Rev. John Minder, the college dean, was a big man, ginger-haired and concerned for his students. But he had his hands full with William. On the day William arrived, he took out a big scout knife, played around with it, and took off running all over the adjacent golf course like an overgrown schoolboy. Shortly thereafter he and his roommate went canoeing in their best clothes on a Sunday afternoon. William stood up in the canoe, raised his oar, and said, “I see an Indian—bang!” He leaned backward and both boys fell into the river. William wrestled under the beds, knocked down bullies, wore bright bow ties, and charmed the girls.

But Dean Minder had endless patience, sparkling eyes, and he knew potential when he saw it. On Easter Sunday, March 28, 1937, he took William with him to evening services at a small Baptist church in a nearby town. Minder was to fill in for the church’s part-time pastor, who doubled as an interior decorator. But Minder had no intention of preaching that evening. On the way there he informed William, “You’re preaching tonight.”

“No, sir!” said the horrified young man. “I’ve never preached before.”

“Well,” replied Dean Minder, “you are preaching tonight. When you run out, I’ll take over.”

As it happened, William had secretly been practicing four messages taken from a book of sermons by the Baptist preacher, Lee Scarborough. Now he frantically tried to remember them. The men arrived at the small, clapboard church, finding it surrounded by men with hunting dogs. The hunters and ranchers and their families went inside for worship, making an audience of 25 or 30. The song leader led the group in a series of fast-paced hymns, pausing occasionally to spit tobacco juice into the boiler.

When time came for the sermon, William rose, looked at the crowd, and grew so nervous that his knees knocked and his face glistened with perspiration. He preached all four sermons in eight minutes, then collapsed back into his seat.

Such was the beginning of the preaching ministry of William Franklin Graham—better known as Billy.

I don’t have any reason to brag about preaching the good news. Preaching is something God told me to do, and if I don’t do it, I am doomed.… it is… something God has sent me to do.… I have become a slave to everyone, so that I can win as many people as possible. (1 Corinthians 9:16-19)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Mar.28.

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