The late Rev. Billy Graham had a simple message: God loves you.
That message continues to live on at Highland Park Presbyterian Church through his extended family, The Bells. Anne Graham Lotz will visit the church this May at the annual Legacy of Faith to echo her father’s word.
In the spirit of Graham’s evangelism, this year’s event will be open to the public, said Janie Bell, the church’s women’s ministry director.
On the heels of Graham’s funeral, Bell said she wrote a note to the women of her church. While announcing the guest speaker for the annual event, she took the time to remind the congregation that while attending the funeral of America’s Pastor – an event attended by the president and first lady, noted politicians, and celebrities, “Billy was not the single focus of the day.”
It was Jesus.
That, to her, is the message she wants to live on.
“That is what we’re trying to do here among the women, and that’s why we’re bringing Anne,” Bell said.
The Legacy of Faith, an event that started as a mother/daughter dinner to hear speakers talk about handing down faith, has grown over the years to welcome anyone in the congregation. But, Bell said with the news of Graham-Lotz attending this year, everything changed.
“If you’ve ever heard her speak, she is very much like her dad: powerful, strong, huge message for anyone and everyone to know the love of Jesus,” Bell said. “We thought we really need to change everything. This [event] needs to not only be for our church, but for anyone who wants to hear about Jesus.”
To prepare for as many numbers as possible, the church decided to drop the dinner and instead book their largest sanctuary, Elliot Hall.
Peggy Bell, Billy Graham’s sister in law, said she has watched his daughter, Anne, grow over the years and develop a voice just as powerful.
When it comes to continuing the legacy of sharing the love of Christ, Peggy Bell said it is not just one to be followed by only her family and church. It is a message every Christian is called to deliver, she said.
“I think each one of us has a responsibility to our Lord Jesus Christ to speak up and share the good news of the gospel whenever possible,” Peggy Bell said. “I think we need to be ready and I think we need to be comfortable with it and seize whatever opportunity the lord gives to us.”
Her son, Nelson Bell, who is also the pastor of community life at the church, said having that legacy gives one an anchor and a foundation, “because the world can’t give you that.”
“It is a blessing to have parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles that hold on to that faith, as well,” he said. “By having that legacy of faith, you’ve seen many people that have gone before you and you’ve seen God be faithful to them, and you know God will be faithful as well to you.”
If You Go:
What: Legacy of Faith featuring Anne Graham Lotz
When: 5-7 p.m. May 20
Where: Highland Park Presbyterian Church
Registration: Visit hppres.org/women – open through May 13