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Billy Graham Evangelistic Association - Avalon Peninsula Celebration Part II
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By Rick Vandekieft



In last month’s edition of Christian Life in London, I wrote about the blessing of being a member of the London delegation that took part in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association - Avalon Peninsula Celebration with Will Graham. The Celebration was held at the Mile One Centre in St John’s Newfoundland over the weekend of November 2 -4.

Mile One Centre is St John's 7000 seat hockey arena, home of the Newfoundland Growlers, a minor league ice hockey team in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). The name ‘Mile One' signifies the starting point of the 4860 mile Trans Canada Highway.

Last month's Part I, gave an overview of this incredible event and just some of what goes on in front of the big screens and behind them as well. It is a huge production that came off flawlessly. While the article last month explained the wonderfully successful day that was focused on the children. As that Friday evening ended, more than 20% of those in attendance responded by coming forward, well over 200 of the new believers were children and teens!

Saturday was for the adults with the event opening with the band "Color". This group of four very talented musicians originated in Manitoba and have been a part of many of Will Graham's Celebration. These four guys are comfortable performing in a small hotel meeting room or for a large crowd at venues like Mile One.

Each morning, "Color" was part of the morning devotions, a small group of the visiting pastors and invited guests that prayed with Will Graham. These session of prayer and music were the perfect way to ease into what was to be a jam-packed day.

This Saturday night, "Color" opened the evening at Mile One with a beautiful selection of Gospel music, some of which are their own compositions.

Next, the internationally acclaimed band "For King and Country" invigorated the Mile One crowd. "For King & Country", formerly known as Joel & Luke, is a Christian pop duo composed of the two Australian brothers backed by a lively group of musicians, mostly percussionists. The group rocked the Mile One Centre with songs that many in attendance knew and sang along. Some of the music was from their recently released third studio album, "Burn The Ships".

Following the performances by Color and "For King and Country", the house was filled with excitement, perfect timing for Will Graham to speak.

Will Graham knows where he is and knows quite a bit about Newfoundland. He had one (jokingly) complaint about the province. He is convinced that all of the braggings about its great population of moose is just a ploy to suck people in to visit Newfoundland.

Apparently, he has been on a number of Newfoundland "safaris" to find moose but has yet to see a single one…except for the one seen on the podium in the picture above, given to him by a young teen attending the Friday Celebration.

He does say that he believes that Newfoundlanders are the happiest people on earth and that they now "occupy" every city and town in Canada. In his recent Celebration at the far northern community of Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, he supported his theory by saying that the participating spiritual leaders in Rankin Inlet were Newfies!

He expanded on his description of Newfoundland and the Newfoundland people, not so much for the crowd in front of him but for the 8,700 people in 52 counties that were taking part in the live streaming of the event. He wanted to give those viewers some insight into this very special place and its very special people.

"Yes, I did say that Newfoundlanders are happiest people in all of Canada", Will Graham articulated in his sermon," Tonight I want to talk to all of you that are unhappy. I see a lot of happy faces, but I know for many it is a façade. There is unhappiness, things are going as planned in your life. Maybe you're discontent, deep down inside, things are falling apart, and you are thinking ‘There has got to be more in life than this'. You could be feeling cheated."

He described how the world is all about extremes and if we don't have and feel the extremes, we feel we are missing out. Granted, some of these searches came about due to the collapse of the Newfoundland economy and many moved away from the island in search of work.

"Most of those that left, found work, good paying jobs in places like Fort McMurray. They were making lots of money but, with time many again began to think that there must be more" He said, segueing to Luke 15, the Parable of the Lost Son.

Graham compared today's lost with a discontented son of the wealthy man. A son that too wanted more, wanted the extremes in life and he wanted them now.

The Parable of the Lost Son is about the man with two sons. The younger one demands of his father to give him his share of the estate now and his father did as asked. That son gathered up all of his possessions and set off for a distant land. There he squandered away his wealth on prodigal living. Just as his material wealth was all gone, a famine rose to cause country-wide famine. To survive he became a citizen of that country where he was sent into the fields to feed the pigs.

He returned to his father hoping to be allowed to serve as one of his father's servants because; "My father's servants had food to spare yet I perish with hunger" Luke 15:17

His father welcomed his son home, and forgave him and called for a celebration, "For this son of mine was dead, and is alive again, he was lost and is found." Luke 15:24

Graham added, "His son had been lost and now he had been found. Let me ask, are you discontent in life? The son had become discontent and he thought there must be something better somewhere else, not having to live under his father's rules. I know that many of you feel that rules are unfair to you and rules hold you back from getting what you want, what you think you deserve. But rules help us enjoy life to the fullest.

"My friends too many of you are running away from God's rules, you want to sleep around, you don't want to go to church, you would rather party. Live by your own rules. But you are not happy, you live a life of discontent, you are not satisfied. Just like the man in the bible – once he lost it all."

In the parable of the lost son, when his money ran out just when a crisis came – the famine – economic downturn of biblical proportion, he had no choice but to accept a life to feed the pigs, to eat the food of the pigs and sleep among them.

This man was a Jew and Jews can't be around pigs but in the parable, he had no choice. Him living with the pigs was far worse than a vegan working in a butcher shop.

Graham stressed that this is what happens when we try to live a life of no rules; "We find ourselves in the mud with the pigs, in a world we never wanted to be in…. a disaster. Some here today are in the muck and the mire. Doing things you said you would never do, in place that you never wanted to be. Maybe you turned your back on your family your true friends, you feel like a disgrace."

"I'm here to tell you my friends, people are waiting for you back home", Graham proclaimed, "God is waiting for, Christ can change everything in your life. The first step is repentance. Repentance simply means to change direction. Tonight, I am going to ask you to change direction, take a step and come home, back to God, but you must decide you must take that step."

He invited those who are ready to come home, to come forward, to have a word of prayer with him.

"God is looking for you here tonight. Arms wide open. Though Jesus, he is the way home. Jesus is the only one who died for you. Sin is a death sentence. We all owe a bill that cannot be paid. God pays that bill – he sent his son Jesus to pay that debt. The way to pay for sin is death and Jesus paid the debt. Jesus died on a cross because he loves you more than anything. He is saying to you, ‘I am here to offer you forgiveness. I am here to welcome you home.' Come home tonight. Rededicate your life to Christ."

"It's a Free gift – Heavenly Father wants to give you a gift and all you have to do is receive it."

"Just ask for it. A free pardon in life. Make the decision to come home. You may want to receive Christ for the 1st time or you have turned from Christ and are now ready to return. Rededicate your life."

"Get out of your seat – start walking."

"Come home now"

And they did, in large numbers, they came forward from the seats on the floor at Mile One, the stands around the arena and even some of the Mile One staff came forward to pray with Graham, to accept Christ, to come home.

As the crowd grew in front of the stage Will Graham then said...........“Welcome home!”

He closed off with a prayer that all at Mile One joined in...

Dear Lord Jesus
I know that I am a sinner
I am sorry for my sins
I believe you died for my sins
I believe you rose from the grave
I want to turn from my sins

I invite you to come into my life
I want to trust and follow you
As my Lord and Savior
In the name of Jesus
Amen

Amen – you're home.


That evening there were over 200 responses. Graham concluded with; "When one person comes home, the angels have a party."

It must have been a heck of a party as over 200 came home that night in St John's Newfoundland.