Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Appointment with Billy Graham by Jenna Vick Silliman

Millions came to know Jesus in the Jesus People Movement in the 1970’s and I was one of them. As a part of Young Life I enjoyed the weekly meetings, singing Jesus songs, the skits, the talks, and going to camp. When I was a senior in high school I applied for work crew at Malibu Camp, Young Life’s summer camp in Canada. I got accepted and began training. The Young Life staff required me to memorize ten key Bible verses. Here is one of them (still in my memory bank 37 years later).

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart,
always be ready to give an account
to anyone who asks you
about the hope that is within you and
answer with gentleness and respect.
(See 1 Peter 3:15.)

This has become my operating theology for living out my faith and for sharing my faith. I abide or live with Jesus 24/7. I am in a love relationship with Him and He is my Lord and King. I live in such a way that people ask me questions and I am ready to answer them about our awesome God.

However, when I was a senior in high school, even though I had officially “accepted Jesus into my heart” on March 23, 1974 (See my writing “How I Met Jesus” )I got swept up in the Jesus movement and didn’t know Him as Lord yet. I lived in Redwood City, California and attended Peninsula Covenant Church. I played volley ball with their youth group every Tuesday night. In December 1976 the youth leader, Doug, asked me if I would like to go to an Inter Varsity missionary conference called Urbana in Urbana, Illinois and he offered me a scholarship. It was exciting to go on such a trip! I love to fly and experience new places and meet people.

My roommate was the most serious Christian girl I had ever met. We had a prayer time together in the mornings and she obviously loved Jesus with all her heart and was on fire for Him. She planned to be a missionary in China and did not care if she was persecuted, imprisoned, or even died for her faith!

I met a charismatic young man from South Africa by the name of David Gammon. The Lord used him to set me up for success. He made sure I had a hymnal so I was ready to worship along with 16,000 Christians singing with all their hearts! Wow—that was a bit of heaven on earth to me. He told me about each of the speakers and a bit of their background. Elizabeth Elliot Leach shared her testimony of the South American natives killing her husband and how she forgave them and loved them and led them to Jesus, the God of all love. David told me about John Stott and told me if I only bought one book it should be his, called Knowing God (a life-changing book!).

David also told me about our keynote speaker for New Year’s Eve, December 1976—Billy Graham.

As Billy Graham spoke I felt powerfully affected by him. He spoke with such conviction, such boldness and passion. He knew Jesus and loved Him and communicated God’s tremendous love for us in such a way that I could receive it. It was like I was a starving person and he spread a sumptuous banquet before me and said, “It’s all yours and a whole lot more.”

I said, “WOW!” to my friend David with my eyebrows raised. He nodded at me as if to say, “I told you so!” I sat forward in my auditorium seat intently focused on Billy Graham’s face like he was talking right to me. I glanced several rows down and to my right where the church youth group all sat together and I noticed them chit-chatting and socializing. Later they giggled and teased me about my handsome friend with the English accent. They were obviously in a very different place than I was.

Billy Graham set before us the call to go into all the world and preach the good news about life with Jesus. He clearly explained the cost involved and that the Lord wants us to surrender our whole life--all or nothing--He is not just Lord on Sunday mornings. My memory verse came to mind, especially the command to sanctify Jesus as Lord in my heart.

Billy Graham gave an invitation to stand at midnight and give our whole lives to Jesus as Lord. It was not a light weight decision. Billy made it clear this commitment meant total obedience, submission, and availability—even to the point of death. The presence of God was heavy in the atmosphere. A quivering started up inside me and I had a choking feeling in my throat. I knew I had to stand up at midnight, but I was scared. There was an uncomfortably long silence and a hush fell over the coliseum. I was an awkward, shy, painfully self-conscious, senior in high school. It was way out of my comfort zone to stand up in plain view of 16,000 Christians, including my youth group. As the clock struck twelve a few hundred stood up and I was one of them. I looked over and not a one in our youth group stood up that I could see. I was shaking and crying, but I was standing and I was sincere. My whole life changed in this moment!

I love the Lord and I continue to sanctify Him as Lord in my heart. He is EVERYTHING to me. I am so grateful to feast at His banqueting table and enjoy His loving kindness that is better than life to me. His favor is on me and His life overflows abundantly. I love to tell anyone who asks about the hope that is within me. Jesus is Lord!

1 comment:

Lin Maynard said...

The way you expressed it, I was right there with you in that stadium.
My heart even started to beat faster! LOL
What a monumental decision you made that night and what a monumental witness you have been for the Lord.
Praise God