A Cup of Cold Water to a Disciple (a Billy Graham Memory)

I handed him the glass of water.

As he drank it, I said, “Dr. Graham. My name is Joe McKeever. I’m the new pastor of the First Baptist Church of Charlotte.”

His sister Catherine and her family were members of my flock, as was Associate Evangelist and Billy’s long-time friend Dr. Grady Wilson.

“Well, Joe, how are you? I’ve been hearing about you.”

We shook hands. Almost immediately, he was being besieged by friends and strangers alike. I backed off and watched.

A few minutes later, I spotted Dr. T.W. Wilson, Mr. Graham’s longtime associate and friend. I introduced myself, we chatted a few minutes, and he said, “Would you like to meet Ruth?”

“I would love to meet Mrs. Graham!”

“She is backstage in a room with some friends.”

Over the next few years, I would share fellowship with the Grahams on several occasions, and we even did a funeral together. But meeting them the first time that cold night in 1986—when I gave him a cup of cold water!—remains the highlight of these memories.

A postscript.

The funeral we did together was for Dr. Grady Wilson, whom God called to Heaven in November of 1987. Almost the entire Graham team sat in our church auditorium that day. George Beverly Shea sang. Several preachers brought brief messages. I preached. And of course, Dr. Graham was the featured speaker.

My sermon being broadcast world-wide on the “Hour of Decision” the next week was something very special, and felt like a gift to me from the beloved Grady Wilson.

But earlier, for an hour or more prior to the funeral, Dr. Graham and Bev Shea sat in my office with two or three longtime preacher-friends. We chatted about a hundred things. Mostly, being the youngest in the room, I listened. And I had a little conversation with the Lord.

I’m in this chair and Dr. Graham sits at the end of a couch to my right. Suddenly, the Lord spoke to me.

“Do you pray for Billy Graham?”

Where did that come from? I wondered.

But I knew. I’ve learned to recognize His voice.

My answer was so absurd I almost laughed out loud when I spoke it (inwardly, of course).

“People all over the world pray for Billy Graham. And I’m just one person.”

Just as clearly, the Spirit said in response, “Do you know anyone who is two people?”

Ever since, I have prayed for Billy Graham.

God bless him tonight. He is a champion who deserves the respect he receives. And, as you know if you are acquainted at all with this wonderful family, Ruth Bell Graham was every bit the champion as her husband. Read any of her books and you come away in awe of what God did in that little lady.

Occasionally in life, we in the Lord’s work cross paths with His champions. Once we do, we are never quite the same from that time on.

I’m so grateful.

“Therefore, acknowledge such men” (I Corinthians 16:18).  

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Joe McKeever
Joe McKeever has been a believer over 60 years, has been preaching the Gospel over 50 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian Publications over 40 years. He lives in New Orleans.