1966 Graham convert hosts My Hope event
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (BP) -- "[Billy Graham] said, 'I believe this whole thing was for one person, and that just made me hop out of that chair and then I almost ran down there."
Lyster McMillan, who hosted a My Hope America with Billy Graham outreach at his home in November, recounted the moment he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior at a 1966 Billy Graham Crusade in Greenville, S.C., at age 38. His repentance shocked his wife Rachel, who had no idea her husband who served as a church deacon was lost.
"It was rather a shock to me to know that my wonderful husband was really needing salvation," she told Baptist Press. "We were at a church of a different denomination at that time, but that prompted us to leave that church because my husband wanted so much to be ... in a church where people were given an opportunity to come to the Lord, and that was not done in the church that we were in. There [were] no invitations given. And there are still churches that way today."
Today, he is 85, legally blind from macular degeneration, suffers from painful interstitial cystitis and has a pacemaker. She is 82 with back pain. But circumstance didn't stop the couple from hosting a My Hope viewing of Graham's message "The Cross" in their home, welcoming 15 neighbors.
"It's been a longing in my heart to reach the people and when you're old and you're busy ... you don't take time to do things," Rachel McMillan said. "I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to be able to ... try to reach out. I just wanted to touch the neighbors to learn about them and know who they were."
Lyster McMillan gave his testimony and issued an invitation to Christian discipleship, as did Graham at the end of his message. Seeds were planted, the couple said, as many bowed their heads and prayed. But the couple said they are not sure whether there were any professions of faith.
"The powerful prayer for salvation at the end of Dr. Graham's message was wonderful," she said. "As I prayed it again in my own heart, I prayed that our guests did the same. No commitments were voiced, but good comments were made."
She describes their neighborhood as modern, "where so many are respectable but not churched."
"Some of our closest neighbors are true Christians and a joy to our lives. They came to My Hope and supported us in prayer," she said. "I'm told we have about 200 homes in our subdivision, a true field ripe for harvest, like most of all America."
She gives God credit for stirring her heart to host the event, and expresses appreciation for her husband's testimony.
"I knew he had a wonderful testimony of having been a righteous, upright man that was lost," she said of her husband. "One thing he seemed to forget when he was giving his testimony was that Billy Graham in the invitation at the crusade in Greenville said, 'Are you sure your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life.' That's one thing I added when he was finished with his testimony because he seemed to have forgotten to say that. And I think that was the words from the Scripture that brought him forward. Of course, I would not want to add to his testimony. It's his testimony."
The McMillans' newfound knowledge of salvation in 1966 drew them to a church where the Word is preached and salvation extended.
"And we saw how needful it was because of his own lost condition in coming to the Lord, cause he had been a deacon in that church and done all kinds of service and yet he had never really known that his name was written in the Lamb's Book of Life until Billy Graham said that and he went forward.
"That's what prompted us to come to a church like First Baptist Spartanburg that cares about people and brings them to the Lord through the Word."
The two still attend First Baptist Spartanburg.
She describes her husband today as "a Godly man and surely knows his Word." They remain hopeful that salvations will come from the outreach they hosted.
"The opportunity was there," she said. "We pray each day that the enemy will not snatch away the Good Seed."
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' staff writer. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).