ROCHESTER, Minn. – The death of Reverend Billy Graham is being felt all over the world and deeply here in Rochester.
“Rochester has a big connection with Billy Graham,” John Steer, Senior Pastor at Autumn Ridge Church, said. “The Mayo Clinic used to give free medical care to missionaries and evangelists like Billy Graham … Billy Graham and his team would come here for medical care.”
Steer said when Rev. Graham would go to Mayo, he would also visit Autumn Ridge Church.
“My predecessors told me they would often look up and there was Billy Graham in the congregation on a Sunday morning” Steer said. “A terrifying experience! It never happened to me.”
But Steer did get the chance to meet Rev. Graham. Graham had known the long list of pastors at Autumn Ridge and reached out to Steer so he could know him, too.
“I got a phone call saying Billy Graham would like to meet with you and I thought it was a friend pulling my leg,” Steer said.
He said meeting the legendary gospel leader was a thrilling experience. Steer remembers Graham as genuine and authentic, which is why he thinks Graham was able to reach so many people.
“We’ve seen over the years some televangelists who’ve been involved in scandal. Throughout his life Billy Graham was blemish free, he really did live out what he preached,” Steer said.
Steer read a few of Graham’s books, participated in three of his crusades, and even got to meet him. Steer said even today, he still follows a piece of advice Graham gave him personally.
“He told me to always have my bible open on my desk. When you have it, you will look down, you will look down, you will see divine truth, ideas will come to your mind…if you were to go up to my study now you would see my bible there,” Steer said. “Very simple but very helpful.”
Billy Graham often preached about heaven and eternal life which is why Steer said Billy Graham is more alive today than he’s ever been.
“He’s been looking forward to going to glory…to go home…and home for the Christians is God’s house,” Steer said.