Kathie Lee Gifford shares how Billy Graham helped bring her to God

Kathie Lee Gifford says her Christian critics have expressed doubts on how she could maintain her Christianity in Hollywood.(Facebook/Kathie Lee Gifford)

American TV host and actress Kathie Lee Gifford can never forget the day she accepted Jesus Christ into her life.

It all started when she first heard legendary American evangelist Billy Graham talk about his faith.

"For most of my childhood, my family honoured God in a general sense but didn't know him personally. We were culturally Jewish on my father's side and culturally Christian on my mother's side. But our faith—and indeed everything about our lives—began to change one night when I was 12," she shared with Christianity Daily.

She came home one day to find herself crying in front of the television. When she looked at the screen, she saw Graham during one of his crusades. Both her mother and sister came to Christ that evening.

Kathie's conversion did not happen until months later.

When the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association released its first movie "The Restless Ones" in theatres, Kathie watched it with her brother.

"It is about a girl at the cusp of making big decisions in her life. She asks herself whether she'll follow the way of faith or the way of the world," she shares. "I went to see it at a small theatre in our town, Annapolis, Maryland. As I watched, I heard a voice speak to me directly. Although it wasn't audible, I sensed God saying deep in my spirit, 'Kathie, I love you. If you'll trust me, I'll make something beautiful out of your life.'"

After the movie, someone in the theatre invited people who would like to make a "step of faith" to come forward. Without hesitation, Kathie stood up and asked Jesus into her heart.

"At that age, all I wanted was to become an actress and a singer. The Lord met me in a movie theatre, in the very world I dreamed of being a part of. From that point on, God was with me at every twist and turn, every decision," she says.

Kathie eventually made her way to Hollywood. However, it was not easy being a Christian in tinseltown. "We were chastised far more by Christians than by anybody else back then," she recalls. "They'd ask, 'How can you say you're a Christian and be in Hollywood?' I'd always respond, 'How could I be in Hollywood and not be a Christian?'"

She says she never felt "pressured" to downplay her faith in Christianity all the while she was in the entertainment industry.

She admitted though that she struggled with several mistakes. "The story of my life—and I dare say any Christian's life—is not the story of my faithfulness to God but of His faithfulness to me," she said.

Back in the 1990s, Kathie was accused of exploiting sweatshop workers. Worse, she found out that her husband Frank, who was an NFL star and commentator, was cheating on her.

"When I was accused of awful things, and when the news came out that my husband had been unfaithful to me, the first phone call always came from Billy Graham, who had become our friend," she shares.

"Decades after I saw Billy on TV and the movie screen, he continued to share the same gospel of hope with us directly: God loves you. God died for you. God has a plan for your life. And God is coming back to take you to glory. In a world where trends, people, fads, and politics change, the Word of God never changes. God himself never does. And Billy's message never did."

Throughout her career, Kathie has been tempted several times to lose heart and give up on life, but every time she feels like she is at the lowest point of her life, she would always try and recall Graham's teachings.

"The Devil would have us give up. The Devil would have us stop sharing the Word. He would have us stop giving hope to the hopeless. And we can't fall for that," she said.