In his book, Just As I Am, Billy Graham writes of the following event.
"One summer while in New Jersey, I was having lunch at a roadside diner when I was greeted by a big, smiling man whose eyes grew large as he studied me. “Hallelujah!” he shouted, grabbing and pumping my hand. “What an answer to prayer! I was just sitting here praying that I might meet Billy Graham, and in you walk! I didn’t even know you were on the East Coast.” He introduced himself as Dr. Theodore Elsner, a preacher from Philadelphia. “I have a great burden on my heart,” he said. “It’s a message that I believe is from the Lord. Billy, you must go on national radio. You know Dr. Maier the great Lutheran theologian and radio preacher from St. Louis is dead, and you’re the man God could use to touch America through radio.” I did not know what to think. Dr. Elsner urged me to contact Fred Dienert, his son-in-law, and Walter Bennett, a Christian who was also a radio agent. Impressed though I was by this abrupt meeting, I did not look up either Mr. Dienert or Mr. Bennett; indeed, I pretty much forgot the whole idea. I was so busy that I could not imagine adding anything else to my plate. A few weeks later I was speaking at a conference in Michigan. Two well-dressed strangers approached me and introduced themselves as Fred Dienert and Water Bennett. I did not know whether Dr. Elsner had spoken with them since he had met me, but their mission was to interest me in a national radio program. I was still president of Northwestern schools, still active with Youth For
Christ, and spinning in a whirlwind of national interest in our evangelistic Crusades. I told Fred and Walter that I appreciated their interest but simply could not do a radio program at the time. My closet advisers - Cliff, Bev, and Grady- concurred; it was out of the question. Later, in Portland, these two extremely persistent men repeatedly lay in ambush to catch me. All they wanted, they claimed, was five minutes of my time. I got so irritated with their pestering that sometimes I took a back elevator to avoid them. I finally told Grady to let them know I was not interested in their scheme to get me into broadcasting. Leave me alone was my message.
"As I came out of the hotel one night, continues Billy Graham, there they were. “We want to say good-bye,” one of them said. “We’re leaving tonight for Chicago.” “All right, fellows,” I said laughingly, “if before midnight tonight I should get $25,000 for the purpose of a radio broadcast, I’ll take that as an answer to prayer and be willing to do a national broadcast.” The thought was so incredible to them that they laughed along with me before heading for the airport.
More than 17,000 people were at the meeting that night. Just before introducing my friend Bob Pierce for a brief report on his travels in the Far East, I told them about the burden Walter and Fred had for broadcasting the Gospel, and the $25,000 condition I had laid down. The audience joined in my laugh. After Bob spoke, I preached and then extended the Invitation to receive Christ. Afterward, in the little room set aside for me in the tabernacle, a number of people dropped by to greet me. Several of them said they believed God had spoken to them during the service about helping us go on national radio. They began to leave cash, checks, and pledges. I couldn’t believe it.!
“Billy,” said Frank Phillips when everybody had left, “people have given us $24,000 tonight for radio!” Their confidence and generosity were enough to make me weep. But how could this be God’s answer? It was $1000 short. I told Grady, Cliff, Ruth, and Frank that maybe the Devil could give us that much to mislead us. We agreed to say nothing to anyone else about the funds and went out to eat, which was our custom after the service. We got back to the hotel about eleven-thirty.
“There are two letters here for you, Mr. Graham,” said the desk clerk. Postmarked two days earlier, they were from people I hardly knew- businessmen Howard Butt and Bill Mead. Both said they believed we should go on radio and that they wanted to be the first to contribute. And each enclosed a $500 check! Stunned, I bowed my head and said a silent prayer. Emotion so overcame me that I could not think straight. Clearly, the funds had come form God.
Then, when I turned to go to the elevator, who should be standing in the lobby but Walter and Fred! They had been at the airport, they said, but something had told them not to get on the plane. I put my hands on a shoulder of each man. “Sign us up for radio for at least thirteen weeks,” I told them. “God has answered prayer. We have the $25,000. We’ll take this as a step of faith.”
That radio show, that was begun with $25,000 that Billy Graham never expected to see was The Hour of Decision. And it was enough.
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