The familiar voice of the late Billy Graham echoes through the Bradley Square Mall in Cleveland, Tennessee. Tucked inside a corner between JCPenney and Belk, a new exhibit tells the story of the globally recognized evangelist, who is estimated to have preached to over 77 million people throughout his lifetime.
On loan from the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., the self-guided exhibit, "Billy Graham: Pilgrim Preacher," not only honors his life and legacy, but serves as an introduction to Cleveland's budding Trek Thru Truth children's museum, which is hosting the exhibit.
"We felt after reading about Billy Graham's mission, he was really about engaging families with the Bible," says Douglas Caywood, president of the Trek Thru Truth board of directors. "The home and the family really affect how our children learn about the Bible."
Set to break ground in 2020, Trek Thru Truth seeks to interweave these two factions, Caywood explains. The museum will feature 52 interactive exhibits correlating with various parables from the Bible. To help bring them to life, Caywood wants to invent ways for children to experience things like walking through the parted Red Sea, the strength of Samson and climbing a sycamore tree like Zacchaeus.
For an exhibit about Noah's Ark, for example, he's envisioning a petting zoo, and for an exhibit about David and Goliath, children could try on heavy armor. The site will also include escape rooms and theaters, Caywood says.
If you go
The “Billy Graham: Pilgrim Preacher” exhibit will be on display through March 29. To learn more and stay up to date on Trek Thru Truth’s progress toward a permanent location, visit trekthrutruth.com.
His idea for Trek Thru Truth came from watching one of his young sons excitedly engage with the exhibits at the Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga. Inspired, he began to search for a museum that tells stories from the Bible in interactive ways. He couldn't find one, so Caywood — an architect with Lewis Group Architects and a Sunday school teacher — decided to make one.
There's a long way to go, he says, but in the meantime, families can become more acquainted with Graham, whose life will be on display through March. The exhibit features a collection of his personal items, like his Bible, his first and last pulpits, the passport he used to travel the world during his crusades, and the suit he wore for his final sermon.
"Phase one is opening here [with the exhibit on Graham] so we can have a presence," Caywood says. " Our mission is engaging children in interactive exhibits and art and musical drama, so we thought what better way than to use a preacher who had seven decades of ministry and is internationally known for how he did that ministry in his life?"