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Interview with Laurence Funderburk

Funderburk, Laurence
Johnson, Jean
Date of Interview: 
Billy Graham Crusades, Charlotte, Billy Graham Family, Southern Baptist Convention, evangelistic work
Laurence Funderburk, a local Charlotte minister remembers his involvement with the Billy Graham Crusades in Charlotte and his role in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Charlotte, 1930-1996
Interview Setting: 
The Levine Museum of the New South, Charlotte, North Carolina
Levine Museum of the New South, Billy Graham Series
Collection Description: 
Levine Museum of the New South interviewed many people associated with the Reverend Billy Graham in preparation for an exhibit on his life.
Interview Audio: 
JJ (Jean Johnson): This is Reverend Funderburk. It's April 24th and we're at the Museum recording his stories about Billy Graham.
LF (Lawrence Funderburk): I knew Billy's mother through a, a lady that was in our church, she would go over and, to the S and W at Park Road and would have a Bible class over there and she'd come by the house. And she said, "They're remembering my husband over there in prayer." And so later on, I was visiting the home and Cleg Condor, which was her husband, accepted the Lord that day and she was thrilled to death over it, and she said, "This was results of our prayer sessions that we have." We'd go over and have lunch and have prayer session. And said, Mrs. Graham leads the group and so she hollered, shouted out whenever he was saved that day because he was hard to reach. He was well up in life when I, he accepted the Lord. And then I, I remember so many from the church going to the crusades when they was around here. And then I would get information back from his team telling us what, who had been converted and if our church was one of their choice places to unite with. Well then they'd give us address and phone number and everything that we could call the family and talk with them and then follow through with a visit, and things of this nature. This helped our church out in that way, you know, getting to know prospects out there that he had lead to the Lord and I'll always admired them about his humbleness, the way he went about his ministry and everything and that he has always proven to me a man that was just and upright in every way. And that he was not in it for any publicity or for the money, but he was in it because he's a God-called man to serve the Lord in that capacity and God has certainly blessed him so much, it's just untold what has, he's done with him. And to think about our ages being so close together, I didn't think about that too much back in the earlier days but now when we get up here to the age that I am now; I'll be seventy-six in August 17th and Dr. Graham is, I believe, from the 7th of November too, lacks just little bit being two years difference in our ages. And I'm thankful to have a man like that as a great example in our area here that we can look to, you know. We read about great ministers come out of England, places like that, but to have one come out of Charlotte and off of the diary farm like he did and everything. And I remember when he was a, a slender preacher and not like I said earlier, not as a, a close friend or anything, but one that you would look upon him and, and know about the way that he had seen different places and how he was maturing and developing for the ministry and all that. It's a just a great thing to know him and to know his--. And I think a, a lot of that was the background that he had, that he was trained and schooled in the home as a Christian man and that set the stage for his later way of life. The way God has used him and then that God gave him a wonderful companion to be with him and his ministry. And that's by being a minister myself over fifty years, I know that's the background part of our ministry is our companion, the Lord first, and then our companion backing us up in every way. And I think, I know that Billy had all this in order about that and that, I, I think is what's made him the great man that he is.
JJ: Tell me, tell me a little bit about the Mordecai Ham revival, as you remember it?
LF: Well you see I was, I wasn't but about fourteen then and I don't remember too much about that other than I, I didn't attend that Mordecai revival any. But I, I did remember passing there and seeing the tent and Daddy would tell me that that's where Mordecai Ham was preaching. And so that's about the only thing I remember. I wasn't a Christian at that time and we lived about, I guess fifteen miles out in the country from here and we, we didn't have, that's been a long ways back and we didn't have ways of traveling then. But it had a great impact on Charlotte and then if it hadn't led any but one person, that was Billy Graham to the Lord, well then it done a great thing. And of what he has done, preached I guess, to more people than any man living or dead and that's remarkable to think that a, that's a crown in Mordecai's crown or, star in his crown for leading him to the Lord, you know, and then to see what he has done.
JJ: Tell me about the first time that you actually came to hear Billy Graham? Or when, when was the first time you had contact with him?
LF: Well I, I heard Billy, and I don't remember the exact place the first time. He, the Southern Baptist Convention would get him to come to our convention meetings and I would hear Billy preach there. And I remember one night that he, he's always good, but well that night, he seemed like a little bit more moved in what he was doing. He was in Asheville and we was up there for one of the State meetings and he came in and preached that night. And I've heard him in so many different places where the Baptist would meet, you know, they'd get Billy to come and to preach, or Reverend Graham I should say. And it's just a blessing and you soon get to where that you look forward to hearing a man like that and after seeing him on T.V. so much, and seeing his neat pattern of life and his humility and his messages and that he didn't try to force anybody, but as "whosoever will", this sort of thing, that he, he just, he just becomes a part of your life, and seem like a part of your family by knowing him on T.V. and then following him in the crusades of the T.V. It means so much in that way. I know when I was moderator of our Association in the late 80s, we had his "Brother" Wilson, Grady Wilson came and he was the speaker that night and that even boosted the crowd to say that we've got a man from the Billy Graham team here and he was sitting with me on the platform and he said to me, he said, "Lawrence," said, "I preached over in Korea" and said, "I had 10,000 at my service" then he said, "I thought I was really in a good way of carrying God's word," he said, "But just a few miles up the way Dr. Billy Graham was up there preaching to more than a million people at one time." And he said, "Made my 10,000 look like a little handful." So I think he related that to the congregation when he preached his message that night.
JJ: And you went to the crusade in 1958?
LF: Yes, uh-huh.
JJ: Can you tell me what, what, were you working as a counselor? Can you tell me what you were doing? Or were you just attending--?
LF: I, I was just a visitor there from Church. I was at Mount Harmony Baptist Church then. We went to Mount Harmony in 1951 and stayed 'till 1980, twenty-nine years up there. And then during that time that we visited the, and a lot of the church people did, the crusade. And that was the one I was speaking about where we had so many different ones to contact us and tell us about this girl has accepted Christ and prefers your church for a church home and that was always one thing that Dr. Graham would do. He would encourage the people, said, "Now when you accept Christ as your Savior," he said "Get in a church and work and stay there." He said, "Don't let this be the end of it."
JJ: Um-hum.
LF: To get busy in a church. And so, it was through that we would go and follow through, different ones of us from the church. And, they, you get members by this and working crusades like this and he's a great reaper and Paul says, you know in his scripture, that, "Some planteth, and never water, but God gives the increase." And so, I think Dr. Graham, the Lord used his humble life to give the increase after somebody else had sown the seed or either he's a good seed sower. He, he would plant and somebody else would come along, and maybe at a later time, he might lead them to Christ, you know?
JJ: Did you go more than one night to the crusade in 1958?
LF: I believe I went two nights, to the crusade. And as always so impressive to see the great numbers go down. And at first I thought that it was just, that they were going in pairs, two people going down at a time, but I learned later that these were people that he, that his team had worked with and it's always easier to go, especially if you're an adult, to an altar if you've got someone with you to walk with you and I admired that part about the crusade, that they would have someone to go with you and you didn't have to make that walk alone. So even if you'd see a great crowd and think well half of those are workers, but for every one of those workers there was a person there that he's leading to the Lord. So that made it real impressive to me and it also, it gives you something that you can work with in your individual church, of work and have some to visit with you and to back up these things and then to go to church on Sunday morning expecting somebody to come. It's not like just sow and seed of the Word for the first time, but you've, through visitation and dealing with people, you've prepared the seed bed and then they'll come along and unite with you.
JJ: Um-hum.
LF: Makes you feel good.
JJ: He was here again in 1972. Did you go to that crusade?
LF: I'm not sure whether I, I, I but, part, let's see--.
JJ: It was a shorter crusade. The one in 1958 was five weeks.
LF: Uh-huh.
JJ: And this one was just a few days.
LF: I believe I went one time to that one. I'm not sure. I, I believe there's a family in our church that we came one night, I'm not sure we did with them. And, but it's so, there's so much happens in your-I told Kevin, I said, in your ministry, there's so many different things that happens, again, it's just like something unraveling, and it's hard to keep up and to remember all of these things along with their Associational work and everything too. But, I believe I did go to the one, one night in '72 with the Price family, Glen Price and Martha, and my wife of course. But it has, a moving thing if it's a, to see him on T.V., but it's a so impressive to go and to see him out there but noting but just space between you and him, you know. And he, he would get up in the same spirit every time when he would stand and I liked the way that he stand there with his hand up like this whenever he would give altar call, you know, his Bible, holding it. And it was just, well there's never been another Billy Graham and there never will be as far as I'm concerned.
JJ: Um-hum. Have you been, have you seen him change, not only his style but just his thinking has changed a little bit over the years?
LF: Yes, uh-huh.
JJ: You know he used to be a lot wilder.
LF: Yeah.
JJ: And how, what kind of changes have you seen in him?
LF: I, I've seen the, the part, at first, he was that robustness and the eagerness to get out there and I know in our Association there's different preachers that I can look back at now and I could see it then. They would pattern their lifestyle preaching after Billy Graham. And if you could just close your eyes and some of them got good enough at it that you could just close your eyes and almost see Billy Graham, you know, when they were preaching, and some of them in their prayer life, I've noticed that. But through the years, Dr. Graham seemed to, he had the same message, but it was toned down some and was more mellow like and it, it seemed that it matured with his physical body, the spiritual body and all I don't know how to tell you exactly how I feel about it, but that's what I could see that there was a ripening process in his life. As he grew older, a lot of that rush-out in the beginning to these things that he took it at a steady, flow that he was not leaving any of the I's un-dotted or T's uncrossed, he, he was covering it all out there. That's the type person I could see in him and then in these days now when his health is not as good as it used to me, I can see a person that is, with the zeal of knowing that the day with myself and him both is far spent. That you, and I do the same thing, I'm still preaching too. You want, you want to preach every opportunity you can preach and put every bit of yourself into it that you can put into it, and to be the person that God would have you to be. And so, I can see Billy doing this all the way along through life. And I'm thankful that he was a man that never did let any of this go to his head. He kept himself in right order. I've, I've heard about other evangelists that would the old saying "Set the fields afire" to start with and later on because of their misconduct or their behavior, they destroy all that they had done and the sad part is that they'd take a host of followers with them when they do this. But Dr. Graham was one that wasn't trying to build a name for himself, but one for the Lord. And he built his congregation with him and that he was steadfast in it and, and that's, that's the type of man I've seen in this and one that has been honest and fair with the people all the way through. I don't know one thing that I would change if I could change it about Dr. Graham from what the way he approaches the, the stand to bring the message and the soundness through it and the humble way at the end, that he always gives people an opportunity to accept Christ and to be saved, and if they have been saved, to rededicate their lives.
JJ: Some people have criticized his relationships with the Presidents, as saying he just kind of liked to hobnob with the top guns.
LF: That part never did faze me a bit when he was doing this. I, I was thankful that we had a person, like I said earlier, from this area that would, could go in with those of the, however their high standing was in life, and how they were respected; he could go in there and sit with them and talk with them and be the same man that he was and whatever they'd have to say or do I don't think it ever lured in my way of thinking, his standard of a Christian servant of God.
JJ: Are there other evangelists that you admire? Or do you remember? There aren't as many, well there are a lot around on T.V. now, but not as many that travel.
LF: There's, there's quite a few around that you can think about but none of them have ever come to the mature way of the ministry like, like the preacher down at First Church in Georgia, what is his name in Atlanta, he was on, on Sunday morning, Sunday nights ( ). I just can't, there's been a write-up about him and his wife separating, Stanley.
JJ: Uh-hum.
LF: I like Stanley's way of being a fair and square with the scripture and everything, but it seems to me that Dr. Stanley's a greater teacher of the Bible of maturing the congregation in the Word than he is of, I don't put him in this, in the bracket with an evangelist like Doctor Billy Graham. And then there are some others that I've listened to along through the years that have had their ups and downs and all, and I, I don't care to go into them.
JJ: Evangelism is popular in the South.
LF: Right.
JJ: Why, why do you think that is?
LF: Oh, I don't know about--. It seemed like the, the South has always been a place where people, where, you might say poor, are more humbler, and the, the humble people in Christ's day were the people that would seek him, you know; more than the, the ones that felt like they didn't need him. But, I, I think it's due to the part that it's, it's thought of as a humbler, a little less educated and all of this, than a lot of the places where they get great education, and how everything that they need in this way of life, they have little need for evangelism or for the Lord, or it seems that way. But I, I think that at that, the one thing that their humbleness here, they're ready to see their need and whenever, you, you can tell a person that's in need that you have an answer for him, then if he's in bad enough need he'll accept that. And everybody should be in, they, they ought to feel, conscious feeling always in a need of Christ in their lives. Better, if a better person is well they can go back to the scriptures. Young, rich ruler he didn't care for Christ because he, he sought him but he, whenever told him of what things he had to do, and he said, " All this and I kept my youth up?" and he said, "There's one other thing that you got to do, and that's to accept me and follow me. Go sell that you have. I know what's keeping you out. Sell that that you have and then take that cross and follow me." But they said he went away in sorrowful because he had great riches. But they, the lady that just reached out in a need and touched the hem of his garment and he, he healed her. She had a great need and I, I think that that's, might be a long way around about answering your question, but I think that's the need. If there's a real need well then there's a source that we can get that supplied in Christ.
JJ: Because there's more of a need in the South than other places?
LF: Right.
JJ: Yeah.
LF: And it seems that, well throughout history, you could look way back, the South that, even in the, the days when the slaves were here and all of that, there was a, there was a longing for, that they had their worship and the, the people that were owners, they had a need for church and the things like that. It has just been a, a need there that's found because we had a need.
JJ: Was the, was it Mount Harmony you said?
LF: I was at Mount Harmony for twenty-nine years.
JJ: Was that your first church?
LF: No, I was pastor of my home church--.
JJ: Tell me a little about your early beginnings when you started.
LF: In 1943, I accepted a church for one year. That was Secrest Grove. And then the next year, while I was there, two other churches contacted me and wanted me to become their pastor and so I left that church after that one year and I went to Sandy Ridge and to Oak View in Monroe. And I stayed five years at one and seven at the other. And in the meantime, I was called to Bethel in Stanley County to preach in the afternoon. I was over there in revival meeting, and so I went over there and they called us and wanted to know, and said, "We usually have morning service," but said, "If you don't have any mornings available, would you come preach in the afternoon?" And so, that's what I did for two years. I went over there and preached to Bethel Church near Locust. Then I went to Sardis Baptist Church, my home church, and stayed there five years. And when I was at Sardis, I got a call, and they always called annually, they'd--, in October you'd be called or rather, in September, and you'd take over in October, and our Associational year ran from October the first to the last of September and then they would call again. So Sardis had been calling every year and I'd just accepted the call back to Sardis in October and, or September. This was in about mid-November that Mount Harmony came down and asked us about becoming a full time minister with them and said, "We would like for you to do that if you could come the first of January and be our pastor." I said, " I promised Sardis I'd stay for a year with them." And I said, "My word is all that I've got." And I said, "If there's some way that they could be worked out that you could get a supply in the morning and let me preach at Sardis in the morning and then I'll come up there and preach that night and I'll be your pastor through the week to do the visitation and things like this, along with Sardis' church people." And so, they came back to me then and said well, "Who would you recommend to be the morning preacher up there." I said, "Preacher C.C. Honeycutt is an old preacher" and I said, "He's preached up there before, you all know him. He's also preached at Sardis, and where I'm preaching now." And so I said, "If you'll call him in the morning, I'll work hand in hand with him, let him preach in the morning, and I'll preach that night." And so we did that from January the first through September. And then I became full time minister there. And oddly, I think about them, they turned around and called Preacher Honeycutt at Sardis where I left them and he stayed there three years and built a parsonage while I was there, it went full time. And so I stayed twenty-nine years at Mount Harmony. And then I left there and went back home and when I was on the General Board of the State Convention, they had mentioned to me about Fairfield Plantation and Hemby Bridge development, they needed a church in between there, and said, "When you're available, when you leave--." I told them I was fixing to leave Mount Harmony. They said, "When you leave Mount Harmony, would you consider building a church in between the two developments?" And I said, "Well I never have, I said I'd have to pray about it and study about it some." So, I turned down Ernest Epchurch of the State Convention was the one, he came to the house three times and asking about doing this and I turned him down each time. I said, "I'm just not completely satisfied to do that." And so, we went to the mountains, and I might be taking too much of your time but--.
JJ: It's all right.
LF: We went to the mountains and while I was up there, I woke up one morning with a dream that I was pastor of that church in between those two developments and I had talked with Ellis Barks, our Director of Missions before that about it and I said that if I ever get ready to do this, I'll call you Ellis, and he said, "Well, we're going to get somebody to do it." And said, "If you don't do it, we'll get somebody else." So I said, "Well go ahead, it's open for anybody now." But I, when I had that dream that night, I seen that church and its sitting right about a city block from where that church is sitting now. And so, the only thing about it, there was a cross roads there, Idlewild and Stephen Mill Road, and I didn't think about that corner, if we could get the corner. But I thought the church sat up a little bit further facing the Stephen Mill Road. And I, I woke up and I told my wife I said, "I'm going to go up to the office and I'm going call Ellis Barks and tell him what I've decided." And she said, "What?" I said, "I had a dream," and I said "The Lord's in that building that church," and I said, "I'm going to call Ellis." And I called him just as soon as he got in the office and he said, "Well, thank the Lord." And so we, in 1981, we builtEmmanuel Baptist Church and it's in that corner, the lady sold us the five acres of land at a good price and we held services for a year in the Auction Barn down there, J. C. McLain's Auction Barn. We'd go in there at midnight when they got through with, the sale closed Saturday night at midnight, and we'd go in there, a bunch of us, that was grouping together to be the church and clean up the place and I'd go back then--. [Microphone falls]
JJ: Oops!
LF: It was awful dusty--,
JJ: Uh-huh.
LF: In there. And I'd go back the next morning before church time and dust all the pews and we'd go back then and have service there on Sunday morning. And so, then we built Emanuel Church up there on the corner. So that's, I retired from there in 1990. I've had three Interims' since then. And now with the preacher gone, they've asked me to come back and help supply with the church. And I found out that my other buddy that was supplying with me was called last Sunday to another church and I, I guess the supply will be on me until I get, 'till we get somebody.
JJ: It's hard to retire isn't it? [Laugh]
LF: You just can't hardly leave it at all.
JJ: Yeah.
LF: And I can see now why that, I, I've heard people say this, they'd see Dr. Graham on T.V., [tape cuts] these crusades that he'd have on him even though he had great help and all of that, and everything was set up and in order, but to know the responsibility when you stand before a group of people like in a crusade, I've never been as a pastor in a crusade, but in revival meetings we have a, a little thing that's the same way when you go to another church, you know that there might be lost people there every night but there might be one night that there's a lost person there that you won't have the opportunity to ever witness to before. And you want to do your very best and that witness and to be perfectly lead by the Holy Spirit to do just what God would have you to do. Not display any of yourself, but just preach what God would have you to preach and leave the results to him. That's a strain when you do that and then I've had people to call me later and say that, "Preacher you didn't, you don't know about this, but you was at our church at a revival meeting and I accepted the Lord that night and didn't go down, but later I joined the church and was baptized, but it was result of your ministry there." And to know that, now this'll probably be Dr. Graham's last crusade here, the last opportunity he'll ever have to preach openly to that mass of people, and I know the strain that it is. And they'll say looks like you preacher would just retire and give up and get out of it, but you're called by God and you owe it to Him to do, if he supplies the strength and the message, we ought to use ourselves in giving it, I think. And that's the way I feel like Dr. Graham does. And that's the way I do. I've known a lot of times and preached whenever I had people that stayed at home they said they didn't feel good and they'd call me the next week and say that, "I heard you wasn't feeling good last Sunday and was tired and everything and your health wasn't up to par." and said, "We felt the same way, we just stayed at home." So, but a preacher feels obligated to go and the witnessing to do. And I, I can see how that Dr. Graham gets worn in body and then spirit and then soul. Christ got weary in his journey and he'd sat on a well at one place and rested while the disciples were gone from him. So we have to do the same thing. But he used his time when he was sitting there to get advantage; He led a woman to Christ, went back into the city and said come see a man told me all things ever I did, is not this the Christ? Now that's wonderful when you see thing happen like that even when you're not well. Sometimes when we're weak, that's when we're strong, spiritually.
JJ: You, you've mentioned leading revivals yourself.
LF: Yes.
JJ: What, what's the difference between a church service and a revival? Is it the time of day or the place you have it or--?
LF: A revival services are at the same place that you have your regular services, but it's a special time that's put on during the year for the church to have a revival, a renewal of grace in their hearts and lives. And you go there for, I always feel this when I go, that I go there with the, the first thing that I want to see done is to see the lost saved, that's what Christ called me to do, is to preach his Word, see the lost saved. And then I want to see the backslider, the one that's cold and indifferent reclaimed. And the third thing that I want to see them do is to see the church grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord, that it'll never be the same because of that revival meeting that they'll be more enthused and aggressive than they've ever been because of their, everybody contributes to that you see. The singings, they try to get extra singing to come in, or if you use your own, they try to put more into than they do just seems like at a regular service, because this is something special. And so that's, that's and when you go and preach at a revival, you feel like well I've got to, sometimes you go on Sunday morning, I, I prefer going on Sunday night, I like to be my at own church on Sunday morning. I go on Sunday night, Monday night and Tuesday night and Wednesday night, Thursday night and Friday night; and close out on Friday night. And a lot of times, they want to go through Saturday night, which is all right, but I'd rather close with a good crowd and a good spirit all enthused on Friday night than to, some to have to go somewhere to eat supper or to shop or something on Saturday night and close out with a small crowd. I'd rather, anything we do is to stop it when it's climaxing and then they'll remember that. Has that helped the answer?
JJ: Uh-hum, because I've never been to one. Is it, is it a different feeling for you then, between delivering a sermon on Sunday morning and doing--. It sound like a lot of work to do a revival.
LF: It's a, you feel different about it because you're called a lot of times to go in and to preach before a congregation that's used to a stronger, more educated preacher than you are. You know that the people that comes that if anything takes place, it's going to have to be from God through me to reach them. That they've already had good preaching, they've already had all these other things and so it, it keeps us humble and down to the place we want to present messages. That's a lot of people speaks to me about my ministry that I preach real humble messages and I refer to a, a lot of things that we see about us in our everyday life. I, I work with, I have a little youth sermon for our children on Sunday morning. The other morning, I, I thought well, what I'm going to do and my great grandson, Kevin's sister's little boy, he's sharp as a tack, and was reading sixth grade level when he was in kindergarten or, when he started kindergarten. And so I get him once in a while to read my scripture for me. This is something different. And so I, I, two times, I've had him to read for the children and he agreed to just, I'd just call him on the phone and tell him what I was going to be using, I said, he said, "Wait a minute granddaddy, let me get my Bible and I'll, I'll check." And he'd check, he'd put that down and I said, "Can you handle that all right?" He said, "Yes, I can read that all right." And so I got a dead stick the other morning about the length of that pen you've got there and a green one; and I took that in there before the children. I told them, I said, "The scripture says to train up a child in the way they should go and when it's old, it'll not depart from it." I said, "You all are in the process of growing and change," and I said, "Do you see this green or this stick here?" I said "I'm going to show you how you can bended it." It just bend real good 'cause I got one just about the size of the lead, about like this right here. And you could bend it almost double and it wouldn't break. I said, "Now that represents your life like it is now, while you're young." I said, "Now I want you to notice this one, I want to bend it." And I started to bend it and it popped in two. And I said, "The difference is this is full of life and energy and growth." And I said, "This other one is, it's had its day." And I use a lot of illustrations like that in preaching.
JJ: Um-hum.
LF: And they never forget an illustration like that. Christ used things like that about a sower, went out to sow. He told about how the seed fell, some on hard soil, some on thorny places, and some sprang up right quick and because they had no depth of earth, they soon died but others lived on and brought forth a harvest. And so I love to use illustrations that's real to me. I had a thing I was going to use Sunday and the children, some of them were sick and wasn't there and I decided I'd just, I told them, "Derrick," I said, "There's just two children here this morning your age." And I said, "Would it be all right just to wait till next Sunday to have it?" He said, "That'd be fine." And I had a July fly, you've heard them hollering?
JJ: Um-hum.
LF: But that egg was laid in the, right after he quick hollering in July, in the ground and stayed in there all winter long. And it--.
JJ: Oh wait, I'm not sure I know. Like a locust?
LF: Like a locust.
JJ: Okay.
LF: Yeah.
JJ: All right, I've just never heard it called that.
LF: Yeah, well a July fly we call them, because it comes out in July. And you can hear it rattle in its sound and then it will quit and then it will fly. And I said that, this right here is a dry shell of what one, they come out of the ground with all that enclosed in this little cabin like. And, he gets on a tree and catch the bark on each side and will grip so tight with that, that it, his, and the maturing part after he gets out, it splits open right down his back, from the back of his neck here all the way back. And he eases out of that and there he is with his wings folded back of him, and I've been blessed by seeing one straightened out his wings, you know they look like clear plastic with black edging. He'd straighten that wing out, he'd shake it a little bit and then he'd straighten the other wing out and straighten it. And, there he is ready in just a few minutes, you can touch him and he'll fly off. But, the day before, he was in the earth. I told them, and I said, "That's a good Easter message, that's a good resurrection, Christ was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth and then he was resurrected." And there's things like that comes in, I was raised on the farm and its never gotten out of me. And it ties so well in with my ministry.
JJ: I, I can see why your daughter is an artist, [laugh] with all your imagery.
LF: We used to look at clouds and see the images--.
JJ: Yeah.
LF: Of things in--.
JJ: I still do.
LF: I do too.
JJ: Do you think being raised on a farm helps you in a, in ministry?
LF: Definitely.
JJ: Tell me a little bit about that. Because that's of course where Billy Graham grew up too.
LF: Well, being on a farm that way, you're naturally, that, that goes back to the part, now farmers nowadays, are different what it used to be. Now they do massive farming, heavy equipment and all that. But going back to the days when I was born, and we lived on the farm, we were tenants and we'd moved from one place to another and as Daddy would become a better farmer, he'd become more skilled in doing things and we'd live in better houses. And so, the, the farmers in those days were poor people and so we grew up like that and I thank God for it, because you, you're not exposed to as much of the, the bright lights and the city life that a lot of people are. And, children had a task to do, I had to draw the water for the cows, we didn't have running water; and water for the mules to drink when Daddy would come out of the field from plowing. As soon as I was old enough, I went to plowing too. I knew what it was like to hoe cotton and all of that, and that Edgar Allen Poe that part about the man and the hoe, I could relate to that so much and I love poetry. And I can think about how that he had to grow up on a farm to know these things and then to be able to see so much of nature and to see getting up early on the farm and working late, you see the sunrise and you see the sunset. And you're, you're, it becomes a part of your image to be satisfied with little, and that you don't have to have everything in order to be happy. And then when you find Christ as your Savior, you become a new Christian. I, I rode in the buggy a many of a day to church and then in a surrey a lot of times with Grandpa when they'd be over there and go with them and my great grandmother would talk all the way. That's the only thing I dreaded going to church with them, my grandmother would, my great-grandmother would tell me, "Lawrence, you're old enough to be saved and you ought to join the church and be saved." And she pushed me into that when I wasn't ready and I thought one day for Grandma's sake, I'll honor her and respect her. I'll join the church and be baptized and she won't bother me this way. And, that's what happened, at the age of twelve. And then I was nineteen before I was really converted and born again.
JJ: How did that come about, where were you?
LF: I had rheumatic fever when I was sixteen, when I was playing basketball and my health got to where it was real bad, and then I, I, I was with my mother a lot during that time and because I wasn't able to do as much in the field as I'd been doing. And I, I'd churn for her and do little light things in the house.
LF: And, I'd churn for her and do a little light things in the house. So, then I went to church, she said to me, she said, "We'd, we'd go," and I use this for an excuse, I got under conviction and I knew that I ought to be saved and that my time was slipping away, you see I went ahead and we changed churches when we bought a place and moved into our own home. I'd become involved in the church, they asked me, said, "You're a church member?" And said, "We'd like for you," said, "you got a good personality and a way with children." They said, "How about teaching the, the junior class?" And so I taught the juniors a year and then I went up to the, they went up and they'd wanted to combine the intermediates and juniors together and let me teach both classes, and which I did. And then I was a president of the, they called it the BYPU in those days, Baptist Young People`s Union. And, I was president of that and was just as lost as could be and so I, I'd go to church and sit in the car out there and listen to preaching through the window. They had windows raised then, and no screens. And it was just as plain as being in the car. So I go under conviction and I got burdened about it. Mama was want to sit out there with me because I didn't feel real good, I felt better than I really put on. And, so I knew then well, I'm hindering Mama from church and me too, and I said, "I'm going to go in the church." We was having morning services then and night services and so, I went in and the preacher preached that morning on the prodigal son and how he wondered away from--. He preached it to me and the Lord give to him. So I told the Lord, I said, I just stood it as long as I could and I turned as blind, I couldn't be more see You when I closed my eyes, but then I was just blind, I couldn't see the preacher or nothing before me. And I, I caught a hold of the front of the seat, and I said, "Lord, if you'll show me the way I'll obey." I'd been wanting to be saved outside the church. I didn't want to, if I could be saved outside the church and nobody knew about it, I'd already been baptized and I told the Lord this, I said, "This is what I need now and then I'll have all this ready to go forward." But, I found out that I had to be submissive to be saved his way. And so His way was to make a clean, open commitment and that's what I done that morning. I went down and accepted Christ as my Savior and Lord. And the thing about it was, to back up just a little bit, we were selling produce in Charlotte, to some of the stores then, and I had a big load that I took up there for the family on Monday, I mean on Wednesday and I looked down across down between Matthews and Indian Trail, there was a cow grazing down there in the pasture and it looked just as dull and dim to me as could be. But the Lord caught my eye on that cow grazing there and I didn't know the difference what He had in mind till after I was saved. On Thursday morning when I was saved, I went that morning early to town and I, I got back and so then I was saved that morning and went back Friday morning after I was converted on Thursday; it hadn't rained, nothing had changed at all, it was just a dry week. And I looked down there and there was as much difference in that cow standing there as it was looking at black and white T.V. and looking at it in living color. I've seen God in all of nature. I seen Him with the color and everything and I, I felt that in my heart and I was seeing that from my heart through my eyes instead of my mind. And, and, that great change, I've never doubted it once in the least since then. And--.
JJ: That's an amazing story.
LF: And, and God being my witness, everything I told you is exactly like it was. And I'm so thankful that it happened like that.
JJ: So you've really had a, a physical experience, you really felt the moment you felt changed and knew everything was different?
LF: Right.
JJ: Do you think that's the only way that you're saved?
LF: No, I believe, I believe that some people, that this is a gradual change that comes about and I like it whenever they can know, they can take you to the place, like that song, Tell you the time where the Lord saved me. But I believe that there's some that has lived a good clean life, I had lived a good clean life, I didn't try to be a put on or nothing like that, and I never did do anything that would hurt our family name or that would bring shame on them. And I, I all of that took place and I, I could have been, I think, just saved in a way that wouldn't have been as miraculous as this if it hadn't been for the part that I wasn't going to do it that way. I, I was going to wait and have it my way or not at all. And so God just showed me that the time had come and I was about to sin against the grace of God the last time and I'd never have another opportunity to be saved. And because you can sin against man and you can sin against God and get forgiveness for it, but if you sin against the Holy Spirit, you'll never get forgiveness in this life or the life to come. And so that's reason I think that it took place with me like that. And I, I, I think that there's some that are saved and they'll say that I can't remember the time; it wasn't that vivid with me like it was with you. But I know that I'm a new creature and I think that's the reason the writer put this in the Word, in the scripture that God allowed it to be in there; that, my scripture left me when I started to say. Isn't that strange how, the Devil didn't want me to bring that up, I guess. But--.
JJ: [Laughter] It will come back.
LF: It, there's some that will know, just like I did, and there's others the other way. And when it's like that, well then the, the ones that didn't know before, or this is the part of the scripture that I wanted to give you, that the Holy Spirit comes into us and we become a new creature. And the, we discern things spiritually then and these things when we're truly saved and we know God, that the old life, we, we no longer look through the eye and believe this and see this, but we look from the heart, and we become that new creature and, and we become a witness for Him in a different way then, and, and there's a, a lot of times we'll know this takes place. He said that, "That you'll know that you've passed from death unto life,"-- that's the scripture I was going tell you--, "because you love the brethren." If I'd never seen you before and you'd never seen me before and, and I didn't know whether you was a Christian or not and I'd come in and sit down and talk with you, then in a little bit, our love and compassion spiritually with discern this, that we're children of God, you know, because we love the brethren. We know people that say that I'm a saved person, the Lord saved me and we love that person whether we, we know them or not, we hear them testify. And we may, I've seen him on Dr. Graham's program, when we hadn't seen that person and never seen them any after that maybe. And maybe we'll never see them in this world but they'd give their witness testimony and it would, you could just feel it in your heart that that's wonderful, but that's a person that's a child of God, his, his spirit is bearing witness of my spirit that we're a child of God. And he said that that's one way; and another way is because you love the brethren. And the best way then over, overall is that you know it took place in the individual heart because you know when it happened and how it happened.
JJ: Um-hum.
LF: The old things have passed away. And behold, all things have become new.
JJ: That may be a good place to stop. Thank you that was, that--. [Tape cuts off.]
LF: [Tape resumes.] Last October, the weekend of Halloween, or before Halloween, I went to bed one night and I thought. I started to bed, as I said, as well as a person could be. I didn't have an ache in the world or didn't have a pain in my body. But I'd had a ruptured blood vessel in prostrate gland area and I was bleeding to death and didn't know it. And we had twelve-ounce glass there that my wife puts chemicals and stuff and put it in the commode and let it set then flush it, about once a month. We got iron in our water down there. So she had gone on to bed early and I was up reading some and I, I told her I would be on after a bit, and when I went by the bathroom I noticed a drop of blood on the floor. And I was worried I was afraid it was her, and about that time I found out that I had some on my hand it was from me. I caught two twelve-ounce glasses of thick blood at one time. I called her and it scared her to death. We were both just panicky. At three o'clock we went in there and I said, "Maybe that's all." At three o'clock I went back to the bathroom, there was two more glasses just like it. And I said, "I need to go to the hospital at this hour of the night." I said, " We'll wait until daylight." Neither one of us could sleep we were so depressed and worried. At six o'clock I went back and there was two more and I was swimmy headed and I just couldn't understand it. I was just about to go and come, you know? And so I said, "Call Diane's husband." (Our son-in-law, Kevin's daddy.) I said, "Tell him to come over and take me to the hospital, and call Dr. Charles Feezor and tell him to meet me there." He's my doctor and so, Dr. Feezor was on call and so she said, "Dr. Feezor wants to talk to you." And he said, "Lawrence drink all the water you can drink," and he said, "I think this will stop at the end of the day." I said, "Dr. Feezor," I said, "This is life threatening." I said this is seventy-two ounces of blood and mostly, a little urine but mostly blood and blood clots." He said, "You do what I said and if you get any bit worse you come right on." Well at three o' clock that afternoon it stopped and the water was just as clear as crystal and I thanked God over and over for that. I went into hospital for one-day surgery and stayed eleven. He found the polyp in the bladder that he thought was--. And he said, "You're, I think that's where the bleeding is coming from." Said, "But you had a kidney stopped up. You had a serious problem, would've been up here earlier, if it hadn't have been for this, this is a blessing in disguise I think that this happened." And he said, "You're going to be all right," he said, "but you, you've almost bled to death." I said, "I know that." So they couldn't get the bleeding to stop, it just kept bleeding over and over and I was there and a week later when he said, "We've got to have surgery now and put you on blood transfusions." And he said, "You'll have to take several to get build up." And I said, "Let's got to surgery right now." And he said, "I, I can get the room right now." He said, "I've already talked to them and reserved it if I needed it." And we went down there and the twentieth biopsy that he took off, he found in the prostate gland--. He said, "There's a fountain of blood that opened up then and so he did laser and, and stopped the bleeding. But the part I want to tell you about, I told these nurses, they were so careful and panicky about their gloves and everything and I said I can tell you all something that will ease your conscience a little bit. I said, "My wife and I started in school together in the first grade and when we finished school later that year we got married." I said, "I was a virgin when I got married and she was a virgin." I said, "I've been true to her all these years of my ministry and she's been true to me." I said, " I've never known nobody but that woman, and she's never known nobody but me." And I said, "As far as AIDS--." And one of them said, "Thank God." She said, "I wished everyone we had to deal with could say that." She said, "But it scares us sometimes of what we have to deal with and sometimes a glove can get cut or punctured and at the same time puncture the skin too, you know," and they said, "we have to live through threats and dreads not knowing 'til we find out about that person, how it is." But that's what I just wanted to tell you how good that the Lord has been to us.
JJ: Good, yeah. But you look like you are in such wonderful health.
LF: Well, well I'm a man of work--.