It was a small event in a small town, but it had an big eternal impact on the outback mining town of Broken Hill.
This community—while beautiful, friendly and historic—is also known as a hard town, one birthed from the discovery of the largest deposit of silver, lead and zinc in the world. In its heyday the mines of Broken Hill employed 8,000, but now only 800 find their work in the rich dark recesses below ground. The population (18,000) has dwindled to just over half of what it once was.
“Very hard town,” said Ron Hellyer, chairman of the organizing committee for Reality 2014 with Will Graham. “It’s a very historic city, but a very hard city. You have very resilient people, but there’s a lot of pain and heartache here.”
Despite the challenges, when BGEA representatives visited Broken Hill they quickly sensed that God was at work here. Though they originally came to discuss another BGEA ministry opportunity called Dare to Be a Daniel, the plan for a Reality event with Will Graham began to develop.
In the months leading up to Reality 2014, there were two key elements that pointed to an unmistakable movement of the Holy Spirit in Broken Hill. The first was unity of the churches, and the second was a focus on prayer. These two elements have gone hand-in-hand as the churches began working and praying together in unprecedented ways.
“We started off having a monthly prayer meeting, and then it went bi-weekly, and then it went weekly and now daily, and we’re getting 40-50 people at every prayer meeting,” said Pastor John Curtis of Broken Hill Church of Christ. “To have people from all the churches praying together, it’s creating a unity like there hasn’t been before.”
The Venerable Brian Ford, rector of the Anglican Parish of Broken Hill and the Far West, added: “We’re doing much more prayer together. We were praying before, but not necessarily together and not necessarily for the same purpose. But now we’ve been focusing on building the Kingdom of God more than building our individual denominational churches.”
On May 10-11, nearly 600 people attended the two evangelistic services and heard the Good News of Jesus Christ, including many unchurched teens invited from a local skate park outreach event. Dozens made spiritual commitments to follow Jesus.
Will Graham declared that there is hope and light in this broken world through a personal relationship with Christ: “Tonight your life can change when you give it all over to God. Christ can change everything. He’ll give you a new beginning.”
In addition, a large crowd gathered for the combined church service on May 11. During this public display of unity among the churches, approximately 200 left their seats and made their way to the front to indicate their commitment to sharing Christ with their friends and neighbors.
In the closing event of Reality 2014 on May 12, dozens of church, community and business leaders gathered together for one last meal, and Will Graham boldly and strongly preached the Gospel to them. “There are some of you here tonight who are rejecting Jesus, rejecting the free gift that He offers. My friends, the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is life through Christ Jesus!”
With eyes closed and heads bowed, people throughout the auditorium indicated a desire to pray and begin a relationship with Jesus. Among them were two tween-aged boys who had walked in from the skate park to see if they could have a meal, and were welcomed with open arms.
“It’s been so exciting to see people come forward and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior and to see friends and family, and people who have been prayed for over 20 or 40 years. It’s just amazing,” said Kathryn Martin, the youth group leader who made the initial call to BGEA that ultimately resulted in Reality 2014 taking place.
“It’s mind blowing really, isn’t it? I have to say that I teared up on more than one occasion. I have friends for whom three guys in the family became Christians, two of the sons and then the dad the following time. Just amazing. It makes my heart sing.”