An Orthodox reflection on the impact of Billy Graham

I grew up in a Greek Orthodox family with a very pious and faithful mother, who loved Christ. Our family attended church regularly and participated in the Liturgy. In my freshman college year at Lafayette College, I had a deeper spiritual awakening to Christ through a course in the New Testament which was required for all freshmen at the time. I joined Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship, which enabled me to understand and practice my faith in Christ in a more personal and vibrant manner. My life was impacted greatly and I felt renewed spiritually. It was like having the type of spiritual conversion about which Billy Graham often preached. By my junior year, I felt called to study for the priesthood in the Greek Orthodox Church.
When the time came for me to seek a wife, I sought a woman who would also have had a reborn experience in Christ. Pearl, my now beloved wife of 59 years, was such a person. She also grew up in a Greek Orthodox home. When she was 16 years old she attended a Billy Graham Crusade in Ocean Grove, NJ which greatly enriched her spiritual life and her devotion to Jesus Christ. This experience opened her eyes in new ways and helped her appreciate the Gospel.
Her encounter with Billy Graham’s preaching led to a strong desire to grow in her relationship with Christ. She joined a Bible Study Group of a school friend who was evangelical. When she saw the great benefit from this experience, she encouraged the Greek Orthodox priest of her parish to begin a Bible Study in her own Church in Asbury Park, NJ. This was a new idea to her priest, who was a first-generation Greek immigrant, unfamiliar with Bible Study Groups. Nevertheless he consented when he perceived Pearl’s love for Christ.
Pearl and I married a year after our respective graduations from college and seminary. We have since raised five children and have served a single Greek Orthodox parish for 59 years, with a strong Bible Study emphasis through seven groups taught by both of us. We also began an international Orthodox Christian mission ministry which is presently active in thirty countries. My wife’s zeal to teach and share the gospel of Jesus Christ during our ministry together started at that Billy Graham Crusade in Ocean Grove. Throughout our lives, we have both appreciated BIilly Graham’s impact on our own lives, and his witness to the world. Even though the theology of our historic and traditional Greek Orthodox faith differs from his evangelical form of Christianity, our oneness in Christ has always united us.
Billy Graham’s life and ministry to all people everywhere increased our own desire to reach out to the world with the eternal gospel. We both admired Billy Graham and deeply resonated with his ministry to spread the gospel of Christ to all people. May his memory be eternal.
Fr. Alexander Veronis