(UPDATED) A first-hand report from the evangelist’s “last crusade,” which he planned years before his death last week at 99.
Billy Graham, the famed evangelist remembered for his straightforward Bible preaching and his spirit of Christian unity, once again brought Christians together—literally under one big tent.
After spending his life traveling the world to rally millions for Christ, Graham returned Friday to his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, where he was laid to rest following a celebratory and gospel-infused ceremony deemed his final crusade.
More than 2,000 guests—including 200 members of Graham’s family, Christian leaders from 50 countries, and dignitaries such as President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence—gathered at the funeral. Graham himself planned it out more than a decade ago, hoping that even his death could continue to point people to Christ.
Facing the Billy Graham Library’s giant glass cross façade, the crowd packed into a 28,000-square-foot white tent meant to evoke the “canvas cathedral” where the evangelist held one of his first crusades in 1949 in Los Angeles.
The roof of the tent rippled in the midday wind as thousands listened to tributes and sung together. The bittersweet feeling that typically comes at a Christian funeral skewed toward a spirit of commemoration and inspiration: These guests were people whose lives, careers, and spiritual journeys were shaped by Graham’s message of hope in Christ—one that Graham himself gets to experience in heaven and they celebrate here on earth.
It took less than 15 seconds into the ceremony before Jesus was mentioned; the Savior’s name came up about a hundred times before the 90-minute event concluded.
“Everyone who spoke was clear in their message. They honored his wishes by making this less about …