Televised Crusades Impact Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Volunteer
Susanna Smith was 12 years old when she saw Billy Graham on TV. No one else was in the room when she heard him say, "Jesus loves you." That got her attention.
"I turned around and he said, 'Yeah, you.'"
Susanna wrote to BGEA to get her first Bible that year. She tried to read it, but said she didn't understand it and put it away. She had committed her life to Christ, she said, but didn't start following Him until later.
Susanna's mom worked long hours then, and Susanna would often fight with her brother. She sometimes stayed away from home for hours, sleeping at neighbors' houses or in empty restaurants.
Later, in her 20s, she was invited to another brother's baptism. It was there that she was convicted about her own life.
"It was like God was saying, 'You said you loved me, but you're not living for me,'" she said.
She began attending her brother's church and said, "The Lord started getting to me." She went to his Bible study, but wouldn't admit that she was changing on the inside.
"I kept holding onto the old me," she said.
Finally, in 1987, in her mid-20s, she rededicated her life to Christ. This time, it was Susanna getting baptized.
Twenty-five years later - last year - Susanna was again watching a classic Billy Graham Crusade on TV. That's where she heard about Search for Jesus (SFJ), BGEA's Internet evangelism ministry. She called about it, applied to volunteer and received training as an e-counselor.
"I think all the stuff I went through was the Lord grooming me to be sensitive to others' needs," she said.
As an e-counselor, Susanna chats with people around the world in real time as they browse PeaceWithGod.net, a BGEA website that presents the Gospel and gives online visitors a chance to ask spiritual questions.
"I volunteer because I believe in giving hope," she said.
Susanna retired last year from the University of Illinois as an information supervisor. She retired to care for her mother who recently passed away, and recalls a letter her mother left before her death. In it, she told Susanna to keep telling people about Jesus. SFJ has given her that opportunity, and now she's helping spread the same Gospel she sees Mr. Graham preach on TV.
So many people come to PeaceWithGod.net feeling abandoned, "like God slipped out of their lives," Susanna said.
"A lot of them come with heavy hearts, and when you show them compassion and point to the Bible ... they bounce back. They feel rejuvenated."
One woman dealing with a lot of guilt chatted with Susanna online. The woman often woke up thinking about God, but throughout the day felt like she was growing further apart from Him. Susanna suggested reading her Bible and finding support in a church to help her grow in her faith and knowledge of God. She prayed for the woman, and said like so many people online, the woman felt better afterwards.
"It's not what you've done, but what the Lord's doing," Susanna said about volunteering.
Susanna's husband, Rich, supports her ministry through SFJ. He walks the dog, answers the phone or brings his wife a glass of water while she chats online. He thought most online visitors would ask Susanna how to have salvation, but has found that it's much more than that. People have all kinds of questions, he said, and although the conversations can take a lot of energy and attention, he sees how his wife is helping people around the globe - from their own home.
Now Rich is considering volunteering with SFJ, too.
You have a chance to get involved with Search for Jesus! Click here to find out how. Note that some individual volunteer opportunities are currently closed as we process and train other applicants. Leave your information so the Search for Jesus team can contact you when those opportunities reopen.