A talk with Gigi Graham, daughter of Dr. Billy Graham, gave us some insight on being in the family of the world’s most recognized Christian speaker, a man who was born and raised on a dairy farm outside of Charlotte, N.C. but was called to travel the world and preach the gospel.
Gigi also has been a world traveler, and we talked about how travel can broaden your horizons, stretch your understanding of other people, and change the mindset on what can you do in the world for God.
Gigi has lived in Israel and Switzerland as well as different states here in the U.S. When she talks about Switzerland, there is a glow on her face as she reeals her memories and favorite places. She returns as often as her schedule permits.
Here is how the conservation unfolded:
Cindi Brodhecker: How have you patterned your life after that of your father and mother? Is there some specific lesson or piece of advice from them that you’ve carried with you since childhood?
Gigi Graham: Mother and Daddy set fine examples for us as children and helped us to turn our lives over to the Lord at an early age. We never felt pressured to pursue a full-time ministry but only what the Lord wanted for us and our life. They only wanted the best—no different than any other parents who want only the best for their children. There are many family members involved in full-time ministries, from my brother Franklin to the grandchildren (19) and great-grandchildren (41).
One example that we all saw was our parents were never judgmental, always accepting and loving all people and types. Mother could be as comfortable with an old man from the mountains coming in the house for tea to meeting the royalty of the world. I remember one time being on vacation with Daddy and he got a call from the White House. A dignitary from another country was visiting and Daddy was invited to go to Washington to meet him. Daddy told his secretary to decline, so he could continue his vacation. Daddy paced all day long and in the end told his secretary to call and accept the invitation because ‘this may be the only time I can shake his hand and tell him about Jesus’”.
Cindi: All of your brothers and sisters have followed in your father’s footsteps as Christian leaders. Did you feel strongly compelled, or should we say moved, to follow that path? As a daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham, do you feel an obligation to continue their work? Is it ever a burden being the daughter of famous parents?
Gigi: Never any pressure to follow in their path. Sometimes people think our family is different, but it is a balancing act—a responsibility, a privilege. I am always happy when people recognize me, and I hope I was behaving. We face the same challenges as any other family. There are always other peoples’ expectations, but we have to be ourselves.
People now want to touch us or take a picture with us as the children of Billy Graham because Daddy is not as accessible. People ask me if that is a bother and I say no, it is a privilege because they or someone close to them were touched by Daddy’s life. They want to share their story.
Cindi: Your father is 95 years old and still one of the world’s most admired men. How is he doing?
Gigi: His birthday celebration in November was very important to him because of the video promotion of My Hope. He is blessed by the results from this video and the messages they still receive from those who have seen the program. He is physically weak but rejoicing in the Lord and all that is happening, even in his local church when his pastor visits. The family does keep him informed of local news and happenings as well as the world events.
Cindi: What is the state of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association? How has it evolved over the years and what’s in its future with your brother Franklin as CEO?
Gigi: The association is doing well and going strong. The video of My Hope has taken the past year to compile and they have great footage of Daddy and of other people sharing either their life story or how Daddy impacted them. They do hope to continue to produce these types of short videos that can be used in local churches and organizations. Another project that has kept them busy is Rapid Response, where they send chaplains to areas of the world experiencing disasters. They work hand in hand with Samaritan’s Purse, which has been working in this area of ministry for many years. They still travel all over the world with the crusades and that involves Franklin and a nephew. They are traveling continually. The TV presence is still very strong. Franklin is a very good administrator, but as we all know the future is still in the future.
Cindi: You are the author of For Women Only: Keeping Your Balance in a Changing World. What is your main message for women in this crazy world?
Gigi: In one word—balance. To live a Christian life in these changing, fast-paced times, we need the proper balance. It’s hard to find that balance and not comprise our convictions without being judgmental. Mother and Daddy have set a fine example for us as children to respect and accept others without judgment and offer love.
Cindi: What other writing and speaking activities are you involved in? What else do you do to keep busy?
Gigi: I am at The Cove as an ambassador, a family representative. (The Cove is the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s conference center in Asheville, N.C.) I also do family chats two times a week at The Cove with the history of the family starting with the grandparents, my parents meeting and engagement, how the ministry started, and what each of the children are doing. We have many groups coming to the Cove from coast to coast and all sizes of groups from small to large.
Gigi and I continued to talk about the younger generation in the Christian world. We agreed they are open more to grace from God and less judgmental of others. As the younger generation has had many more opportunities to travel (high school class trips, college musical touring, study abroad, etc.), they have a more open mind and a better sense of compassion and understanding with regard to people of different faiths.
Gigi said that people ask if she and her sisters and brothers traveled with their dad as he started his worldwide ministry. She tells them, “No, we stayed home with Momma and went to school. We did have the privilege of living in the small community of Montreat, N.C., which is mountain country, redneck country but the home of many retired missionaries. We grew up hearing Chinese, Mandarin, Spanish and other languages and all their wonderful stories of living in those areas. Now we have the opportunity of short-term mission trips and other forms of faith travel that give us these experiences.”
Living in other countries, Gigi shared, has been the greatest privilege of her life. She explains, “I arrived in these places a little timid, a little scared because it was different than arriving and going into a hotel. I lived with the people. It broadened me as a person, opened my mind to different things and made me understand that our way is not always the only way to do things.”
Thanks to Gigi Graham for her time and thoughts. She is a great lady, fun to travel with, and beautiful inside and out. If you visit the Cove and see Gigi, tell her you read this interview.
Cindi Brodhecker is president of Faith Travel Development & Consulting (faithtraveldevelopment.com). For women, she offers programs for fellowship and spiritual enrichment through Priscilla Woman’s Tours.