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Billy Graham's Last Crusade

The Rev. Billy Graham is at peace with his decision not to preach any more crusades, says his daughter.

Anne Graham Lotz of Raleigh says her father has accepted that his three-day New York crusade in June was his last.

"The time has come for him not to carry that load of responsibility," Lotz told The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith, "Preaching every night in a crusade is enormously stressful physically and emotionally and spiritually."

Back in June, nearly 250,000 people turned out over three days in New York City to hear Graham preach for the last time after a 60-year career that took him all over the world. There was speculation then that he might go to London and preach again in a crusade setting.

But Lotz said practical circumstances led to her father's decision not to do another crusade.

"He'll be 85 in November. He has Parkinson's disease. He suffered with prostate cancer. He's deaf, basically," she explained.

That does not mean his preaching days are over. Lotz noted, "He may be preaching some from my brother's platform, and certainly speak at other meetings, but not his own Billy Graham crusade." Lotz's brother, the Rev. Franklin Graham, is president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

The message of the gospel is in his heart and he still wants to proclaim it, Lotz said, adding, "He loves Jesus; loves God's word; loves the fact that God loves the whole world that He sent His own Son to be its savior. That's in his heart. I was with him last week. He looked right at me and said, 'I have such peace.' You can look at his face and see the contentment. Now, we were watching something on the news. And he turned to me and said, 'Anne, that would make a great introduction to a sermon.'"

An evangelist herself, Lotz said her father's final crusade has now been documented in a book called, "Living in God's Love." She wrote the foreword.

"This book has his three messages that he gave at the crusade," Lotz explained, "But the messages are really summarized in John 3:16, that 'God so loved the world.' That's why He sent Jesus to take away our sin."

The message has not changed. Smith pointed out at a sermon Graham gave at the 1957 Billy Graham Crusade in Madison Square Garden: "I'm asking you to receive Him and let Him change your life and transform you. Go back and live a new life with peace and joy and love."

Smith recalled there was not enough space to put all the people who gathered to hear the message.

"I forgot how much weight he lost, something like 30 pounds during those meetings," Lotz noted. "He said he was never quite the same physically after those meetings at Madison Square Garden."

Asked what it was like to be a preacher's daughter, and not just any preacher's daughter, but Billy Graham's daughter, Lotz said, "I never was raised in a different home. So I can't compare that with anything. I didn't know my daddy was so different from everybody else. I knew he was gone for great stretches of time -- six months at one point. And I was raised pretty much by a single parent and grandparents. And God was believed in. He was obeyed, but more than that, He was loved."

As for the pressure, she said, "I made a decision that I would live my life to please God. I wasn't going to live my life to please everybody and for the opinions of others. I felt like I got set free from that pressure very early."

Lotz said that next year, her father is coming out with a book that describes the Christian life from beginning to end. She said that nowadays, he spends his days talking to his friends, reading newspapers, seeing visitors almost every day, and spending time with his wife, Ruth, and family.

Ruth Bell Graham is in very frail health. She has macular degeneration and she's almost blind. She has also lost the ability to walk.

"She's very frail," Lotz said about her mom, "I was there with her last week. They sit in the evening and have dinner together and watch television. They watch the news. And then he sits and just holds her hand and looks at her. It is just the sweetest thing.

"In two days, it will be their 61st or 62nd anniversary. And they're still in love. It is such a beautiful witness to my children and their children. My father has over 25 great-grandchildren."

And so many of them gathered at Billy Graham's last crusade.

Lotz noted, "Family reunions, I hope we never have one with anybody, because it will just go on, and on, and on."

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