ATLANTA - He has been called "America's Pastor," a preacher for the people. Rev. Billy Graham passed away Wednesday morning at his home in North Carolina. He was 99.
Rev. Graham was and still is considered to be the world's best-known evangelist and has inspired millions.
Dr. Charles Stanley, of First Baptist Church Atlanta, was a seminary student when he first met Rev. Graham, and the two would go on to become friends. Upon hearing of his passing, Stanley was initially sad, but then in his words, “overwhelmed with gratitude for the influence that Billy Graham had on his life.”
"One of the first things I thought about was when I first heard him, I was a teenager, and the first time I heard him, I thought, that man can preach the Gospel," said Dr. Stanley.
Rev. Graham had a profound impact on pastors throughout the country and for that matter the world, among them, the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church Atlanta and the President of in Touch Ministries, Dr. Charles Stanley.
"He was a wonderful man, not just a great preacher, but not too busy to talk to you, down to earth, but when he walked up and opened the word of god... something happened," said Stanley.
Here at In Touch Ministries in DeKalb County, they reach 115 million homes per week in more than 126 countries around the world, and the ministry of Rev. Billy Graham has a had a big impact on what they've been able to do here.
"I think it certainly inspired me. His goal was to preach the Gospel face to face to as many people as possible. Our goal is to get the Gospel to as many people as possible, but it doesn't have to be us, we have translators and people who are the voice of in touch, and so we're just continuing what he started," said Stanley.
Dr. Stanley and Billy Graham were colleagues with a similar mission, but they were also friends.
"The first time I went to his home, I carried, this was sort of brazen of me, but I carried one of my large prints of a rainbow shot that I had taken and I offered it to him as a gift and he said I’m going to hang that in my bedroom, and one of my friends, later on, told me he was there and sure enough he did," said Stanley.
Dr. Stanley said Billy Graham will not only be remembered as a godly man, but also as the greatest evangelist in American history.
"When he preached, he preached with authority. You knew he was preaching the word of God. You knew it was true. He was very convicting, very persuasive, and but he was just a simple man, but very profound. When he walked up and opened the word of God... you listened," said Stanley.
Dr. Stanley said despite his notoriety and success, Billy Graham was never too busy to stop, shake hands, and spend some time with a young preacher.