Billy Graham honored at funeral: 'He's in the presence of God'

By Sara Shayanian and Danielle Haynes
Billy Graham honored at funeral: 'He's in the presence of God'
The casket of evangelist Rev. Billy Graham is carried by his grandsons Friday at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C. Graham died February 21 at the age of 99. Photo by Nell Redmond/UPI | License Photo

March 2 (UPI) -- More than 2,000 people, including President Donald Trump, gathered in North Carolina Friday under a large tent reminiscent of a church revival to mourn the Rev. Billy Graham.

The world-renowned evangelist, who died last week at the age of 99, was laid to rest at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte.


Each of Billy Graham's five children and his sister spoke at the service, including Franklin Graham, who now leads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

"My father's greatest longing has been granted," the younger Graham said. "He's in the presence of God."

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Daughter Anne Graham Lotz, founder of AnGeL Ministries, a non-profit organization, said she learned from both her father and mother, Ruth Bell Graham, who died in 2007.

"My mother taught me by her example to love reading my Bible every day. My daddy, by his example, taught me to think about what I read," she said.

A number of notable guests, including some from dozens of countries, attended the funeral. Trump and first lady Melania Trump attended, along with Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence. Papal Nuncio Christophe Pierre sat in the front row with the leaders.


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Following Friday's service, Graham was set to be buried at the foot of the cross-shaped brick walkway in the library's Prayer Garden, next to his wife.

The tent used for the funeral harkens to Billy Graham's beginnings decades ago under "The Canvas Cathedral" -- a white canvas tent the pastor used to spread the gospel during a 1949 crusade in downtown Los Angeles. More than 350,000 people heard Graham preach for eight weeks.

"It was Mr. Graham's explicit intent that his funeral service reflect and reinforce the gospel message he preached for more than 60 years," Mark DeMoss, a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said.

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The library said Graham's grave marker will cite John 14:6, which the evangelist selected personally.

"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,'" The association recited in a tweet.

Often called "America's pastor," Graham was widely revered and his death on Feb. 21 drew an outpouring of grief. During his lifetime, he appeared on the Gallup Poll's annual list of most admired men a record 61 times and prayed with every U.S. president from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama.


Wednesday and Thursday, Graham's casket lay in honor beneath the U.S. Capitol Rotunda -- a top distinction previously given to only three private citizens.

"We honor Billy Graham as only three private citizens before him have been honored," Trump said Wednesday. "We say a prayer for our country: that all across this land, the Lord will raise up men and women like Billy Graham to spread a message of love and hope to every precious child of God."

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