by Will Graham
The man behind the wheel was an alcoholic. After just six years, his marriage was disintegrating due to his own actions and vices. He was angry and bitter, and he didn’t mind one bit showing his disdain to the people who climbed into his vehicle.
The year was 1959, and Ron Baker was one of many Australian bus drivers who had been hired to transport people to and from my grandfather’s Crusade at the Sydney Showground. This was a massive endeavor, as just shy of one million people attended the outreach over the course of nearly a month.
Night after night he had to put up with his riders singing hymns and worshiping on their way to and from the Crusade. He’d drop them off and sit in his seat stewing until the doors opened and his bus filled again with jovial people who were excited about what God was doing in their city.
One night, Mr. Baker’s wife was taken by a Christian friend to hear my grandfather speak, and she committed her life to Christ!
The following week, Mr. Baker found himself in the same stadium to which he had begrudgingly brought others.
Mr. Baker listened intently as my grandfather shared the hope of Christ. He knew his world was broken, but decided in his own mind that whatever was being discussed that night by the visiting American evangelist wasn’t the answer, at least for him.
The invitation was given, and many began to move forward to begin a relationship with Jesus. (According to statistics, some 56,780 made decisions for Christ during the 1959 Crusade in Sydney). Mr. Baker didn’t move from his seat until he heard Billy Graham proclaim that, “God’s speaking to a man here tonight!”
At that moment, Mr. Baker heard another voice; one saying, “Go!” He relayed later that he felt like everybody else was already down on the field and that he was walking alone, but that this was his first walk with Jesus by his side as he made his way to the area in front of the stage.
God radically transformed Mr. Baker’s life in the days and years following his salvation. He gave up those things that were poisoning his body, mind, and marriage. He went on to further education in Bible College and theological study, and ultimately became ordained.
As I write this, I sit in a hotel room in Fort Wayne, Indiana. This weekend, we will hold a three-day Celebration, during which many will hear the good news of Jesus Christ. As I contemplate this upcoming event, the story of Ron Baker leaves me with three thoughts.
- There are a lot of Ron Bakers out there. You know them. I know them. We pass by them every day; people who are hurting and broken, and probably know it. Their addictions control them, their marriages are dissolving, and their hearts are far from God. In Mr. Baker’s case, he flat-out hated Christians, yet deep down he was searching for hope. Once he found it, it changed his life and eternity.
- As I approach an evangelistic Celebration, I often pray that God would raise up “the next Billy Graham” from the people who come forward at the invitation. I pray for the person who would reach the world with the gospel. Mr. Baker, however, is proof that even if a person doesn’t reach millions, he or she can and does influence others as they passionately share the gospel to those around them. How many people began a relationship with Jesus during my grandfather’s Crusades, and then went on to have incredible ministries and lead others to Christ? We’ll never know, but it’s encouraging to think about the exponential growth of the gospel as broken people surrender their lives to Christ.
- Evangelism is vertical. Mr. Baker and his wife made individual decisions for Christ, reconciled their marriage, and began living for Him. Their children were then raised in a Christian home, and they too went into ministry. Mr. Baker’s grandchildren were raised by godly parents and began relationships with Jesus. Entire generations can – and, I faithfully trust, will – be impacted by decisions made this weekend in Fort Wayne.
Too often, we may be tempted to put God in a corner and limit what we think He can do. We may think that somebody’s hardened heart is too callous to be pierced by the Holy Spirit. We may think that there’s no way our neighbor, our co-worker, or the bus driver for that matter could ever find his hope in Christ or could be used by God to reach others. The story of Ron Baker, however, shows that God can reach and use anybody, and I’m praying the same for you and those you reach out to!
Note: A total of 4,418 people attended the three-day Greater Fort Wayne Celebration with Will Graham, held Oct. 6-8 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. More than 420 people responded to the invitation to begin a relationship with Jesus. The Celebration services were also broadcasted online and viewed more than 46,000 times by people in 62 different countries, with 179 indicating a commitment to Christ.
Will Graham (William Franklin Graham IV) (@tellagraham), grandson of Billy Graham, is an associate evangelist and vice president with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He has proclaimed the gospel across six continents since beginning his evangelistic ministry in 2006. He is also executive director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, N.C.