My family with Billy Graham in Sacramento, California, 1983
I just heard the news, as many of you no doubt have, that Billy Graham went home to be with the Lord today. If it had not been for my father attending a 1949 Los Angeles tent meeting where Billy Graham was preaching, I might never have been born.
My father was working at that time for gangster Mickey Cohen. Dad had developed an electronic system for past post betting on the race horses for Mickey's friend, St. Louis Andy. They had tried the system in Arizona and had been successful. My father was to go to St. Louis on November 10, 1949 to set up his system to control the western half of the United States in illegal off-track betting. But he never made that meeting, because on the 6th of November, he happened to attend that great tent meeting at the corner of Washington and Hill in downtown Los Angeles.
That night Mr. Graham mentioned the verse where Jesus asked, "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36) And during the invitation, Graham said something to the affect of, "There is a man in this audience tonight who has heard this message many times before, but he has never given his life to Christ, and this may be his last opportunity."
All of that spoke to my father very deeply, and so he turned to my mother and said, "I'll go." And they walked the sawdust trail into the prayer tent where my father knelt and prayed, "God, if you'll mean business with me, I'll mean business with you. If you can straighten out the tangled web of my life, I'll give it all to you."
My father immediately set about repaying everyone he had ever cheated or stolen from. When he was finished, my parents had nothing left. But God provided for their needs all the way. And my father did indeed spend the rest of his life serving the Lord and telling others, especially young people, about the saving power and love of Jesus Christ.
My father later learned from someone in the Los Angeles mayor's office that they had received a tip from the FBI. If my father had gone to St. Louis on November 10, he would have been killed by a rival gang that was set up to hit him. That night in the tent was indeed his last opportunity to turn to Christ.
I'm so grateful to Billy Graham for his many years of faithful preaching of the love of Jesus Christ, and grateful most of all for that sermon he delivered on November 6, 1949. Furthermore, I'm glad that my father seized the opportunity to turn to Christ when he could.
If you would like to learn more of my father's story, you can read about it in my book:
It is available on Amazon and through my web site: willvaus.com.
You can also watch below an interview I gave on 100 Huntley Street back in 2009....