CHARLOTTE, NC (WCSC) - Mourners gathered to pay their final respects to the Rev. Billy Graham at a funeral that marked the culmination of more than a week of tributes to "America's Pastor."
The funeral for the evangelist became a worship service. Those in the crowd of thousands to attend said that's the way Graham would have wanted it.
The funeral for the evangelist became a worship service. Those in the crowd of thousands to attend say that's the way Reverend Billy Graham would have wanted it.
"Two words. The Bible. It governed the way he lived and it governed the way he died," Spartanburg Pastor Donald Wilton said as the funeral opened.
The service included performances by musicians who shared the stage with Graham at his crusades.
"The message was his life," Christian music artist Steven Curtis Chapman said. "It was the gospel. It was the love of God that he was trying to share."
The Rev. Franklin Graham delivered the main funeral address for his father after personal messages from Billy Graham's sister, Jean Ford, his three daughters, Virginia "Gigi" Graham, Anne Graham Lotz, and Ruth Graham; and his younger son, Nelson "Ned" Graham.
"On February twenty-first, heaven came down," Ford said. "They took my brother from me."
Lotz said that she believes God is sending a message by bringing Graham to Heaven.
"I believe God is saying: 'Wake up church! Wake up world!'" she said.
Billy Graham preached about heaven, wrote a book about heaven and is now "in heaven," Franklin Graham, said.
"His journey is complete," he said. "Daddy, I won't see you on this earth again. But I'll see you again. I'll see you maybe soon"
He said the famous evangelist was the same at home as he appeared to millions around the world.
"The Billy Graham that the world saw on television, the Billy Graham that the world saw in the big stadium was the same Billy Graham that we saw at home," Franklin Graham said. "There weren't two Billy Grahams."
He said his father has now gone on the journey that he'd been "looking forward to all of his life."
The tent served as a reminder of how Mr. Graham's ministry launched under "The Canvas Cathedral"—a white canvas tent during a 1949 Crusade in downtown Los Angeles, where 350,000 people heard him share the Gospel over a period of eight weeks.
More than 2,300 people were expected to attend the funeral, including President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen. Dignitaries from more than 50 countries also were expected to attend.
Trump eulogized Graham earlier this week during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, where Graham's body lay in honor in the Rotunda.
Trump, speaking earlier this week, called Graham "an ambassador for Christ who reminded the world of the power of prayer and the gift of God's grace."
Air Force One landed in Charlotte shortly before 11:15 a.m.
The funeral planning began a decade ago with Billy Graham himself and grew into his family's desire to capture the feeling of the crusades that made the world's best-known Protestant preacher of his era.
"It was Mr. Graham's explicit intent that his funeral service reflect and reinforce the Gospel message he preached for more than 60 years," said Mark DeMoss, spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Graham died at his home at 7:46 a.m. in Montreat on Feb. 21. According to his doctor, Graham "just wore out," passing peacefully in his sleep.
He will be buried beside his wife of more than 63 years, Ruth, who died in 2007.