Farmville Enterprise March 7, 2018
Billy Graham preached the Gospel in person to more people than anyone in the history of Christianity. His focus on the Good News was simple. God loved each and every person. The way to God was through the cross of Jesus Christ. Christ died for the forgiveness of sins and all anyone had to do was ask to be forgiven and trust in God’s provision. Through believing in Jesus Christ, by faith through grace and not by works, one was saved from the penalty of sin.
One Bible verse Graham always preached on his evangelistic crusades was John 3:!6, saying it was “the Gospel in a nutshell.” “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
All around Graham’s house there was one particular verse displayed. It said, “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14) Graham regularly focused on humility and said “I am not going to heaven because I have preached to great crowds or read the Bible many times. I’m going to heaven just like the thief on the cross who said in that last moment, ‘Lord, remember me.’”
Prison ministry was important to the Graham family and they came to have a special relationship with the staff and prisoners at Louisiana State Penitentiary, the largest maximum-security prison in the United States. Called “Angola,” the infamous prison has seen some remarkable changes since 1995 when the Angola Bible College was founded inside the facility. They now have 29 inmate-led congregations and the prison has attracted a lot of attention from correctional and Christian leaders over the past twenty years. In-prison Bible colleges have been started in at least twelve other states as a result of the positive impact at Angola.
The Grahams learned of the woodworking shop at this penitentiary. In the past, deceased prisoners whose families could not afford to ship their remains were buried in crate-like boxes that were not very sturdy. The warden who arrived in 1995 and was credited with providing more hope and educational opportunities for the inmates decided they deserved proper, dignified burials. He began a casket-building program and asked convicted murderer Richard Liggett to design a reliable coffin.
The Reverend Billy Graham’s body was placed in a pine plywood casket last week with the names of the Angola inmates who made it burned into the wood. Richard Liggett’s name was on this coffin as well as the one used for the remains of Ruth Bell Graham in 2007. “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful …. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Matthew 25:21)