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"Would you like a Coke?"  

Imagine that you are 23 years old, standing outside a door.  On the other side is the confidant of presidents and princes—the most famous evangelist of our time—Billy Graham.  You are there for an interview.  But what will he say to you?  What will he actually be like?

That was me, along with my friend Dave, waiting for our appointment  in Amsterdam’s Rai Convention Center.  It was a muggy July afternoon more than 30 years ago.  Feels like an hour ago, though.  

Had we prepped enough?  Would we come across as hicks?  And what about the formalities—do you call him Dr. Graham or Reverend Graham or Mr. Graham or what?

The door swung open and there we were, shaking hands, exchanging smiles.  Reverend Graham’s opening statement shocked me.  In that North Carolina drawl of his he said with a slight grin, “Would you like a Coke?”

No air conditioning on a hot day. Saying yes to a Coke was a no-brainer.  But then came a follow up from the man who graced the cover of Time Magazine not once but twice.  “Would you like some ice?” 

I’d never been to Europe before and was shocked at the lack of ice.  So we readily agreed to his offer and did our best to express appreciation.  Yet in my mind, this was all so surreal.  THE Billy Graham is offering me a Coke and a glass of ice?

But that’s the way he was—and who he was: common, courteous, affable.  No one was less impressed with Billy Graham than Billy himself. 

Our entire conversation revealed nothing other than a North Carolina boy who loved Jesus and still seemed a bit caught off guard that God had put him on the world’s largest stages. 

I suppose  a profound theological truth or golden biblical nugget from one of his addresses at the International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists should have stuck with me.  But it was Billy’s servant attitude that blew me away.

Pundits and preachers will seek to define Dr. Graham’s legacy.  But for me, it has always been—and will always be—his humility.  I saw a tiny glimpse of it for myself in his kind offer, “Would you like a Coke?”

Thank you, Billy Graham.


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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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