In his memoirs, Billy Graham wrote that humanly speaking, he considered his 1949 Campaign in Altoona, Pa., his biggest flop, a time of testing. But for my family, it was a great success. It was at this campaign that my parents went forward at Mr. Graham’s invitation and trusted Jesus Christ as Savior.
My dad, John Love, who had served our country in the military, met and married my mom, Bea Meyers, after they had known each other two weeks. Now, after several years together, they had two young daughters and a marriage that was not ideal. It was during this time that my dad’s sister, Marilyn Love Bair, invited and encouraged my parents to attend Mr. Graham’s service. With nothing better to do, my parents decided to go, and God, through Billy Graham, called my parents to surrender their lives to Christ that night.
To our family, Billy Graham came to Altoona at just the right time.
I was 1 year old when my parents got saved, so they had many years to mature in Christ before I was at an age to realize how important the decision was for me and my own life. I remember my father saying to us one day: “I don’t know about my children, but I want all that God has to offer; you can come with me on this journey or stay where you are.” That got my attention. I had a choice, and I wanted it all, too.
Growing up I saw parents who fully surrendered their lives to Jesus and put their complete trust in Him and His Word. I remember all the prayer meetings at our home. I remember when my dad, along with a few other men, started the first Full Gospel Business Men’s Group in Altoona. I remember that when my dad started a prison ministry in the Hollidaysburg Prison, the warden loved him. I remember when my dad led my future husband to the Lord. I remember how my mom ministered to young mothers by taking them under her wing through counseling and prayer. I remember the blessing it was to live with parents who loved Jesus and wanted others to see and experience His love, too.
One of the things that stuck with me the most was my parents’ heart for children. In addition to being youth leaders in our church, they visited the local children’s home at Christmas and started to bring kids into our home at Christmastime. Soon this turned into them taking in foster children. They fostered 17 children over the years. They loved what the world saw as the unloved and forgotten in this world.
My uncle was appalled that, in his words, my dad would allow these kids to live in our home. But through my parents’ witness, years later my uncle, Bill Bair, was saved. God called him into the ministry—to homeless children. He started a Christian foster care agency that serves thousands of kids. Also, I—along with my sisters Jean and Deborah—have been foster parents after seeing firsthand the impact it brings.
Through my parents’ example, all six of us children are on our own personal walk with Christ.
Jean and her husband, Steve, have been involved in leadership at their church, where Jean helps with Operation Christmas Child and supports foster care programs. Deborah and her husband, Jeff, were youth leaders, Sunday school teachers and have become second parents to many children in their local community by witnessing and sharing the love of Christ. And my other sister Jane ministers through meals and is a pianist at her church.
My brother John (Jr.) and his wife, Judy, have been faithful in their local church, with John playing on the worship team while they work as house parents at a co-residential school for lower income families. My brother Scott is a doctor of physical therapy and is a professor at a college in Florida. He has worked with amputees coming back from war and has been able to share in their struggles, being an amputee himself. Finally, my husband, Bill, and I were youth leaders, Sunday school teachers and have helped start up and run a coffee house for street kids.
We were raised in a loving Christian home. Now it is our turn to take up the mantle that was passed on to each of us.
All of my siblings have had the opportunity to share Christ with their own children. Many have accepted Christ, but their story is yet to be told. Some are attending prayer groups, serving Christ in different capacities and attending their local churches while others are still searching.
Our foster son, Mark, was able through the grace of God to finish high school, go to university and begin his own Christian foster adoption agency in Spring, Texas. Mark’s testimony lives on in many of the hearts and lives of former foster children. Our daughter Elle was co-founder and director of a ministry in Charlotte, N.C., that helps train and equip leaders to walk in their calling, and to help others to be set free from sin and to know the love of their heavenly Father.
My children, as well as my nieces and nephews, have seen how God works through imperfect people who are willing to surrender their lives to Him. Now it is their turn to pass on what my parents have passed on to my siblings and me.
One man and his faithfulness to Christ, coming to a city that didn’t embrace his message. One family desperately needing Christ and God’s faithfulness to pierce the heart. God knows what He is doing, and the impact of Billy Graham’s message is alive and well in our family today. As my sister Deborah said, “a time spent with God is never a flop.”