Iconic American evangelist Billy Graham passed away today in his Montreat, North Carolina home at the age of ninety-nine.
The renowned Christian figurehead has evangelized to 215 million people over a span of sixty years and prayerfully counseled our nation’s presidents from Harry Truman to George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
On ‘Megyn Kelly TODAY,’ anchor Kathie Lee Gifford reflected on her 50-year friendship with Graham and the Kingdom impact his preaching had her own family.
“My whole family came to faith in Jesus through the Billy Graham Organization,” said a tearful Gifford with heartfelt gratitude that radiated through the TV screen.
She explained that her initial response to finding out about Graham’s death while ‘in make-up’ this morning was to throw up her hands in praise.
“I said, ‘Thank you, Lord. Thank you.’ Because he has been lingering and languishing,” shared Gifford.
She reminisced about the very last time that she saw a frail Graham four years ago at his 95th birthday party while her husband Frank was still alive.
“I knew in my heart it’d be the last time I’d see him,” she said, and thus took the opportunity to tell him ‘Thank you’ for all he’s done in pointing her and her family’s hearts toward Jesus.
The TODAY host explained that she personally came to Christ through going to the first movie the Billy Graham Organization ever released called “The Restless One.”
“It’s like God met me in my heart right where I lived,” said Gifford. “I wanted to be an actress, so where does God meet me? In a movie theater.”
And that was only the beginning of the lifelong impact Graham would have on her life. Through preaching the ‘joy of belief,’ the evangelist infused a newfound hope and peace in her that she never knew existed.
“That’s why I could hold my dead husband in my arms and rejoice because I knew where he was, and it gives you the peace that passes all understanding,” shared Gifford. “And if we’ve ever needed peace in this world, we need it now right?”
In the reflective interview, both Kelly and Gifford agreed that Graham was a man who took redemption as seriously as he took sin, which is why his impact has been so profound. Graham led powerfully through grace, truth and love, rather than guilt or shame—and it gave Gifford the courage to live out her own faith with a similar boldness.
“If you had the cure for cancer, would you keep it a secret?” Gifford asked. “I have the cure for the malignancy of the soul, and He has a name, and it’s Jesus.”
She closed in encouraging America that though a great Christian leader may have passed, “God’s people are everywhere.” Look for them in your plumber, your co-worker, or even a neighbor down the street; and most of all, use every opportunity to lose religion and instead dive into relationship with the living God, the way that Graham so graciously exemplified.
“I think the value of a life is if you can look back and say you impacted one person’s life for eternity—how awesome is that?” wrote Gifford in a beautiful tribute. “Well, Billy can look back on his life and be absolutely assured that he has impacted millions of lives for eternity.”