(CNN) – The body of the Rev. Billy Graham is being moved from Washington to North Carolina, where the beloved American preacher will be buried Friday.
Graham was the fourth private U.S. citizen to lie in honor at the U.S. Capitol.
He earned the honor by preaching to hundreds of millions of people over his 99 years. He also prayed with U.S. presidents dating back to Harry Truman.
Graham’s impact was felt far beyond the U.S. and religious circles. At the close of the Cold War he gained rare access to North Korea, and even helped shape U.S. policy.
He drew the kinds of crowds in Asia usually reserved for a pope, famously preaching to more than 1 million people in South Korea in 1973.
But there’s another story, one largely untold, of Graham’s groundbreaking work in the secretive state of North Korea.
“Love one another!” Graham told the congregation during his tour through Seoul, which made headlines in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.
"The North Korean response was, ‘The witch doctor from America came and performed a witch act,’" said Billy Kim, Graham's translator in Seoul.
Two decades later, the anti-communist Graham was invited to Pyongyang, becoming an honored guest of North Korea’s late president Kim Il Sung.
The nation was reeling from the collapse of the Soviet Union, and looking to improve ties with the U.S.
Graham brought a private message from President George H.W. Bush – and a Bible for the North Korean leader.
"My wife went to school in North Korea. That was one of the reasons that we could get in and talk to the leaders – that made it possible for us to go," Graham said.
Ruth Graham’s parents were Christian missionaries in Pyongyang, a city once called the “Jerusalem of the East.”
Today, possessing a Bible there can lead to criminal charges.
Graham was the first foreigner ever to preach at Pyongyang’s Bongsu Church, one of a handful of Christian foreign churches in North Korea, which human rights and religious groups accuse of being a state propagandist.
Graham made two trips to North Korea, one in 1992 and the second in 1994. Afterwards he helped shape U.S. policy by offering insights on the nation to U.S. presidents and international peacemakers.
"And I said, ‘Jimmy, what they're looking for is a friend,'" Graham said.
Graham paved the way for other Americans and aid workers to visit the nation, including Graham’s son, Franklin, whose Samaritan’s Purse charity provided badly needed aid.
In South Korea, Graham’s popularity helped make the Myung Sung megachurch in Seoul the largest Presbyterian church in the world, with a weekly attendance of around 100,000 people.
"We certainly believe that we need to follow the legacy of Billy Graham," senior pastor Kim Sam-Whan said. "What he did in North Korea really pushed us to go to the people who are suffering."
Graham never realized his dream of bringing Christianity to the North Korean masses, but he did crack open the door of a closed society, allowing aid and perhaps faith to trickle in.
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