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London Team Takes Part in Will Graham Celebration – Part I
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By Rick Vandekieft



I was very blessed to be invited to be a member of the London delegation to take part in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association - Avalon Peninsula Celebration with Will Graham in St John’s Newfoundland.

Mike Lee, Pastor at Ridgeview Community Church, Norm Steele and Gary Schell, Pastors at the Church in the Oaks, Shane Simms, Pastor at North Park Community Church and John Park former Pastor at Oakridge Presbyterian Church along with delegations of Pastors from Belleville, Sudbury, Kaua’I Hawaii, Helena Montana and Grand Falls Montana were all members of the visiting team of Church Leaders. Pictured: Team Canada with Will Graham

This team was brought to St John’s, not only to experience the Celebration but to see the behind the scenes workings of this mammoth undertaking and to meet and pray with Will, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) Team, the local Church leaders and the hundreds of local volunteers.

William Franklin Graham IV (Will) is the third generation of Grahams to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ under the banner of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). Will is the grandson of Billy Graham and the oldest son of Franklin Graham.

He serves as the Vice President and Associate Evangelist of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Executive Director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove.

The first of Will’s crusade-style events – called Celebrations – took place in 2006 in Leduc, Alberta, Canada. Since then Will has spoken to audiences across six continents.

In 2014, Will held multi-day events in Australia, Sri Lanka, Japan, Papua New Guinea, and the United States.

His 2015 schedule included domestic evangelistic efforts in Siksika First Nation, Fort McMurray, AB, and Whitehorse, YT, as well as outreaches in Tanzania and multiple cities in the Philippines.

Events in Canada for 2016 included Celebration of Hope outreach events in Grand Falls-Windsor and Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL. In 2017, a Celebration of Hope was held in Charlottetown, PEI.

Will and the BGEA Team arrived in St John’s at the tail end of October following a remarkable Celebration in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut (population 2,850), were many came to Christ for the first time.

Why St. John’s.

It began with an invitation from the Avalon Peninsula area churches that were praying for the region. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) responded by providing evangelism training and worked with the Christian leaders and volunteers behind the scenes to prepare the way for the Celebration. This team of Church Leaders had wide support from almost all area churches and all denominations including the Catholic Church. This was key to the success of the Celebration as almost half of the population in the Greater St. John’s area are Roman Catholic followed by Anglican, United Church, and Pentecostal.

What is the Will Graham Celebration?

The Will Graham Celebration is an effective tool to assist the local church in reconciling men, women, and young people to God and each other in Jesus Christ, and in strengthening the local congregation through involvement and training opportunities.

The Celebration is built upon the principles and experience of BGEA’s more than 65 years of evangelistic outreach. From the earliest days of preparation to post-Celebration follow-up, it follows the God-blessed pattern developed over the years by Billy Graham and his team.

The Celebration mythology is simple, To give an opportunity for making a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. How?
  • To equip and encourage churches for the evangelistic outreach
  • To mobilize the Christian community to assemble as many people as possible to hear the message that Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6 NKJV)
  • To give the opportunity for personal commitment
  • To refer new believers to a local church for follow-up and Christian discipleship
  • To strengthen the local church

What we all quickly learned was that these Will Graham Celebration are much larger than a few days of the actual event. While the outreach event is the most visible aspect of the celebration it is not the only part because it isn’t just in the community for a few days and then gone. It’s a Spirit lead event that begins many months, even years, before, and continues to affect and shape the lives for years afterwards– and for eternity!

In this edition of Christian Life in London, let me tell you about the Children’s part of the Avalon Celebration. In the December edition, I will give you the story behind the most important two night in the lives of 6500 Newfoundlanders AND 21,600 viewers of the live stream in 53 countries!!

....

November 1 (Thursday). The delegation from London, Belleville, Sudbury, Hawaii, and Montana arrive in St John’s and meet with our gracious hosts from BGEA and local Celebration volunteers. They explain the lay of the land and review our full agenda for the next four days.

This Will Graham Celebration is being held in the Mile One Centre, a 7,000-seat arena and home to the Newfoundland Growlers, a professional minor league ice hockey team in the ECHL.

Following our welcome, we crossed over to the Mile One Centre to see the transformation of hockey arena to a place of worship. Because of the elaborate audio – visual experience of the Celebration, a team from Montreal was contracted to design, construct and assemble the stage and sound stations. The Montreal team shipped three full tracker trailer loads of the audio video assemblies.

Just seeing the dozens of technicians working on the stage, the lighting, the sound and the floor area, it was clear, this was a BIG deal!

November 2 (Friday)
The day started, as did Saturday and Sunday with Team devotions featuring music, a sermon from a local Pastor followed by Will Graham proclaiming the Gospel. This was also a time to speak with the locals, the BGEA team and with Wil Graham.

That afternoon, the delegation was treated to a visit to Canada’s most Easterly point, Cape Spear. If you want to be the first one in North America to see the sunrise, this IS the place. The stark white Cape Spear Lighthouse is the oldest surviving lighthouse in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Because of its proximity to convoy routes during the Second World War, a Canadian-manned gun battery including large guns (canons?) were installed to defend the entrance to St. John's harbor and those gun barrels remain there today.

Back at the Mile One Centre, though 5 hours before the first event, the Kidz Fest, it was already “electric”, perhaps He too was readying for what was about to happen, to greet new believers that were to come forward.

With the sun setting outside, the bright lights were on inside as KidzFest launched with a spectacular set of music, skits and prayer. A lively crowd of more than 1300 kids and adults of all ages sang along, danced and listened to the Good Word.

Will Graham then came out to speak to those in attendance. The promise of Forgiveness…. Will explained that we all sin and why the confession of sins and asking of forgiveness is the only way, God’s way. He spoke directly to the children about applying God’s Word and to have confidence in Prayer.

He read from Gospel of John and invited all to come forward to receive Jesus Christ. He reached out not just to the children but to all in attendance. He pleaded with those suffering from abuse, drug addiction, alcoholism to come forward to be saved.

“These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in His name.” ( John 20:31 ESV)

They came, a few at first, then more and then a steady stream as the area close to the stage filled with those wanting to welcome God into their life. More than 20% of those in attendance responded by coming forward, well over 200 of the new believers were children and teens! Each of those that came forward were met by a councillor for a one-on-one discussion (with a parent when underage). The councillors prayed with them one-on-one , presented them with the Gospel of John and retrieved information so that the local church could follow up in the days and weeks following. There were tears, smiles, laughter and looks of astonishment as they felt the presence of God and all His glory.

It was a beautiful sight.

The night was not over. Two huge areas were set aside at Mile One and at the adjoining Convention Centre with bouncing castles, games, cartoon characters, face painting and more. It was hysterical chaos as these pictures may indicate. The children and adults were clearly energized with the power of His presence. The was past the bed time of many of the kids but none were ready to head home. A night they won’t forget and a night I will never forget.

It was a beautiful night.

Will the Will Graham Celebration be coming to London? Stay tuned!

“These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in His name.” John 20:31, ESV






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