War and Peace in Korea



— PSALM 46:11

Billy Graham's introduction to Korea in 1952 came as a result of written appeals of American military chaplains whose troops were finally engaged in combat with Communists in what President Harry Truman described as a "United Nations Peace Action."

    Wheels turned, and in December 1952, as guest of the Pentagon and Supreme Allied Commander General Mark Clark, Billy toured the hospitals and MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) units of South Korea. Grady Wilson and Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, accompanied him as they visited the tragic victims of the "peace action."

    It was Billy's first exposure to the grisly realities of modern warfare. He prayed with men without eyes and limbs, with gaping wounds and charred skin. In his book Count It All Joy, Grady Wilson has left us an account of one unforgettable scene:   

They had helicoptered in a young soldier who had been machine-gunned in the back. He was permanently paralyzed and was lying facedown on a canvas rigging in a MASH unit of the Tenth Corps. Billy had spoken briefly over a PA system, and when he stopped by this patient, he heard him say gasping, "Mr. Graham, I heard your message. I want to tell you

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that even though I can't move, it's worth being machine gunned to open my heart to Jesus Christ. This day I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior."

    Then the soldier added, "Mr. Graham, I would like to see your face."

    Billy obligingly got down and lay on his back alongside so the young man could have eye contact with him. A tear fell on Billy's face. Billy also was fighting tears as he softly talked and prayed with a young man whom he will one day meet again.

    It was Christmas Eve.1

    Coming into South Korea two decades later in the spring of 1973, we found it all so different. Seoul, the capital, was now a beautiful rebuilt city. It seemed to many of us on the Billy Graham team that we were coming into God's country. We found Christians rising at 4 A.M. and going to an hour's service of holy worship in a church before leaving for their workplace. In Seoul we found the largest Presbyterian church in the whole world, the largest Methodist church in the world, and the largest Assemblies of God church in the world, with over a million members. Here also we found a love for the Lord Jesus Christ that reminded us of the way the people of Asia received the Gospel from the apostle Paul and his teammates in New Testament times.

    After months of preaching efforts by his team in all of South Korea's major cities, Billy spent a week proclaiming Christ to hundreds of thousands of Koreans on Yo-ido Plaza outside Seoul. The amazing climax came on Sunday afternoon, June 3, when Billy addressed 1,100,000 people who had come (mostly on foot) to the Plaza. He told the vast assemblage, "This has been the greatest experience of my life."

    Billy also did something for which I have always honored him. It was a small thing really. Before the service began, much to our surprise, Billy invited each member of his team to step up to the platform and be photographed next to him with that record-breaking crowd in the background.

    Such a minor happening hardly needs to be mentioned, you

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might say. Yet that is precisely why I mention it. Naturally we were charmed. I look at the picture of Billy and myself every day. It reminds me of Grady Wilson's war story because it tells me of what quality stuff Billy Graham is made.

    When the crusade opened on Yo-ido Island, the American ambassador was present. So was Dr. Kyung Chik Han, the great Christian statesman and pastor emeritus of Young Nak Church in Seoul. So was Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho, pastor of the world's largest church in Seoul. So were 11,000 trained counselors, 3,608 pastors, and an audience half a mile long. All those people were ready and eager seemingly for Billy to show them how to enter the kingdom of

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God. All the program formalities and the protocol of a public event in a foreign country were about to begin.

    For weeks all of us on the team had labored hard on Korean soil, and the response to the gospel message was fabulous. In Pusan Grady Wilson preached to 326,000 people, including 60,000 school children on a Saturday afternoon. In Chonju Howard Jones preached to 270,000 and spoke by invitation at a Buddhist seminary. In Taejon Akbar Abdul-Haqq spoke to 83,500. John Wesley White spoke to 140,000 in Taegu. Cliff Barrows spoke to 37,000 in Choon Chun. Ralph Bell spoke to 320,000 in a ball park in Kwangju. Other members of the team included musician George Beverly Shea, Tedd Smith, John Innes, Henry Holley (the crusade director, who in the nineties is still ministering in Korea), Don Bailey, Lee Fisher, Steve Musto, Ted Cornell, Billy Fasig, Tom Bledsoe, Randall Veazey, and even myself.

    I was escorted to Inchon one day to evangelize the republic of Korea troops and to enjoy tea with His Excellency, the general. What an honor to preach Christ to those men through an interpreter! I remember it well because after I spoke, a senior officer loudly reprimanded the ROK chaplains then busily circulating among those who had come down front at the invitation. The chaplains were getting names and serial numbers for their spiritual follow-up!

    The evangelist's wife, Ruth Bell Graham, was also present and addressed thousands of women in a meeting at Seoul's Ewha University. As a thirteen-year-old daughter of missionary parents, Ruth Bell had attended a Christian high school in Pyongyang, capital of North Korea. At the time of our crusade in 1973, the Pyongyang Communist government conducted a campaign of vilification against her husband, calling him "the sorcerer from America" who had come to South Korea to "practice fanatic exorcism and spread superstition."2 More recently, however, Dr. and Mrs. Graham have been invited guests of the government in Pyongyang and have been graciously treated. As a gesture of love, the Grahams have donated a clinic-on-wheels for treating the children of North Korea.

    One of my unforgettable recollections was on Friday evening at the Plaza when the worship leaders invited the people to pray. Can

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you imagine the sound of 600,000 voices all offering different prayers to God at the same time? It was incredible, and yet I'm sure they were all duly noted in heaven.

    Yes, to us who were there in Korea in 1973, the crusade is a wonderful memory. For myself something special was added. My late wife, Winola, and I for many years had supported a Korean orphan under the World Vision program started by founder Bob Pierce. When I arrived in Seoul, the World Vision representative brought my sponsored "daughter," Choon Hee, from her coastal home, where she was a kindergarten teacher, to visit me. So for four brief, joyful days of my life, I had a daughter of my own. Of course it was Korea, and we could only communicate by signs and interpreters, and we have lost touch since, but still — four days!

    Someday beyond the sunset we will speak the same language.


1. Grady Wilson, Count It All Joy (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1984), 298.

2 According to my friend Rev. Billy Kim, these characterizations of Billy Graham appeared in the North Korean press and were reprinted in South Korean newspapers. Cf. John Pollock, Billy Graham, Evangelist to the World (New York: Harper & Row, 1979), 66. At this writing Nelson Edman (Ned) Graham, younger son of Billy and Ruth, is sending relief goods to North Korea as part of the outreach of East Gates Ministries.

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