The family of Rev. Billy Graham said the evangelist’s funeral on Friday was his “last crusade” before he is laid to rest beside his wife, Ruth, on the Billy Graham Library grounds in Charlotte.
Born to dairy farmers in 1918, Graham went on to become known as “America’s pastor,” preaching to millions of people across multiple continents, including several US presidents. He died at his home in Montreat on Feb. 21 2018, at the age of 99.
A tent revival with a huge attendance in Los Angeles, CA in 1949 propelled the evangelist to national prominence and paved the way for Graham’s crusades, which drew huge crowds in cities across the world, including more than one million people at a service in South Korea.
PHOTOS: Funeral for Rev. Billy Graham
Graham’s private funeral was held in a huge tent, which is symbolic of the "canvas cathedral" in which Graham spent eight weeks preaching during the 1949 Los Angeles crusade. Officials said the tent was built to withstand up to hurricane-force winds. Winds are expected to reach up to 35 miles per hour during the service.
More than 2,000 invited guests, ranging from family members to foreign dignitaries, filled the 28,000 square-foot tent.
The podium from which Franklin Graham delivered the funeral message, is the same one Graham used during his crusades in the 1990s. All five of Graham’s children spoke during the service, and Pastor Don Wilton of First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, who was also Graham’s personal pastor, will read scripture and give the invocation. President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence attended the service but are not scheduled to speak.
Jean Graham Ford, Graham's sister, spoke first and expressed her profound love to the crowd who also adored Billy Graham.
"You don't love him like I love him," she said.
Daughters Gigi Graham, Anne Graham Lotz and Ruth Graham spoke next, pledging to follow in spreading their father's message to the world.
"Everyone's got a Billy Graham story," Ruth Graham said, sharing her own memories of her father.
Reverend Nelson "Ned" Graham spoke briefly, saying his father as "FAT": Faithful, available and teachable. He encouraged others to follow in Graham's image.
International reverends from the Middle East and Korea offered their messages of solidarity and mourning for Graham.
Guest included Joel Osteen, Kathie Lee Gifford, former NC governor Pat McCrory, Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani, Ben Carson, Greta van Susteren, Ricky Skaggs, Steven Curtis Chapman and more.
Rev. Franklin Graham delivered the gospel message of the service, saying "my father told millions about heaven... and today he's in heaven."
Graham said the man who so many saw in stadiums and crusade tents was the same man the family had at home.
"There weren't two Billy Grahams," Graham said, saying his father was supportive and loving.
He also said the world "with all of its political correctness" will have people believe there is more than one path to heaven, which he doesn't agree with.
"Daddy, I won't see you on this earth again but I will see you again," Franklin Graham said. "Maybe soon."
TAKE A LOOK: Program for Billy Graham's funeral
The family said Graham and his longtime friend and music director, Cliff Barrows, planned the funeral a decade ago. Barrow passed away in 2016.
The interment ceremony began at Graham's gravesite just before 3:30 p.m.
Dr. Don Wilton, Graham's personal pastor and leader of Spartanburg First Baptist Church, gave the invocation and read from Ephesians 2:4-10.
"Thank you Mr. Graham. Thank you for teaching us. Thank you for showing us. Thank you for living life out for us. Thank you for loving us," Wilton said.
Graham was lain to rest next to his wife, Ruth Bell Graham. Franklin Graham said when Ruth died it left a big hole in his father's heart, but he said they had now been reunited in heaven.
VIDEOS Kathy Lee Gifford speaks about Rev. Billy Graham Joel Osteen speaks about Rev. Billy Graham Former NC Gov. Pat McCrory on Billy Graham President, First Lady arrive in Air Force One Trumps, Pence arrive at tent cathedral Billy Graham's family enters tent cathedral Ruth Graham: 'Everyone's got a Billy Graham story' Jean Ford speaks about her brother, Billy Graham Gigi Graham speaks about her father Franklin Graham's eulogy: 'Today he's in heaven' Bagpiper escorts family, casket from tent cathedral Trump motorcade leaves funeral Graham's casket carried to gravesite
FULL COVERAGE: Life and ministry of Rev. Billy Graham
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