Local pastor remembers Rev. Billy Graham, says it was a ‘privilege’ to work with him

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Rev. Billy Graham has died at the age of 99, according to his family.

Spokesman Mark DeMoss told The Associated Press Rev. Graham died Wednesday morning at his home in Montreat, North Carolina.

He had been treated in recent years for cancer, pneumonia and other ailments.

His outreach started, he said, as a teenager when he was inspired to spread the gospel.

“Christ came into my life, transformed me, changed me and made me a new person. I’ve seen him change thousands of lives,” he said in an interview back in 1956.

His crusade caught fire.

Rev. Graham is credited with bringing the Born Again religious movement into the American mainstream, reaching more than 200 million people through his appearances and millions more through his pioneering use of television and radio. His column appeared in more than 200 newspapers and his weekly radio program was carried on 700 radio stations.

As the world mourns the loss of Rev. Graham, Dr. James L. Netters remembers what he leaves behind.

"The legacy will be to honor him for the great contributions that he made. Hundreds of thousands of souls have come to Christ on his crusades and his ministries," Dr. Netters said.

Hanging on the walls of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church Westwood,  where Netters serves as senior pastor, is a black and white picture of Netters and Graham embracing.

Dr. Netters said he got to know Graham several decades ago.

"I had the privilege of serving as his co-chairman for his last crusade in Memphis, TN," he said. "I actually got to sit and have breakfast with him several times during the year that we prepared for that crusade. It was a very warm relationship that we developed during that time."

He called working with Graham a "marvelous and unique" experience.

"It took us a year to plan for it," Netters said.

He said the crusades were organized unlike any other. Dozens of buses full of church members within a hundred miles of Memphis were brought to town.

"And within 20 minutes, after they had gotten inside the gate and parked, they would be in their seats. You just don't have that kind of arrangements and planning for crusades," he explained.

While he is saddened by his death, the senior pastor, who has been with his church for 61 years, is grateful.

"I look back, and I say, 'thank God for having had the privilege to share in the life of one of the greatest Evangelists in the world,'" he said.

In a statement Billy Graham's son, Franklin Graham, says:

Many have said that his death ends an era, but he would be the first to say that when God's ambassadors die in Christ, the Lord raises up others, because the preaching of the Gospel will go forward until the end of the age. God's blessing continues as He opens doors for the Gospel around the world.

My siblings and I would appreciate your prayers in the days ahead as we honor a man who served the Lord with his life, loved his family, and was always grateful for God's faithful people who supported him in the work of the ministry in Jesus' Name.

As we lay to rest this very public ambassador, please pray with us that the testimony he leaves behind will touch many lives and point them to salvation in Jesus Christ. My father's journey of faith on earth has ended. He has been reunited with my mother and has stepped into the eternal joy of Heaven in the presence of his Savior, in whom he placed his hope.

Other leaders, including President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama are also offering their condolences as well.