The Faith of Billy Graham: Sowing Seeds in Fertile Soil for Everlasting Life

William Franklin (Billy) Graham. Son of a Dairy Farmer.

Man of God. Seeds of Life.


This past week, the world learned of the HomeGoing of the much beloved Reverend Billy Graham. His impact on humanity is much lauded, yet he, the man, remained humble, with all credit to his Heavenly Father for any of his success.

The impactful evangelist has proclaimed for several decades that faith and the Grace of God would lead him, and anyone who accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, to a Heavenly home. He himself explained it this way:

“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

Graham, oft-described as the most influential religious leader of the 20th century, illustrated that while devout and fiercely true to his own faith, he could treat people of all religions with respect and kindness and sow seeds of peace and hope.

The Reverend Graham began life as the son of dairy farmer near Charlotte, NC.  And from the minute one steps on the grounds, The Billy Graham Library, only a few miles from the original Graham Brothers Farm, honors those agrarian roots.

An engaging display with animatronic cows immediately captures the attention of any visitor.   The ‘boss cow’ tells us that a young Billy Graham perfected his oratory skills by preaching to the cows while they were in the milk barn!  From that point on the Library is a walk through modern history, with exhibits devoted to how “America’s Pastor” was witness and influencer on world events of the 20th Century.

Favorite verses and parables, such as Phillipians 2:3, are on display throughout the Library on walls, and in exhibits.



The Parable of the Sower – Luke 8, NIV

The Parable of the Sower, one of the most often quoted of the Parables of Jesus Christ, inspired a breathtaking bronze statue which is the centerpiece of the main exhibit hall at the Library.  As the Library was being completed, Franklin Graham believed this parable illustrated his father’s ministry better than any other.  The design was brought to life by sculptor Tom White.


The Parable itself was considered so important to the Christian faith, it is found in three different Gospels:  Matthew 13: 1-23, Mark 4: 1-20, and Luke’s version, found in the NIV Bible, Chapter 8: verses 1-15 (also shared below:),

“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him,and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable:

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.

Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,

“‘though seeing, they may not see;
    though hearing, they may not understand.’

11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 

12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.

15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

How will WE live the Parable of the Sower?

It is up to us to determine the seeds we will sow as our legacies, and it is up to us to help cultivate fertile soil which will receive those seeds.  James 2: 14-17 is summed up with the last verse, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  

Therefore, these thoughts to contemplate:

If your own life, or your farm, or even your business or means of earning income is the place seeds are to grow, will it be a dirt path, rocky ground, thorns, or the good soil?

It takes both wonderful seeds and productive, fertile soil for a bountiful crop to grow – a healthy crop which nurtures mankind.

Will this year’s seeds be seeds of hope, or seeds which lead to destruction? In times of trouble, will your seeds be ones that still grow the Kingdom of Christ, and let your faith shine through?

Will this year’s seeds be seeds that lift others up, help others through hard times, or seeds that beat others down?

If they are good seeds, will they fall on fertile soil, or on unproductive dirt along the path, among thorns, or on rocky ground?

And if the word of God isn’t the foundation of actions by your conduct, or your farm, are you building a long-lasting foundation or one that will crumble?

Will your farm,  and your life, be a farm which hears the Word, understands it, and practices its teachings by example?

Will your farm, and your life, be an example that sows the milk of human kindness, and places your faith in an everlasting God, even in times of trials?


In this springtime of 2018, many seeds will be planted.  In this world of agriculture, there are many uncertainties, and in fact, much fear about “whose farm will be next to get heart breaking news?”   The agriculture consensus is that many farming operations may not make it through the year, and there is a dark undercurrent of  ‘who will survive?’

However, the Bible is the Book of Hope, and tells us in John 24 that even when something dies, a seed remains whose destiny is to grow  and create new hope, new fruit, new beginnings, and new life:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

We in agriculture on farms of all sizes are going to have to dig deep in our faith, and in our actions, if we are to survive the rough waters ahead.

Billy Graham, the son of a humble dairy farmer, went on to be one of the Greatest Faith Leaders in recent centuries, with some even comparing him to the Apostle Paul.  In order to become that incredulous leader, he had to leave his dairy farm beginnings, and he had to trust and follow the call of God to do that.  The Bible, in Joshua 1:9,  tells us we too, can ‘be strong and courageous,’ and do that, even in the darkest of times.

Billy Graham’s faith roots began growth on a dairy farm. However, his seeds flourished only when they reached out to a faith-starved world.  May we see the Word he spoke of, and may we Hear the Word he proclaimed!

My prayers are that the world of agriculture, and indeed, the entire world, finds fortitude, hope, grace, and comfort in a Boundless Faith taught by Billy Graham. Son of a Dairy Farmer. A Giant Man of God, who sowed Seeds for an Everlasting Life.


Postscript: The author of this blog, a former dairy farmer, was blessed beyond measure to experience a profound visit to the Billy Graham Library a few summers ago.  She was accompanied by a wonderful friend, the wife of a current dairy farmer.   A visit to the Billy Graham Library is highly recommended to anyone who loves history, is of an agricultural background, or who is on their own faith journey.  Billy Graham was Christian, but his life’s message can be a bridge to all in search of deeper meaning of any faith.  

France to the French Broad – A Uniform’s Milkshed


A soldier’s World War I uniform is a visible reminder of many elements of today’s milkshed. This uniform teaches us how actions taken, although seemingly small and minute at the time, can have a long-term and life-lasting influence many years later.

In this case, the gentleman who wore this uniform nearly 100 years ago had an impact on your modern global foodshed, in several different  ways.  His name was John Graham, and he was my great-uncle.

Uncle John left his family’s Jefferson County, Tennessee farm to enlist in the Army in The Great War.  As common with so many young men of his day, his calling was not forced due to a draft; it was simply a point of honor,  and a belief that America had the duty being the world’s leader in defending democracy, and it was his responsibility to help that mission.

He served in the European Theatre, and returned  back to East Tennessee at war’s end. We know he was a corporal, but ‘remembrances’ have him at a higher rank.   Hopefully, some of the paperwork and verification will show up in a long-lost box in the top of a closet sometime in the future.


A bit longer than a decade after he returned home, Uncle John’s family found themselves experiencing the government mandate of ’eminent domain,’ when TVA began bringing dams to the Southeast and East Tennessee, both for flood control and in the name of jobs as the country struggled out of the Big Depression. The family was forced to move from Jefferson County by the Douglas Dam project, to a new home farm on the Little Tennessee River, in Loudon County, not far from the juncture with the (Big) Tennessee River.  That move occurred early in 1936.

As the family re-established itself with a diverse family farm (dairy cows, registered Holsteins, sheep, hogs, tobacco), my Uncle John was also building a real-estate career and working on the farm part-time.  His focus was on farm sales.

I was delighted –  and astonished – to find out recently that some friends of mine who operate a Polk County, TN river-bottom farm came to those life-generating, fertile soils courtesy of my Uncle John bringing them to that site. Their large dairy herd produces over 4200 gallons of milk a day – that’s a year’s worth of milk for 40 average families in a day’s time!

In the mid-60’s, Uncle John found himself, once again, in the middle of a Graham family relocation due to a TVA dam.  This time, the Tellico Dam project, again using eminent domain, came knocking and was telling my immediate family, with my dad at the helm, that we had to find a new farm.  Uncle John, with his real estate contacts, was instrumental in locating farms across the Southeast for my dad to look at (if you’re running a dairy, you don’t have much time to look yourself).   When he thought he found something that might work, our weekends were spent loading up and driving to check out what might be our ‘new home.’

This ‘looking’ went on for about 3 and 1/2 years before we finally moved to a new farm home.  The  process involved options on a river-bottom farm in Sequatchie County, TN, a row-crop farm near Guthrie, KY, neither of which materialized) and many, many dairy farms across Middle and East Tennessee.  Finally an unexpected death of a farm owner who remembered my Uncle John and Dad, and a widow’s desire to not have anything to do with milking cows, led to a somewhat sudden purchase of a farm that had been the very first one my family looked at.
Uncle John made the trip with my dad to sign the first documents of purchase, and may have even co-signed the loan (again, a missing file lost in a box would verify that, or not). 
This river-bottom farm near Newport, Tennessee lays in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, 20 miles from the NC border.  Through many hundreds of years, it has been home to Indians who grew maize (the predecessor of today’s corn, settlers, the Robinson family, the Myers family, and was owned by Mr. Sluder before the Grahams purchased it.  The last time cows were milked here was the late 1970’s, after I went to college, but it has played a huge role in the Southeast milkshed because grains grown here have gone into feed for dairy cows.
The river bottoms are bordered by the French Broad River, which some geologists recognize as the third oldest river in America, and one of the oldest in the world.  I can’t help but be amazed by the changes in the world that, “If this river could talk,” we would learn about.
My generation of Grahams is only a speck in time of the stewards that have witnessed changes in agriculture and in the world.  I hope we are up to the challenges that face us in a future of agriculture as we struggle to feed the world, and balance that struggle with the function of a family.
If only Uncle John, with his wisdom and perspective that were enhanced by a uniform of honor, were around today to give us some advice on farming, foothills, river bottoms and a family farm!  All of these elements affect the future of your worldwide milkshed.  Indeed, all of these elements affect the future of your worldwide foodshed!