God Chases After Students’ Hearts in South Dakota

By   •   September 27, 2021

If you entered The Monument (formerly known as the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center) in Rapid City, South Dakota, Sunday night, you’d immediately know something big was happening. Hundreds of students lined up in front of the stage at the Black Hills Paha Sapa Celebration, raising their voices and hands to God with unforgettable hype while Christian rapper FLAME (center) performed.
Next up was Josh Havens and Matt Fuqua from The Afters, who sang of surrendering to an almighty God: “Your goodness is running after me. With my life laid down, I surrender now. I give you everything.”
Will Graham shared a Bible story about the Prodigal Son, a young man who squandered his inheritance but eventually returned home.
“I want you to know God’s running after you tonight. He’s chasing you down. … You may not believe in God, but He knows you,” Will Graham said. >> Do you believe that? Get to know God.
Sunday was youth night, but Will Graham also spoke to the older members of the crowd, encouraging them to let Christ mold them into the best parents and grandparents they can be. “You have one shot to raise your kids, and they need you more than ever.”
An hour from Rapid City are the breathtaking Badlands. Even more beautiful is the Good News that we can be free, forgiven, reconciled and restored—a message Will Graham brought to more than 1,300 people Sunday, and thousands more watching online.
In 1977, Elvis Presley held one of his last concerts at what’s now called The Monument where Sunday’s event took place. A couple of months later, he died. Will Graham drove home the point that we’re not guaranteed tomorrow and to not let this moment slip by.
“Are you happy in life?” Will Graham asked the crowd. Uncertainty and strife can make us discontent, and there is only One who can truly fulfill our lives.
Kids, youth and parents decided to quit running from God and responded to the Gospel of Jesus Christ—which is Good News for any and everyone.
Many moved from their seats back to the floor area by the stage to make a decision for Christ.
Those who came forward received a booklet that includes the gospel of John. They also had time to follow up with a counselor. One counselor, Brad Klasse (not pictured), talked with a former meth addict who came forward, bawling, to rededicate her life to Christ. “She’s pretty deeply trapped but longing to be free,” said Klasse, adding that becoming a Christian doesn’t eradicate one’s struggle with sin. It’s an ongoing journey.
“I can make you new if you let me.” Singer Lacey Sturm said that's what God told her when He saved her from suicide.
Of the 5,000 people who attended this weekend’s Celebration, almost half of them were youth ages 10 to 18. Some were even counselors, like sisters Karina, 17, and Annelise, 15 (sisters not pictured). “It’s an opportunity to tell others about Christ,” said Karina, who talked to 20-year-old Natalie. Natalie rededicated her life to Christ, opening her heart back to God after Will Graham’s message.
Will Graham thanked about 150 area churches that united to make the Celebration happen. Fifteen months of prayer and preparation went into the three-day event. Father Brian Christensen, a pastor at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rapid City, fully expects to keep working together to share the Gospel. “We’re not in it alone,” he said.
Lacey Sturm closed out the Celebration and had a special moment with a student who lingered behind.
While Will Graham preached for the final night of the Black Hills Paha Sapa Sunday evening, his father simultaneously preached in Amarillo, Texas, on the Route 66 God Loves You Tour.