When Ted Met Billy
By Bill MacLeod, Executive Director
As we celebrate the 4th of July and the liberties we enjoy as a country, we can be grateful for the freedom we have to hear, respond, and proclaim the good news of Jesus here and abroad.
In December 1952, Ted was a 21-year-old soldier on the front lines of the Korean War. Billy Graham was a 34-year-old evangelist on an eleven-day visit to Korea, and this was the only time he would be speaking to Marines on the front lines. While he had been raised in a Christian home, it was not until he faced life and death decisions that Ted gave his life to Christ at the invitation two days before Christmas there on the front lines in Korea. From that day forward everything changed.
After the war Ted married Peggy and landed a job with the Mobil Oil Corporation. He was successful in business and was promoted to positions of greater responsibility climbing the corporate ladder but also sharing about the Lord with his friends, business associates and people he met.
As their family grew so did their involvement in their local church in Virginia, including a growing interest in missionaries serving in far-off lands where the gospel had not been presented. Both Ted and Peggy’s desire to serve the Lord as missionaries was growing to the point of urgency, the more they heard of those still unreached with the gospel.
After seven years with Mobil Ted landed a job with The Wall Street Journal and the Saturday before he started, his brother Harry and he placed gospel tracts on every desk in the newsroom. The Lord promoted him from district to regional sales manager in California, and then at the age of 39, he became the national sales manager in charge of the sales force for the entire country.
Over a period of years Ted wrote letters, applied to, and met with leaders of mission organizations asking how he and Peggy might serve as missionaries but were declined. Mission organizations were looking for goal-oriented people willing to take risks which Ted fit to a T, yet time after time they were told they were too old, had too many kids, and did not have the right education.
The Lord had spoken to Ted from Psalm 2:8 “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.” When the urgency of the gospel and their desire to serve the Lord of the Harvest fulltime, became too great to no longer ignore, Ted left his safe and secure corporate position, as he pondered “What difference does it make how many people read The Wall Street Journal as far as eternity is concerned?” However, nothing happened for another four years.
Then, a national worker from Nigeria whom they had supported and corresponded with regularly, wrote asking, not for more funding, but for them. He asked them to come for at least two years to help him administratively because the demand from Christians and non-Christians for Christian literature had become too great to keep up with there, even as Communists were providing their literature. It became Ted and Peggy’s “Macedonian call”.
When they were turned down from a well-known mission that had a reputation for working in unevangelized fields, they were stunned. More traditional mission agencies seemed to be used to doing things the same way they always had and were not ready for someone to come in and disturb the status quo.
As they were discussing their options, a friend who was a dean at a Bible college and a missions mobilizer at heart, asked Ted a surprising question: “Why don’t you start your own mission board?” After a full ministry trip to the field where his national friend from Nigeria resided, Ted and Peggy realized they could do so much more if they could mobilize workers to places like Nigeria and other places.
Remembering the Psalm 2:8 verse the Lord had impressed on them now 11 years earlier, and after years of seeking the Lord for His direction, Ted and Peggy Fletcher founded World Evangelical Outreach (WEO) in May 1979, as described in their book, When God Comes Calling. In 1984, WEO changed its name to Pioneers; offices were opened in countries around the world and in 1982 Pioneers-USA moved its offices from Virginia to Orlando, Florida. Ted and Peggy’s daughter, Arlene, married Steve Richardson, whose father, Don Richardson, had pioneered the gospel among the Sawi people of New Guinea.
At our upcoming Mission ConneXion Northwest 2023, 71 years after Ted (Fletcher) met Billy (Graham), we will welcome, in a reunion of sorts, Ted’s successor, Steve Richardson (Pioneers’ 3rd President) along with Billy Graham’s grandson, Will Graham.
BUY: When God Comes Calling Book By: Ted Fletcher