A Colorful Celebration in the Black Hills

By   •   September 26, 2021

Part of the Black Hills Paha Sapa Celebration is KidzFest. Saturday morning, KidzFest drew more than 800 people to experience the Gospel in a hands-on, meaningful way. There was corn hole, face painting, bounce houses, and even the Rapid City Fire Department showed up to let kids see firetrucks and equipment. But most importantly, the children heard about Jesus, both in video form and in person from Will Graham and the band, Go Fish.
A counselor explains during KidzFest how to make Christ part of your life—and the joy He can bring to those who follow Him.
Later in the evening, Will Graham’s message to people of all ages came from John 3, which tells the story of Nicodemus, a religious man who wanted to understand how to be born again. It’s not religion that saves you, Will Graham said, but a relationship with Christ. “Stop being religious and give your life to Jesus Christ tonight,” he said.
The Afters have traveled with Will Graham all over the world, and band members make a point of getting to know the different communities. Josh Havens admitted Rapid City is home to his favorite ice cream shop. He later invited some of the youngest community members onstage for one of their songs.
This pint-sized participant had the time of her life on the drums.
There's so much history wrapped up in South Dakota. Forty-five minutes from Rapid City is historic Deadwood, which made a name for itself in the late 1800s as a gold mining town. It's even been the subject of a TV series. Saturday night, Will Graham shared about another historical figure, Jesus Christ, who offers something more precious than gold—eternal life with Him in heaven.
James Rattling Leaf Sr. (left) served as Native American engagement leader for the Celebration, spending a year reaching out to his community. Dr. Sandra Ogunremi (right), who served as a prayer leader for the Celebration, said a power-packed prayer that no one would leave the way they came. “Give the Lord a hand of praise for that which He shall do tonight, for that which He shall yet do tomorrow, and for that which He will continue to do in our region and beyond, in the name of Jesus.”
Michael Cochren of Cochren & Co. acknowledged the past year-and-a-half has been rough for many around the nation and world. From his song “One Day,” he sang, “Hallelujah, there will be healing from this heartbreak we’ve been feeling.”
“Sin can be fun, but then it leaves you empty,” Will Graham warned. “It leaves you disappointed. … It leads you away from God, not toward God.”
More than 1,100 people spent their Saturday night at The Monument, a civic center that held the event.
January 11, 1981—that’s the day Will Graham gave his life to Christ, a decision he’s never regretted, he said. “Following Christ is fun. Don’t let anyone tell you different.” Here, two girls show off their face paint from KidzFest earlier in the day.
Michael Cochren is from small-town Indiana. His multi-talented wife, Leah, played the keyboard, guitar and tambourine for Cochren & Co., a Dove Award nominated group that’s toured around the country.
"Light, light, light up the sky," The Afters sang. And the audience did.
A boy reads a booklet about having a relationship with Jesus. “Your mom can’t make you a Christian. Your dad can’t make you a Christian. Your church can’t make you a Christian,” Will Graham said earlier. Neither can your best friend or your children or anyone else, he added. It’s a decision you have to make on your own.
“All the things you’ve been longing for, it’s found in Christ,” Will Graham gently told the crowd. He bowed his head in prayer as many responded to this unchanging Good News.
Some who came forward Saturday night were teary-eyed, but they weren’t the only ones. Some in the stands got choked up watching them—their friends, neighbors and family—make a commitment to Jesus.
Seventeen-year-old Landon Citrowske of Spearfish, South Dakota, talked to counselor Ted Davis of Sundance, Wyoming, who happens to have a 17-year-old son. Citrowske grew up in church, but after listening to Will Graham’s message, said he wants to really commit to the Lord now. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and hearing him say if I died tonight, would I go to heaven … that hit me the hardest,” he said. Citrowske plans to get baptized.