Legendary preacher Billy Graham visited Mississippi for historic crusades in 1952 and 1975 that reached thousands of people in Jackson.
This weekend, 39-year-old pastor Will Graham returns to the Central Mississippi area to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ like his famous grandfather did decades ago in the capital city. The March 28-30 events at Mississippi College’s A.E. Wood Coliseum are free and open to the public.
The 95-year-old Billy Graham is home in North Carolina, but aware of what his grandson is doing in Clinton and at recent stops in countries like Japan.
“He prays for our events around the world,” Will Graham told a Clinton press conference to promote the revival targeting young and old alike. After visiting Baptist-affiliated Mississippi College, Will Graham travels to Australia to preach similar messages about the Good News.
It took a year of planning before his Clinton trip happened. In recent months, more than 170 Mississippi churches from 30 denominations worked together, Graham told reporters. “We are praying that hundreds of lives will be transformed.”
The celebration showcases top Christian musical artists. Paul Baloche, the Rhett Walker Band and Dave’s Highway perform Friday. Tedashii and The Afters are booked for Saturday. Canton Jones and Matthew West are in Sunday’s lineup. There’s a KidzFest tailored for children starting at 8:30 a.m. Saturday with a KidzFest FunZone, and music from groups like Go Fish to open at 10 a.m.
Other activities at MC’s basketball arena will be 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4 p.m. on Sunday. A number of area churches will skip Sunday evening services and ask members to attend the celebration on the Clinton campus Sunday afternoon. Overflow crowds are invited to watch the celebration at the Christian university’s Swor Auditorium.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Charlotte, North Carolina is the event sponsor. Clinton Mayor Phil Fisher serves as leader of the local Celebration Executive Team.
Times have changed since Billy Graham first traveled to Jackson, Mississippi in 1952. It was the height of segregation in the South, and Graham received death threats following his trip, Will Graham said.
The threats were reported to the FBI and Billy Graham installed fencing and took other security steps at his North Carolina residence.
Graham’s second visit to Jackson at the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in 1975 went much more smoothly.
His grandfather “knows I’m here,” says Will Graham, 39, who reports his grandfather is doing better health-wise in recent months.
Why Clinton, Mississippi?
“We only go where we are invited,” Will Graham said. “This is where we believe God is leading us.”
The oldest son of Franklin Graham, Will often preaches messages to young people spending considerable time on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Yet, many “are feeling lonely.” Too often, teens are also caught up in drugs.
The energetic pastor tries to reach people who regularly attend church, but never developed a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. People should “put Jesus first in everything,” Graham said.
The first of Will’s crusade-style events began in 2006 in Alberta, Canada. His first U.S. celebration took place later that year in Gastonia, North Carolina. Since then, his evangelistic outreaches touched lives on six continents.
– Andy Kanengiser, Contributing Writer