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Local retired minister remembers Graham as man of integrity, magnetic personality


By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

When Billy Graham stood on stage in front of a crowd of 50,000 at the Boston Commons in 1950, Calvin Malefyt was one of many ministers accompanying him. 

The event was at the beginning of Graham’s first crusade, one of the many spiritual calls to action that would make him a nationally important evangelist, mentor to presidents and a house-hold name.

News of his passing on Wednesday elicited countless remembrances and words in his honor. Malefyt, a now retired minister living in Greenville,  said his encounter with Graham at the Boston Commons was the first of many interactions he had living in the vicinity of the acclaimed evangelist. 

He said one of his most profound memories of Graham came when he met him in Ann Arbor, Mich., where Malefyt served at a university church.

Graham came to the University of Michigan to deliver two lectures, Malefyt said. At the first, Graham attempted an intellectual tone, accidentally mispronouncing the name of at least one author, Albert Camus, he tried to quote.

Malefyt said that the next day, Graham came out with a more plain and simple message.

“I am not intellectual as you have gathered, but I have had a personal experience as Jesus Christ and that’s what I want to share with you,” Graham said. The students responded with applause.

Malefyt said at the end of Graham’s speech that night, the audience gave him a standing ovation. 

”He had a magnetic personality,” Malefyt said. “When he walked in for a press conference, there was just a spiritual aura about him, a spiritual resonance that just exuded from him.

“(He was) gracious, very charming and very humble,” Malefyt said.

Malefyt said one of the things he thought that made Graham great was his impeccable character. He said Graham’s spiritual, personal and financial dealings have stood the test of time and that he was a man to be emulated. 

“I just couldn’t help but think of the contrast between Hugh Hefner’s death and the legacy that he left — sex without responsibility, live only for yourself, live for the pleasure of the moment,” he said. “As opposed to Billy Graham, who stressed our commitment to God, our responsibility to other people and his care for other people.”

Contact Seth Gulledge at Sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579. Follow him on Twitter @GulledgeSeth.