Remembering Billy Graham, ‘Just as I am’

Guest column

by Elizabeth Folsom

Dr. Billy Graham, it seems almost foreign to me to just refer to him as “Graham,” has been a beacon in my life for as long as I can remember. He always exalted the highest standards of being a Christian, a warrior for the Holy Spirit in spreading the Gospel worldwide to thousands of people of all nations.

It would have been most unusual if I had not heard of Billy Graham or been affected by him in my life. Most of the evangelists I follow, such as Don Wilton, Encouraging Word, and Rick Warren, author of A Purpose-Driven Life, had personal relationships with him. Even my own pastor, Russell Hines, Open Door Baptist Church of Kansas City, Kansas, and his wife were directly affected by one of Billy Graham’s radio broadcasts in their own salvation.

Since 1949 when the newspaper mogul, William Randolph Hearst, first perceived Billy Graham, he informed his staff to “puff Graham.” As controversial a subject as Hearst was throughout his own life, he recognized quality, sincerity and integrity in Billy which only goes to show that, indeed, the Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways.

However, since Billy Graham was forever made popular and respected by anyone who ever met or listened to him by his simple message that God loves us, just as we are, he influenced other Christian leaders determined to help spread the word. These leaders started churches, mission groups and youth groups that continue to affect people and youth to this very day.

Billy Graham traveled the world, met with presidents but was also very humble in his presentation of Jesus that you knew he was talking to himself as well as you during his sermons. His crusades and television presentations and books and rallies showing him with every section of the human race inspired me to be a better person, a better Christian, a lover of humanity as a whole. As a result of his worldwide influence and being coined as “America’s Pastor,” he has been given the honor to reside in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda Feb. 28-March 1.

I remember as a teenager, a reporter friend of my mother’s came back from a conference where Billy Graham attended. “I met with the great man!” he said in awe. “I met Billy Graham.”

I never had that privilege, but I did get to meet his very influential son, Franklin Graham, “CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and of Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization,” quite by chance.

While working with the Wyandotte Daily News several years ago, I covered the ground breaking of the Victory Junction Camp Midwest, a camp for chronically ill children in Wyandotte County (which has been placed on hold for some time). Franklin Graham had driven a motorcycle, along with about 50 to 100 more hearty enthusiasts, across country to this event.

I did not know he was in attendance until I heard him give the benediction for the lunch provided to volunteers. From the first utterance, I recognized his voice because it is so like his father’s, strong and confident, that I knew it had to be him.

I took the opportunity to introduce myself and interview him. I then asked quite flippantly at the end of the interview about the camp, “How’s your Daddy doing?” because Billy Graham had been so much in my mind my entire life, it was like inquiring of a distant relative.

Graham replied, “He was walking across the floor the other day with his walker, turned to me and said, ‘Don’t ever get old!’”

We both had a good laugh.

Tuesday, Feb. 21, when I heard of Billy Graham’s passing, I realized I was not tearful or mournful as people would expect Christians to be. Billy Graham served his life better than any man or woman has ever done to my knowledge. He preached the simple Gospel of Jesus and let people know that “Just as I am” is where everyone of us stands. He has now been graduated to his reward and we celebrate his victory.

As a last thought, Franklin Graham shared on his Twitter page Feb. 22 his father’s advice to all of us who wish to mourn for the passing of this great man who literally changed the world:

“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” –@BillyGraham

There was a reason why the late Billy Graham used the hymnal “Just as I am” at the end of all of his services. His messages were full of the reason that, no matter who we are or what we have done in our lives, God will accept us and cleanse us with Jesus blood. In other words, “just as I am.”

Elizabeth Folsom is a former writer for the Wyandotte Daily and the Wyandotte West.

Colyer says bonuses might be good, but arming teachers is a local district call

by Stephan Bisaha, Kansas News Service

Kansas schools already have the freedom to arm their teachers. Gov. Jeff Colyer says now bonuses for teachers who pack weapons might be in order.

Yet the governor also said that local school districts should make the call, embracing those options that they think make the most sense to prevent school shootings.

“It’s not just a gun control issue,” Colyer said at an event in Washington, D.C., last week. “It’s not just a mental health issue. It’s not just the building itself. This is a multi-point situation.”

His comments came in the wake of the school shooting that left 17 dead in Parkland, Fla., early this month — and the debates that have followed.

In an interview with NPR on Monday, Colyer appeared to back legislation pending in Topeka that would lower the age for the concealed carry of a firearm to 18, down from 21.

“If you’re old enough to serve in the U.S. military,” he told NPR’s Ari Shapiro, “then I think having that Second Amendment right should not be denied to you.”

President Donald Trump has, for the moment, seemed to give a little on his hard-line stance against gun control.

He’s said his administration may unilaterally outlaw bump stocks that can make a semi-automatic rifle fire multiple rounds of ammunition almost like a fully automatic weapon. And Trump has suggested he may side against the National Rifle Association in raising the legal age for purchasing a rifle to 21, from the current level of 18.

The president has also talked about the possibility of arming teachers and other school workers to discourage, or more quickly subdue, potential school shooters.

Colyer said that bonuses for armed teachers might be a good idea for local districts to consider. School districts in Kansas already have the authority to arm their school faculties.

“This is not something that we have championed as a universally good idea,” said Mark Tallman, the associate executive director for advocacy and communications for the Kansas Association of School Boards. “We have recognized that the law allows it,” he said.

But districts have balked, in part because the companies that provide them liability insurance see too much risk.

EMC Insurance Companies covers most districts in the state. It has said that arming employees creates a “heightened liability.”

“One of the underwriting guidelines we follow for schools is that any onsite armed security should be provided by uniformed, qualified law enforcement officers,” the company said in an emailed statement.

The carrier said it won’t cover school districts where “non-security personnel” are allowed handguns.

“There certainly are issues of liability that I know our staff would encourage school districts to be very careful about,” said Tallman.

KASB has not heard of any school districts allowing its employees to be armed.

Stephan Bisaha, based at KMUW in Wichita, is an education reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.

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Sporting KC signs Melia, Opara and Salloi to new contracts

Tim Melia

Ike Opara

Daniel Salloi

Sporting Kansas City announced Tuesday that the club has signed goalkeeper Tim Melia, defender Ike Opara and forward Daniel Salloi to new contracts.

Melia has signed a three-year deal through 2020, Opara has signed a two-year deal through 2019 with an option for 2020, and Salloi has signed a two-year deal with options for 2020 and 2021.

All three players enjoyed successful campaigns in 2017 as Sporting KC lifted the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and advanced to the MLS Cup Playoffs for a club-record seventh straight year. Melia and Opara were named the best MLS players at their positions last November, while Salloi scored six goals in his first full season with the club.

Melia, 31, received 2017 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and MLS Best XI honors after a brilliant third season at Sporting KC. Among goalkeepers with at least 15 regular season appearances, he led MLS with a 0.78 goals against average, 78.4 save percentage, 69.2-percent passing accuracy and three penalty kick saves. He also started all five matches en route to Sporting KC’s U.S. Open Cup title, posting a 0.72 goals against average with 13 clean sheets across all competitions.

A native of Great River, New York, Melia has played 94 games for Sporting KC since joining the side in 2015. The nine-year MLS veteran ranks third in MLS history with a 1.12 career goals against average among goalkeepers with at least 5,000 minutes played, while his 72.2 save percentage is sixth-best in MLS history among keepers with at least 200 saves.

Opara, 29, earned 2017 MLS Defender of the Year accolades in his fifth season with Sporting KC. The center back spearheaded a dominant defense that conceded just 29 goals throughout the regular season, eight fewer than any other team, and set MLS career-highs in starts (30) and minutes played (2,700) while scoring four goals in all competitions. In addition to being named the League’s best defender, Opara landed MLS Best XI honors for the first time in his nine-year professional career.

Since joining Sporting KC ahead of the 2013 campaign, Opara has started 84 of 100 appearances in all competitions, tallying 12 goals and three assists. The Durham, North Carolina, native made his debut for the U.S. Men’s National Team last month, playing 90 minutes as the Americans shut out Bosnia and Herzegovina in a friendly on Jan. 28.

Salloi, 21, finished last season with six goals in 27 matches. The forward scored three times in the MLS regular season and added three more goals in Sporting KC’s run to the U.S. Open Cup title, including the game-winning strike in the final against the New York Red Bulls. On the international stage, Salloi featured twice for the Hungary U-21 Men’s National Team in UEFA European U-21 Championship Qualifying last November, providing a goal and an assist in a 2-0 win over Cyprus.

Raised in Budapest, Hungary, Salloi signed for Sporting KC as a homegrown player in January 2016 after two standout seasons with the Sporting KC Academy. He spent the 2016 campaign on loan with the Swope Park Rangers – where he tallied four goals and three assists – as well as Hungarian club Gyirmot SE.

Sporting Kansas City kicks off the 2018 MLS regular season on Sunday, as host of New York City FC in a nationally televised clash on FS1. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas, and tickets are available via or by calling 888-4KC-GOAL.

– Story from Sporting KC