Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2009, 12:00 am

Billy Graham's grandson to share his faith, stories in Moline

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By Claudia Loucks,

Photo: Claudia Loucks / correspondent
The Rev. David Gustafson, pastor at Homewood Evangelical Free Church, Moline, and church member Betty Dahlberg, Moline, look at a poster announcing that Jonathan Lotz, grandson of internationally known evangelist Billy Graham, will speak Feb. 1 at Homewood Evangelical Free Church. Mrs. Dahlberg recalls the mid-1940s when the Rev. Graham spoke at Youth for Christ rallies in the Quad-Cities and the times he gave sermons at First Evangelical Free Church, Moline.
MOLINE – ''Daddy Bill'' is better known to most of us as television evangelist Billy Graham.

Jonathan Lotz, though, prefers the less formal title.

The Rev. Graham is Mr. Lotz' grandfather.

''My granddaddy is a man of deep convictions, humility, compassion for people, and a passion for Jesus,'' Mr. Lotz said. ''He is a true Southern gentleman who loves to talk about Jesus.''

Rev. Graham also is responsible for Mr. Lotz' decision to give his life to Christ 30 years ago after watching a televised crusade.

Mr. Lotz will be the guest speaker at 8:30 and 11 a.m. worship services Sunday at Homewood Evangelical Free Church, 3303 60th St., Moline, where his in-laws, Paul and Jerri Steele, are members. Mr. Lotz is married to their daughter, Claudia.

''My mom is the second daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham,'' Mr. Lotz said. ''She is an internationally acclaimed author and Bible expositor and is the founder and president of AnGeL Ministries, Raleigh, where she travels around the world teaching people how to study the Bible.''

One of her books, titled ''Why: Trusting God When You Don’t Understand,'' is Mr. Lotz's favorite because it's about him and cancer.

His message Sunday will include how his battle with cancer has drawn him into a deeper relationship with Christ.

Based on 2 Kings 4:1-7, his presentation will ''talk about a family’s problem and God’s provision,(s)'' he said, illustrating how God meets us where we are.

''Our sufficiency is found in Jesus Christ to meet all of our needs,'' he said.

His trials, including his cancer battle, made him more Christ-like in the way he thinks, talks and acts, he said.

He was diagnosed with Seminoma cancer and underwent radical surgery to remove tumors in March 1998, followed by six weeks of radiation. Cancer, he said, ''isn’t like having a cold, but it is something associated with pain, sickness and possible death.''

It was something he couldn't overcome by relying on his name, his famous grandfather, his accolades or even his 6-foot-9, 260-pound frame, he said.

Yet, he said, God spoke to him on the morning of his surgery through his morning devotion of Psalms 37: 23-24.

''The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delights in his way,'' the Scripture reads. ''Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down for the Lord upholds him with his hand.''

''I didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to know the Lord was speaking to me that morning,'' Mr. Lotz said. ''He didn’t say I would not have cancer, he said he would carry me through. He is still carrying me through.''

He called cancer a peak and a pit experience in his life.

Experiencing God’s grace in a way he never had before was a peak.

''Maybe the Lord allowed me to have cancer so that I can relate to others who have the disease and I can share the hope that I have in Christ,'' he said.

''The pit experiences are the results of the cancer, which is the pain, losing more than 50 pounds, losing my hair from treatments and losing the ability to have children,'' he said.

Those experiences, though, ''changed the messenger – me -- because now I speak from what I know,'' Mr. Lotz said. ''Before I talked about God’s grace, and that’s just great, but now I can relate to more people. I still have to deal with cancer on a daily basis, but I am also reminded that it is God’s grace that is sufficient -- not was and not will be, but is.''

It also has left him with a passion for preaching, he said.

"Jesus is still transforming my life today,'' Mr. Lotz said. ''God has given me a story that He still is writing on the canvas of my life. I want to share that story and the hope that I have in Christ.''

People also like to hear his stories about what it has been like growing up having Billy Graham as a grandfather.

''We call him ‘Daddy Bill,’ and he lives four hours west of Raleigh, in Montreat, N.C.," Mr. Lotz said. ''He remembers all of our birthdays and calls to check in with us.

''He takes us out to eat and talks with us about life,'' Mr. Lotz said. ''The only difference is, I would see my granddaddy on television, and you may not see your granddaddy on TV.''

Jonathan Lotz Birth date: Jan. 26, 1970

Family: Wife, Claudia Lotz; parents, Danny and Anne Graham Lotz; sisters, Morrow Reitmeier and Rachel-Ruth Wright, all of Raleigh, N.C.

Education: High school in Raleigh; post-graduate degree from Fork Union, Va., Military Academy; bachelor’s degree in sociology and religion from Baylor University.