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World-renowned evangelist Dr. Billy Graham passed away Feb. 21 at the age of 99. The internationally renowned evangelist preached the Gospel to nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories, according to Graham's ministry, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association - through various evangelistic crusades and meetings, including Mission World and Global Mission. Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film, and webcasts.

"In a society that is moving steadily away from Christianity, Dr. Graham saw the importance of being present with a clear Gospel proclamation to reach nonbelievers with the love of Christ," says LHM President and CEO Kurt Buchholz. "The world has lost a great man, but those in heaven are surely rejoicing in the homecoming of this good and faithful servant."

Graham's career was intertwined in many ways with the work of the International Lutheran Laymen's League/Lutheran Hour Ministries. Many years ago, Graham was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), as was his long-time friend Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour from 1955 through 1988. Graham was very supportive not only of Hoffmann but also Dr. Walter A. Maier, The Lutheran Hour's founding Speaker. Graham was keenly aware of The Lutheran Hour through his association with NRB, which was founded by Dr. Eugene "Rudy" Bertermann, a former head of staff for the Int'l LLL and its Lutheran Hour Ministries and an individual deeply involved with Maier and the early years of The Lutheran Hour.

Graham even visited the LLL headquarters during the 1970s to speak to employees and encourage them to continue mightily with broadcasts of The Lutheran Hour (Dr. Graham is shown above meeting with Dr. Hoffmann during his visit).

More recently, when The Lutheran Hour began airing on the more than 100 stations of the Bott Radio Network in 2015, the weekly broadcast inherited the prime slots formerly used by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association on the network's broadcast coverage into 15 states. The Bott Radio Network saw The Lutheran Hour as a shining example of its goal to provide quality Bible teaching with Christian news and information delivered by some of the greatest Bible teachers of today.

"It's been a great privilege for us to be given the Sunday morning time slot that was home to Billy Graham's 'Hour of Decision' for more than 50 years," says Buchholz. "In many ways, the legacy of The Lutheran Hour came full circle. When Walter Maier died, Billy Graham rose to prominence on radio and television and a great respect was developed between him and Dr. Oswald Hoffmann. For the Bott Radio Network to think of us as a respected replacement for Dr. Graham's Sunday program has been a tremendous honor for our flagship broadcast."

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