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Ground broken for Graham repository

Ailing minister lauds purpose of facility

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- With self-deprecating jokes and a heartfelt call to never be ''ashamed of the Gospel," the Rev. Billy Graham helped break ground yesterday on a library and museum aimed at telling his story long after he is gone.

The library, scheduled to open in 2007, is being designed to look like a dairy barn similar to one around which Graham grew up near Charlotte.

''In traveling different places, the Scripture that has deepened in my heart is where the apostle Paul says he is not ashamed of the Gospel," Graham told about 400 people at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's headquarters. ''There's one Gospel and there's one way to God, and that's through Jesus."

Graham, 86, has said his June revival in New York City would be the last, and he gave no indication yesterday that he changed his mind. Graham has prostate cancer and Parkinson's disease, and he used a walker to get to the stage.

He joked about his difficulty hearing and urged supporters at the private ceremony to carry on his life's work of spreading the Christian faith.

The evangelistic association estimates that the $25 million, privately funded library will attract some 200,000 visitors annually. Graham's archives will be kept there, and multimedia exhibits will illustrate Graham's journey from farm boy to the world's most famous evangelist.

The family homestead where Graham grew up will be a short distance from the main exhibit building. The home had been bought in the 1980s by evangelist Jim Bakker and moved to his Heritage USA theme park in Fort Mill, S.C., but it is being relocated to the museum site.

The Rev. Franklin Graham, who succeeded his father as head of the evangelistic association, and other speakers said the museum's goal is not to glorify Billy Graham, but to show how God used him.

''Because he was obedient and said, 'Yes,' God took him out of that dairy barn and literally took him around the world," Franklin Graham said.

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