy Graham was well known already. At his revival in California that became the Los Angeles Crusade, there occurred a dramatic conversion of a California underworld figure,
After a Crusade in London in 1954 he also came to Taipei in 1956. In 1956 Billy Graham came to Taipei, where he met with President Chiang Kai-shek. Apparently he made a big impression not only to the president but also to some expatriates. For Taiwan, in those days known under Republic of China the Graham’s contribution had a long lasting impact, also because Ruth Graham, through her upbringing background had a deep personal relationship to Chinese culture. During her time in China, Ruth had befriended a man named James R. Graham Jr. (no direct relation to the rest of the Graham family). He later founded Guandu’s Christ's College in Taipei County. – Throughout the years, Ruth and Billy Graham personally donated to the college and as an organization. This college ever since with its graduates not only helped the Taiwan government, the industry and society to work with hundred’s of graduates able to work with an international mindset and English speaking ability, but also through quality education introduced Christian values to a new and ambitious generation to build the country and its future. Due to problems to find a better place in Taipei, the philosophically Christ’s College like Chungli Chung Yuan University was built only a few years later. Until now people who made a decision at the 1956 Crusade in Taipei still remember how Jesus called them into his Kingdom.
One of them is sixty-seven years old Janice. During her life, she has encountered multiple struggles. Her father was diagnosed with cancer at a time when treatments for this disease were rare. She also lost a brother to cancer, while she herself developed a tumor later in life. "I faced terrible circumstances, since my father had cancer. The doctor said he only had three months to live. I was so horrified. I was so hopeless. In that time, I was just a graduate from junior high. Since I loved my father so much, I was eager for true love, precious love. In the midst of this turmoil, Janice discovered the joy and hope that comes from walking with Jesus.- This is what she remembers: "I really knew that I had to find if there is a God. He could give me true love and eternal life. If I had [that], I could face any difficulty.- “I went to the church and I sat in the back. I was thinking that if I didn't want to listen anymore, I could just quietly go out. But actually, I was so attracted by the sermon from the pastor. I think it was the second time there, I heard Gospel of John, chapter 3, verse 16: 'God so loved the world!' I thought, 'Oh Lord, You so loved the world even more than my father?'”- I really loved my father. But I couldn’t do anything. So the pastor starts calling, 'Anybody want to go in front of the altar? Come!' The aisle was so long! But I really needed this true love and eternal life. But I said okay, there is no other way but to go up. I went in front of the altar and I prayed with the pastor. I still remember my first prayer. Years later, I still remember. I’m still touched by the love of God, of Jesus Christ. I said, 'Lord, I really don’t know You much. But I know one thing: You are my only Savior and You are the God.' I invited Him into my heart. After that prayer, all of the burdens of my heart…I felt so peaceful."
In those days Janice was very young. Billy Graham touched young people’s heart in several ways. Ruth Graham was obviously concerned to help young people to attain a good Christian education. – Besides, Dr. Graham was founding the Magazine Christianity Today in 1955, which until the time of the International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne in 1974 had reached a circulation of over three million copies and was able to educate thousands of young people about Christian Faith and evangelism. – As a result Protestant Global Mission saw a wave of devoted missionaries joining their organizations. Some of them also made it to Taiwan. When Billy Graham in 1975 came to Taipei again more than 200,000 people attended the meetings. As old Taiwanese church leaders say, in those months large denominations were not united to support that event yet , probably because everything was run in Mandarin with a relatively low impact among Min-nan speaking churches. At the same time the local church had not seen growth for several years already. – It was into this situation where Billy Grahams Crusade shared Christ, in fact envisioning local leaders with new hope. – According to their reports, it took some time, but then a circle of a missions began to wake up and together with local leaders teach the need of developing indigenous theology and leadership programs, promoting local field research and the need to develop toward a missionary sending country. As a result Campus Evangelical Crusade began with a student mission conference, plans for a China Evangelical Seminary were shaped and missions gathered church-growth numbers and data to be published to mobilize more missionaries for unreached Taiwan. In the early eighties evangelical Christianity in Taiwan was about to reach 2% again, more aggressive church-planting became more popular. However, there was a shift in the choice of language of evangelism. Missionaries who directly came to Taiwan during the sixties and seventies used to learn Min-nan, which is Taiwan’s unreached people most spoken language, while the new generation missionaries were advised to learn Mandarin first. The Mandarin speaking churches were growing most quickly. The choice of language clearly influenced the way how far spiritually untouched areas of society were penetrated or not. About the more than 3 mio Hakka of those days with nearly no Christian testimony with the exception of two smaller missions no word was shared, no newsletter published. Naturally, they had to wait until the early nineties to see their need to hear the gospel in their own mother tongue shared was recognized.
In 1987 although the Graham’s were not in Taiwan, Lausanne II, which was held in Manila and organized by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association gave the Taiwan’s church-leaders another and much needed impression how to take stand up and develop strategies and methods to reach Taiwan with its incredible mix of predominantly Chinese Folk-religion, Taoism and Buddhism religious culture with Christ. One result of Graham’s Manila II was the founding of Chinese Christian Evangelistic Association, more known throughout the nineties as “Year 2000 Movement”. As Taiwan does not have an Evangelical Alliance unity in vision at the beginning of the nineties was a real issue to tackle the task.
Today CCEA is filling in the need of such a umbrella organization pretty well. For the Chinese World in Taiwan it might even be the better choice. – When it was decided to invite Franklin Graham CCEA was ready to shoulder the organizational challenge and given the responsibility by the local church leaders to prepare the Taipei Franklin Graham Festival for north Taiwan. Today, after the Taipei Franklin Graham Festival we can see how God has used this event to not only bring more than 680 churches together to run a big evangelistic campaign to attract close to 190,000 thousand Taiwanese, included those who attended the event through internet, but also how many churches have learned to commit for something for the purpose of Gods Kingdom in Taiwan and not only for the purpose of their denomination. For the first time so much BGEA material was translated in so many different languages for Taiwan’s guest-worker’s and in-married Asian expatriates and for the first time in Taiwan’s recent history so many locals were involved in the preparation of the festival. The result is amazing, because it shows that God through Franklin Graham did not only touch Taiwanese people’s heart, but many more Asians in their mother tongue. More than 200 of them found the LORD too. They might like Dick Hillis in 1956 at Billy Grahams Crusade in Taipei get a call for mission work, maybe not in South America, but in their home-countries where most of them have to back anyway. – One Filipina who was in my Christian Life and Witness Course class was called by God to invest her life with her husband a Filipino pastor into Taiwan and prepares for a mission ministry in Kaoshiung. Many testimonies could be added.As the beautiful days with Franklin Graham have passed already and the impressive numbers of decisions continue to move our hearts to thankfulness, we will not only keep those memories in mind. In Taiwan we are also reminded how important and influential a long-lasting commitment of a family like the Graham’s with their organizational network is, because they felt called by God to help Taiwan understand its place in this world, its speciality and beauty through Jesus Christ.