Tears, laughter and deep gratitude to God as Billy Graham is laid to rest

The funeral service of Rev Billy Graham began with a dignified procession in which his coffin, a pine plywood casket made by inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, was brought into the tent in the grounds of his library in Charlotte.

The invitation-only crowd of around 2,000 people included US president Donald Trump and his vice-president Mike Pence.

Members of Billy Graham's family at his funeral today.

Musicians included Linda McCrary-Fisher, Michael W Smith and the Gaither Vocal Band, all friends who sang for Graham at his home in recent years.

Welcoming the congregation, Rev David Bruce read the ringing words from Scripture, 'I know that my Redeemer liveth.' Billy Graham's pastor Rev Donald Wilton spoke of the importance of the Bible to Graham and read Ephesians 2: 4-9, which speaks of the 'God, who is rich in mercy' and made us alive with Christ.

The congregation sang 'All hail the power of Jesus' name'.

Tributes were paid by Graham's family, beginning with his surviving sister, Jean Graham Ford, who spoke of how much she loved her brother. 'I was reminded when I heard my brother died of the hymn we used to sing, heaven came down and filled my soul with glory. One day heaven will come down and take me,' she said.

Billy Graham's eldest daughter, Gigi Graham, quoted a poem written by her mother at age 13, praying for her future husband; 'I'm grateful that God has brought them back together for eternity,' she said.

Anne Graham Lotz said her father had taught her the Bible.

Anne Graham Lotz said her mother had taught her to love the Bible, while her father had taught her to think about it. She recalled how in his later years he would ask her to read from it and give him a 'full, 60-minute message'.

She said Billy Graham's death was 'as significant as his life'. The day of his death, February 21, was the day Jews focus on the death of Moses, she said, and her father, too, was a great liberator. She gave a vivid reading from 1 Corinthians 15.

Ruth Graham gave a moving testimony about her failed marriage and about how her father had welcomed her home.

Rev Ned Graham said his father was 'faithful, available and teachable', and thanked the congregation for their presence.

Rev Sami Dagher, a pastor and church-planter from Lebanon, paid tribute to Billy Graham. He said he was deeply respected in the Middle East and had taught by example, living a holy and blameless life. 'He was dependent completely on God,' he said. 'I do pray that God will bless America for giving the world such a great man.'

Rev Billy Kim from South Korea, a former president of the Baptist World Alliance, said Graham had had an impact on millions of lives. He said he had impacted on his own life, as his wife as a young woman had gone forward at one of his rallies. All of their children had dedicated themselves to serve God at other rallies, and the megachurches of South Korea owed their birth to him.

The Gaither Vocal Band performed at Billy Graham's funeral.

The Gaither Vocal Band sang the old crusade favourite, Because he lives, after which Indian evangelist Rev Robert Cunville prayed in thanksgiving for Billy Graham's life.

The address was given by Graham's son Rev Franklin Graham, founder of Samaritan's Purse and chief executive of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

He spoke of how his parents had loved each other, and of how his mother's death had left 'a big hole' in his father's heart.

'The Billy Graham that the world saw on television, the Billy Graham that the world saw in the big stadiums, was the same Billy Graham we saw at home,' he said. 'All of us children came to see the world and our father in heaven through my father's eyes.'

He recalled his father's voice, 'booming, proclaiming the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ'.

Rev Franklin Graham spoke of his father's legacy and gave a gospel invitation.

He said during the last few years of his life his father had become 'quiet' and that he had said very little at all during the last year: his mind was on heaven, he said, and now he was in the presence of God.

He continued: 'My father believed in heaven, he also believed in hell. Hell is reserved for the wicked for those who refuse to repent of their sins and acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.'

He urged the congregation to trust in Christ for salvation, saying there could be no better time than at Billy Graham's funeral.

The service concluded with the singing of another crusade hymn, To God be the glory and a benediction given by Rev George Battle. A piper in full Highland dress played hymns including Amazing Grace and I will sing the wondrous story.