The Cove: A Place of Inspiration and Peace
Recently my husband and I visited The Cove, the place where Rev. Billy Graham began his ministry and dedication to the Lord which led to the development of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. If you don’t know the area, you may miss the entrance as it is tucked away underneath I-40 near the town of Black Mountain, NC. We made a few wrong turns and backtracked before we were able to find the way, but once there, the magnificent surroundings, winding roads and immaculate grounds took our breath away. A security guard at the entrance gate gave us directions and we began an amazing journey. Concealed among a wonderful wooded area, we came upon a lovely chapel where a guide was waiting with a group to start a tour. The group, who were from Michigan, greeted us and then the tour guide gave us some interesting facts about the architecture of the church and the tall steeple. Mrs. Graham had wanted the steeple tall enough so that travelers on the road below could see it as they passed. The architects were able to do that and her request was fulfilled. Now, however, the trees that were once small had grown taller and blocked the view from the road. Once inside we ascended stairs and arrived at the telecommunications room filled with chairs and desks, phones, communications equipment and written information about the history of The Cove and of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Once downstairs again we approached the chapel entrance from the outside of the building, through large double doors and stood in the hallway just before entering the chapel itself. Two sets of winding stairs flanked the entrance and would later take us up to the prayer room. We stepped under a large replica of the painting and entered a rather austere room filled with long wooden pews with attached kneeling benches. At the head of the room was a massive old English pulpit, complete with steps up to the top of the podium and to the left of it was a grand piano. In front of the pulpit was a alter table hand carved to match the huge podium and two large chairs, also with the same design. Long grand but simple windows gave us a view of the mountains and countryside. We were invited by our chapel guide to file in the first few rows of pews and she began to give us a delightful and interesting history of the very place where we were sitting. The pews had come from England and were found in a barn at the site of a school for blind children. There were worn places on the rails on the backs of each pew that were probably the result of children’s hands feeling them to guide their way up and out of the pews. I ran my hands along the smooth wood and imagined how many precious children had heard the gospel there on those simple but elegant seats! We were told that for months before those pews were located, prayer went up daily for a certain number of pews and pews with a certain length that would fit in the chapel. When they were located, there were exactly the number of pews they had been praying for and they were exactly the right length needed!
We were told a story of the piano in front of us and how it was “bought for a song.” Rev. Billy Graham and his wife, Mrs. Ruth Graham had gone to see a piano that a lady in another town had offered for sale. When they arrived and discussed the price of the piano, Mrs. Ruth remarked how lovely it was but decided that the piano was too expensive for her rather strict budget and they started to leave. However, they had brought with them a friend who went over to the piano and sat down. He played a song, sang and then got up to leave with the Grahams. The lady who owned the piano was astonished and gave the piano to The Cove. The friend was George Beverly Shea, a long time friend, musician and minister! So the Graham’s acquired the piano literally “for a song.” We were invited to play the piano and I did. As I played, “Jesus Loves Me” I had a feeling that many masters’ hands had touched those keys and that the presence of The Master, Himself, was there.
No certain group or congregation attends regular scheduled services in the chapel because Mrs. Graham, who really was responsible for designing this room, wanted it to be open at all times for any worshipers who wish to stop in.
We were then taken up one of the stairways to the very top of the chapel to see the Prayer Room. In the center of the room was a massive round prayer table with kneeling and leaning pads. Mrs. Ruth had remarked, when the room was first furnished with the table, that she needed the padding on the knee bench but asked “what will I do about my sharp elbows?” It was then that the elbow pads had been added. Mrs. Graham had spent many hours in prayer here and it was my privilege to pray where she prayed. We were invited to leave written prayer requests on the table as well. We were told that the chapel staff would pray over them daily during their prayer time.
Once downstairs again we were ushered into a large room filled with memorabilia and photos from the Grahams home life and their work in the ministry. Rev. Graham’s “traveling pulpit” was there. He actually took his pulpit with him when he preached in the crusades! Under glass was the Bible he used, and sermon notes. I remembered as a child seeing this larger-than-life preacher pound on that very pulpit as he told the Gospel story. I had been mesmerized then as I still am today when I hear recordings of his sermons.
On our way out of the property we drove past the huge Conference Center where many conferences are held throughout the year. One day I want to return to participate in one and spend more time in this inspirational setting.
This is a great day trip for any believer or for anyone who is seeking peace and quiet rest among God’s handiwork in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.