This morning in our prayer meeting at Desiring God, as we gave thanks for the life of Ruth Graham, I was moved. Probably because of her death in proximity to my father’s (March 6). The connection is this. When I was growing up there was a cluster of independent traveling evangelists in Greenville, South Carolina. My father, Bill, and his brother, Elmer, were in that group. Cliff Barrows, Billy Graham’s partner in music for decades, was also part of the fellowship from time to time. That was the connection with Billy and Ruth Graham. So in my mind, my mother, Ruth, and Ruth Graham were in the same business—supporting a traveling evangelist.
It was a hard calling. In those early days when propeller airplanes with their single rear wheel would whisk away Big Billy (Graham) and Little Bill (Piper) to who knows where around the country for two, three, four, five, or six weeks at a time, to preach the everlasting gospel. Ruth (G) and Ruth (P) were left at home with house and lawn and rusting gutters and leaky faucets and weeds and utilities and checkbook and laundry and church and neighborhood and homework and discipline and sports and plays and teenage acne and fear and no one at their side at church or in bed. It was a hard calling. So when we gave thanks for Ruth (G) I was flooded with thanks for Ruth (P) and Little Bill (P), and that flood increased my thanks for Ruth (G). Only when the books are opened in eternity will we know the ten-thousand-fold fruit of their lives, as they bore the weight of sending their men into the greatest battle in the world.