February 21 marks one year since evangelist Rev. Billy Graham passed away. Graham died at age 99 at his home in North Carolina.
His ministry transformed America's religious life and changed the lives of hundreds of millions around the world. He eventually became a counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history.
The Billy Graham Center Museum, located on the campus of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, highlights the mission and the work of the man known as America's pastor.
When presented with the idea of a museum dedicated in his honor, Graham reportedly wanted to make sure it wasn't just about him.
"Mr. Graham wanted a place for his papers and then there was also a conversation about what the museum might be like that sort of points to the ministry of Mr. Graham," said Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton. "But more broadly to the ministry of evangelism, so this is a museum of American evangelism."
The museum, which is different from the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC, opened in 1981. It is part of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton, where Graham graduated in 1943. The center is dedicated to developing and mobilizing Christians for evangelism.
"Billy Graham is the most famous graduate of Wheaton College," said Stetzer. "Billy and Ruth attended here as students, met here, got married. So, having the Billy Graham Center here on campus is a visible and spiritual reminder to our students that we make much of Jesus here. Billy Graham made much of Jesus here. We want them to make much of Jesus as they go from this place."
The museum includes something called the Rotunda of Witnesses, which include depictions of early evangelists, such as the Apostle Paul, John Wycliffe and Martin Luther.
A section devoted to Graham includes portraits and memorabilia from the personal life of the evangelist. Highlights from Graham's years of ministry, such as his numerous evangelistic crusades and his involvement in social issues, are also on display.
Nevertheless, administrators say the focus of the museum extends beyond Graham.
"The purpose really is to ultimately point people to Jesus," said Stetzer. "To help people to see how they might respond by sharing the Gospel."
Many who visit the museum do respond.
"People come to Christ here," Stetzer said. "We actually have a response; they fill out a response card; we follow them up."
Since Graham's passing, Stetzer says even more people want to know about the man who shared the Gospel with nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries.
"People are interested and it's interesting how many non-Christians come," he said. "So, Billy Graham was a singularly important figure in the history of the world and so people know that name. We also want them to also know the name that's above every name that Billy Graham pointed to, the name of Jesus."
Stetzer says the message of the museum and the man it honors is simple.
"You go through the cross," he said. "You receive Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you then, eternal life is then a gift that comes from God."
"We actually continue to see, in a sense, this museum is an ongoing crusade," said Stetzer.