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Kathie Lee Gifford: Inspired by Rev. Billy Graham

The TODAY show co-host opens up about how Graham led her family to Christ and helped her work through marital unfaithfulness

Faith isn't a topic that comes up every day on Kathie Lee and Hoda's segment of the TODAY show, but last week, Kathie Lee Gifford gave a tribute to the Rev. Billy Graham. His evangelistic crusades changed her family's eternity and hers, as she answered an altar call in a movie theater following the Billy Graham Evangelical Association's production of The Restless Ones as a teen in 1965. Last week, she exposed her personal struggles and faith life to hundreds of thousands of viewers as part of TODAY's week-long #InspiredBy series in which anchors shared their inspirations.

"I've never met in my life a more powerful man who is as humble as Billy is," Kathie Lee said.

Kathie Lee opened up last week about how Graham (the founder of Christianity Today) deeply impacted her faith life, and brought her mother and sister to Christ during one of his television crusades in the 1950s. She recalls coming home to her mother and sister sobbing in front of the television at the age of 12:

"I thought maybe the president had been killed or something terrible had happened . . . it turns out that no, they had both just watched a Billy Graham crusade, and both of them had come to faith by watching the power of his message through a television screen."

A few weeks after that, Kathie Lee came to faith in a similar fashion to her sister and mother. She recounted her response to an altar call at the conclusion of a showing of The Restless Ones in a theater in 1965:

"I felt that I heard God (speak) to me, and not audibly. It wasn't a weird thing. It was a magnificently sweet and simple thing. 'I love you, Kathie, and if you'll trust me with your life, I will make something beautiful out of it,'" Kathie Lee says. "They gave like an altar call in the movie theater and said, 'Whoever would like to come forward and make this step of faith,' and I could not get out of my seat fast enough . . . I flat-out believed the whole thing. I've never stopped believing it. Greatest decision I ever made in my life. My entire family came to faith through Billy for eternity."

Kathie Lee spent part of Billy Graham's 95th birthday with him on November 7th, thankful for the positive influence he has had in her life and marriage, including counsel when she and husband Frank's marriage was experiencing a rough patch.

"When my husband was unfaithful to me, and it was a terrible time, you know who Billy called first? Frank. He called Frank first," Kathie Lee says. "Then I got on the line. He wanted to talk to both of us. He knew that healing had to be from both of us."

Kathie Lee and Frank are still married, and Kathie Lee is continually thankful for Billy Graham's influence in her life.

"The day that the Lord finally calls Billy home, I will be overwhelmed with sadness that my friend is physically gone, and I will be overjoyed with love for him and gratitude that he's in heaven and his struggle will be over, and the Lord will say to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.' Thank you, Billy, and I love you.'"

Watch a video of the #InspiredBy segment on NBC's website.

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Allison J. Althoff

Allison J. Althoff is Today's Christian Woman's online editor. Follow her on Twitter @ajalthoff.

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