At a time when people across the nation mourn the death of evangelist Billy Graham, an Alexandria man says he is rejoicing despite his sadness.
Bill Loge, who worked for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for more than 14 years, said that while he was not part of the inner circle, his work for the organization gave him a good look at the depth of support for Graham as well as a half-dozen conversations with the famous evangelist.
At one encounter, he said, Graham had just returned from a long crusade, and they talked about coming home after traveling.
"It is always nice to come home!" Graham told him, Loge recalled.
News of Graham's death on Feb. 21 brought him tears of sorrow, Loge said.
"This loss is followed by joy that this servant of Christ, Billy Graham, has 'gone home' to our precious Lord!" he said.
Graham's body will lie in honor Wednesday, Feb. 28, in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. Throughout his many decades of leading crusades, he spoke to more than 215 million people at live events in more than 185 countries and territories, his organization says.
Farms, high-rises and nursing homes
Loge and his wife, Jean, moved to Alexandria in 2017 from Otter Tail County, and spoke to the Echo Press from their winter home in Arizona. They attend Grace Church in Alexandria.
Loge said he first encountered Graham in 1961, when his parents brought him to a crusade on the grounds of the Minnesota State Fair. Decades later, Loge worked for the ministry visiting donors as regional manager for Minnesota and several other Midwestern states.
His travels took him to farms, to high-rise apartment buildings and to nursing homes. Everywhere, it seemed, there was someone who had been touched by Graham's ministry and wanted to contribute, whether it was $25 or a lifetime collection of gold Krugerrand coins from South Africa, as one woman did in Iowa.
Ron Simers, director of Planned Giving with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, recalled flying with Loge into a small-town airport in northern Montana. The airport was so low-key that their rental car was waiting for them, unlocked, with the key in the visor.
They were there to discuss tax implications with someone who wanted to make a significant gift to the ministry, Simers said.
"We had people from all walks of life," he said.
Once, a dentist turned his whole business over to the association after he died. As it did with the Krugerrand coins, the organization liquidated the businesses and used the proceeds to fund its work, Loge said.
Working so closely with money, Loge said, he was impressed with the stewardship the association displayed. It used internal and external audits, and accounted for every dollar.
"Financial integrity was always extremely strong and people sensed that," he said. "Everything was done with honesty, integrity and openness. There was nothing under the table."
At one event, a donor provided a fleet of Lincoln vehicles to ferry the group around.
"Billy sent them all back," Loge said. The message, Loge said, was, "'I don't want Lincolns; that's not the image we want to send.' So we got minivans."
Continuing to serve
Now his and Jean's granddaughter, Julianne Johnson, a registered nurse, works with one of the Graham organizations-Samaritan's Purse, led by Graham's son Franklin Graham. When Iraqi fighters fought with ISIS fighters for the Iraqi city of Mosul last year, eventually chasing ISIS out, she arrived with Samaritan's Purse to work in a portable hospital. They tended wounded from both sides, he said.
It is satisfying, he said, that part of his family is still involved in the Graham's family work.
Above all, Loge said, was Billy Graham's "love and commitment to the gospel of Jesus."
"Without that, one could not understand him," he said.