“Tonight is gonna be the best night of your life,” Will Graham said as he looked out at a sea of young faces.
A multitude of people had just streamed down the aisles, responding to the invitation to accept Christ during the second night of the Central Mississippi Will Graham Celebration. They stood shoulder to shoulder as Will led them in prayer.
“This decision’s for everybody,” Will said. “Young, old, boy, girl, white, black. It’s for everybody.”
Looking at the diversity of races and cultures gathered together Saturday night in Clinton, Miss., it was hard to believe that just 60 years ago, ropes had been put up to separate blacks and whites at a Billy Graham Crusade in nearby Jackson. At that event in 1952, Mr. Graham literally took down the barriers between races and never held a segregated Crusade again.
This weekend, his grandson, Will, continued a legacy of unity and inclusion—concepts that aren’t always easy to put into practice in central Mississippi, even today.
“The uniting factor in all of this, I think, is the Spirit of the Lord,” said Pastor Ken Lynch of Parkview Church of God in Yazoo City, Miss. Ken played a decisive role in unifying his diverse community before the Celebration came to town.
“It happened, I think, because Jesus is the motivating factor,” Ken said, “not someone or something else trying to force it. Here was a chance to share the Gospel with our community, and it pulled people together.”
For some, unity meant sacrificing personal taste in order to reach the youth of central Mississippi. And the churches rose to the challenge.
Some members of the older generation weren’t quite sure what to do when rapper Tedashii took the stage. The bass was pumping so loudly, pieces of insulation floated down from the ceiling, as Will said, “making it snow” inside A.E. Wood Coliseum.
“Raise your hand if this is your first hip hop experience,” Tedashii asked the crowd. About half the hands in the building went up.
“I’m not here to win you over to a genre of music, to a style of music,” he said. “That’s not my heart.”
Tedashii went on to explain that he was there to talk about Jesus, and that’s what he did.
Throughout the night, 2,700 people heard the Gospel, not just through Will Graham’s powerful teaching, but through Tedashii, The Afters and a Mississippi rap group called Twiceborn featuring husband and wife DiMarco and Carla Baskin.
“I just feel honored and humbled that God even chose us for such a time as this,” DiMarco said. “It isn’t about denomination. It isn’t about color. It’s just about everybody coming together to share Jesus and introduce lost souls to Christ.”
“To know we all have the same Father, spiritually, is just awesome,” Carla said. “We are one body. We are one Church.”
Will preached a message that resonated with the youth, focusing on the idea of choosing the right path.
“Tonight you have the opportunity to get off the road you’ve been going down,” he said. “Come to Jesus tonight. You’ll never, ever regret it.”
The bleachers rumbled as he gave the invitation to accept Christ. Students streamed down the aisles, and tears streamed down the faces of people who had been praying for that moment for years.
“This just goes to show you there’s nothing God can’t do,” DiMarco said.
And he thinks God is only getting started in Mississippi.
“I pray that everybody who took part in this Celebration would not let the momentum slow down,” he said. “Hit the field running and share the Gospel, because there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
The Central Mississippi Will Graham Celebration continues Sunday, March 30 at 4 p.m. at the A.E. Wood Coliseum at Mississippi College. Click here for more information.