Former President George W. Bush paid his respects to Billy Graham in North Carolina on Monday, having credited the late evangelist with helping turn his life around.
At Graham’s library in Charlotte with his wife Laura, Bush said, “If there’s such a thing as a humble shepherd of the Lord, Billy Graham is that person. I am unbelievably blessed to have met him.”
“I also had the honor of bringing my mother and dad’s greetings to Franklin (Graham) and the family,” the 43rd president added. “Billy and dad were great buddies. I know he wished he could come too, but he’s not moving around much these days, but his spirit and heart is here.”
“God bless Billy Graham,” Bush said of the evangelist, who died last Wednesday at the age of 99.
In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Bush wrote, “God’s work within me began in earnest with Billy’s outreach. His care and his teachings were the real beginning of my faith walk — and the start of the end of my drinking.”
Bush recounted in his 2010 memoir “Decision Points,” that he first met Graham in 1985, according to CBN News.
“I was captivated by him,” Bush wrote. “He had a powerful presence, full of kindness and grace, and a keen mind.”
The former president said he and Graham took a walk and Bush, who was struggling with alcohol abuse at the time, shared that if perhaps he read his Bible more he would be a better person.
The evangelist responded that God’s love for us is not earned through our good deeds, but “through His grace.”
“It was a profound concept, one I did not fully grasp that day. But Billy had planted a seed,” wrote Bush.
Not long after their meeting, Bush found new strength present within him to give up drinking in 1986.
“I couldn’t have given up alcohol on my own,” he related. “That strength came from love I had felt from my earliest days and from faith I didn’t fully discover until my later years.”
The late Olympian and World War II veteran Louis Zamperini — who is subject of the 2010 bestselling book and the 2014 movie “Unbroken” — also offered a similar testimony.
Zamperini recalled that while attending a Graham tent revival meeting in Los Angeles a few years after the war in 1949, he gave his life to Christ.
By the former Army Air Corps bomber crewman and prisoner of war’s account, Jesus immediately delivered him from alcoholism and what is known today as post-traumatic stress disorder, characterized in his case by heavy drinking, horrible nightmares and fits of rage.
Graham has met, and in some cases became close friends, with every president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. Additionally, President Donald Trump was on hand in 2013 to help Graham celebrate his 95th birthday, though due to the preacher’s declining health, he has not been able to meet with him as president.
Trump plans to attend Graham’s funeral in Charlotte on Friday.
The body of the evangelist arrived at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, where he will lie in honor from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.
CNN reported Graham is only the fourth person to receive such a tribute. The others were civil rights icon Rosa Parks in 2005 and two slain Capitol Hill police officers in 1998.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Tuesday, “If there is any American whose life’s work deserves to be honored by lying in honor in the U.S. Capitol, it is Billy Graham.”
Ryan added, that paying this tribute and meeting with Graham’s family “is something we’re very proud to do.”
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