I’ve watched Cliff Barrows leading the Billy Graham crusade choirs for years, even when I was a child watching crusade telecasts with my parents on our little black and white set in Elizabethton.
Later when I as a sophomore at Columbia Bible College, Cliff came to our campus, preached for several days, and talked with me about going into the ministry. In the mid-1970s, I worked in several of the Crusades and watched him close up. He had a rich, warm smile in his voice, and even amid the pressures of leading 100,000 people in song, I never saw him ruffled or tense. He’s possibly the friendliest man I’ve ever met.
Recently I had a pleasant reunion over lunch with Cliff and his wife, Ann. He is 85 and suffers a number of aliments including one that limits his vision. He walks with a cane and needs some help getting around. But his voice still has that friendly lilt that makes is so effective. His mind is as sharp as his heart is warm.
I asked him if, in all these years, he had ever battled discouragement. He thought a moment, then said, “Rob, I never recall a despondent day.”
“How can that be?” I asked in amazement.
Cliff smiled and testified with earnestness, “The joy of the Lord is the strength of my life.” Then he quoted by memory the words of an old Bonar Hymn, which begins: “Fill Thou my life, O Lord my God, / In every part with praise, / That my whole being may proclaim / Thy being and Thy ways.”
The poem ends: “So shall each fear, each fret, each care / Be turned into a song, / And every winding of the way / The echo shall prolong; / So shall no part of day or night / From sacredness be free; / But all my life, in every step / Be fellowship with Thee.”