A larger-than-life statue of evangelist Billy Graham has been installed at its new location at Ridgecrest Conference Center in the North Carolina mountains.
The sale of LifeWay Christian Resources’ 14-acre downtown Nashville campus prompted the move from middle Tennessee to LifeWay’s conference center near Asheville, N.C.
The statue was removed from LifeWay earlier this summer and placed in storage until the new site at Ridgecrest was ready. Workers installed the sculpture in October near the main entrance to the conference center, just a few miles from Graham’s mountaintop home.
Bi-vocational pastor Terrell O’Brien’s sculpture depicts the evangelist in front of a 17-foot-cross with arms outstretched holding an open Bible in his left hand. At the foot of the cross are three nails and a stone inscribed with the words of John 3:16.
“My grandfather is a humble man who would never want to be lifted up or memorialized in this way,” said Will Graham, son of Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. “However, there are two great things about that statue that I really appreciate. First, the cross is above all else, and second, my grandfather is holding up the Word of God. Those two things – the cross and the Bible – exemplify my grandfather’s life and decades-long ministry more than anything else.”
Chris Fryer and Matt Samuelson, two Southern Baptist businessmen from Atlanta, donated the sculpture to LifeWay. It was unveiled at the 2006 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting and placed on LifeWay’s Nashville property later that year.
“It was an honor to be at the dedication of the statue in Nashville several years ago with ‘Uncle Cliff’ Barrows, who just went Home to be with Jesus,” said Will Graham. “It’s just as exciting for me to see the statue moved to Ridgecrest.”
The Southern Baptist evangelist has preached the gospel to an estimated 215 million people in live audiences in more than 185 countries and territories, with hundreds of millions more having been reached through television, video, film and webcasts.
The author of 33 books, Graham has been listed by Gallup as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World” for 53 straight years and 59 years total. Now in frail health, he recently celebrated his 98th birthday in the western North Carolina home he shared with his wife, Ruth, who died in 2007, and their five children.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources. BR staff contributed to this story.)