Billy and Ruth’s marriage was one of calling. But true love came along.

Billy Graham and Ruth Bell's early love story didn't unfold at all the way a romance writer might have penned it. There were no flirtatious winks across the room, no mushy meetings between classes, no plaintive pledges of undying love. They were far more serious about pursuing Jesus than each other.

In some ways, their courtship—and, eventually, their marriage—was an answer to Ruth's prayer as a young girl: that God would let her live out her days as a missionary. She was 12, the daughter of a medical missionary in China, and she pictured herself an old maid, leading Tibetan people to the Lord. The more difficult the mission field, the better.

God answered her prayer, but not by giving her a post in Tibet.

He gave her Billy Graham.

There was nothing flowery or sentimental about their meeting, courtship, or marriage, nothing of a traditional romance. The sacrifices made for love were not made for each other, but for the sake of the call to serve Christ alone.

By the time they met at Wheaton College, Ruth had lived in China all but her last two years of high school. She was cultured, strikingly beautiful, and driven to deep devotions each day before sun-up. She had no interest in the guys who couldn't help but stare at her; dating was out of the question.

Billy noticed Ruth long before she knew anything of him. That fall, Billy wrote to his family back home about the girl who had caught his attention. When a third party finally introduced the two, Billy was so taken by Ruth that he wrote home again, this time saying he'd fallen in love.

Now he only had to work up the courage to ask her out.

But Ruth wasn't interested, that much was apparent. But Billy wasn't dissuaded. With the gift of persuasion …

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