"" Writer's Wanderings: The Billy Graham Center Museum--Wheaton, IL

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Billy Graham Center Museum--Wheaton, IL

The Billy Graham Center Museum is on the beautiful campus of Wheaton College and in all the years that I have attended the Write To Publish conference, I never stopped in. Today I made time to go through it. It is quite impressive.
In the outer area where you first enter, they have a temporary art exhibit that changes from time to time. Today it was full of vibrant paintings from a Chinese artist, He Qi. Each piece illustrated something or someone from scripture and was a Picasso-like rendering.

From the exhibit area, you enter the Rotunda of Witnesses. Tapestries grace the walls of this room depicting the Apostle Paul, Justin Martyr, Gregory the Great, St. Francis of Assisi, John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, Blaise Pascal, Jonathan Edwards, Pandita Ramabai, and Oswald Chambers.

Next is a small seating area where you can stop and watch a seven minute video of the history of evangelism in America which highlights the two great awakenings. From there, the visitor strolls through chronological displays and artifacts depicting evangelistic history in America.

A couple of interesting tidbits I noted: Camp meetings started in the 18 century as a result of people settling the American frontier. They didn't live close enough to justify church buildings so periodically they would travel to a central location, often days away, to camp out and worship together. And there was a former slave, a black woman named Sojourner Truth who became a well-known traveling preacher in 1843. In 1854, at the Ohio Woman's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, she gave her most famous speech -- with the legendary phrase, "Ain't I a Woman?"

Another rotunda is next called The Good News of the Gospel. In the center there is a large glass cross with the figure of Christ engraved inside the glass. Around it are scripture verses offering the plan of salvation. Once you have passed through this rotunda, you enter the Life and History of Billy Graham starting with his birth November 7, 1918. Several artifacts are displayed as well as gifts from famous people. His Wheaton connection is as a student of anthropology. In 1943, he pastored his first church for $45/week--a bargain according to his congregation.

There are several videos and interactive displays where you can learn more about evangelism and hear some of Graham's more famous crusades. Ever the recruiter, there is a section to make you consider your role in spreading the gospel.

The end of the tour (just before the Museum Shop) is a Walk Through the Gospel. It is as though you are walking through a life-sized diorama. The floor inclines as you walk a narrow passage with a wooden cross at the end of it. The walls become black as you walk through the tomb area then into a bright mirrored and muraled room that makes you feel as though you stepped up into the clouds. It's impressively done.

It is worth a stop if you have ever heard Billy Graham speak and/or are interested in the historical aspect of evangelism or just might be curious about the Gospel. There is no fee but there is a suggested donation of $4 for adults. As I reached into my purse, the attendant kept insisting I didn't need to pay. As I told her, I've paid a lot more in some places of the world to see a lot less.

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