With the sun beginning to set on the Filipino city of Cebu, thousands of plastic chairs in orderly lines spaced across a massive field began to fill with people anxious to celebrate. After all, the event they were attending was the Cebu Celebration of Life with Will Graham, and from the outset it was clear they were going to take the name literally.
As the first band sang out “I am free to run,” the words to a popular praise song, joyous young people raced across the open expanse between the seating and the stage, wonderful smiles beaming across their faces. They jumped, they ran in place, they waved their hands, and—most of all—they offered praise to the One whom they were there to celebrate, Jesus Christ.
Over the next three hours, more than 11,700 people in attendance—many of whom came by bus from the northern and southernmost parts of the island—heard from several musical artists, including the FEBC Children’s Choir from Seoul, South Korea.
The Honorable Mike Rama, mayor of Cebu City, also greeted the audience and spoke to the importance of God in his life and in the fabric of the city.
When Will Graham took the stage, the atmosphere changed from celebration to anticipation, as he began to preach from the Word of God.
Graham used examples of being a pilot ignoring his gages, or of being in a burning house and ignoring the warnings to escape.
“If I did these things, I would perish,” Graham said.
“The same is true when we reject Jesus. I’m here to give you a warning that without Christ, you’ll spend eternity away from Him. We have to respond to Christ. Are you willing to come to Christ?
“It doesn’t matter if you’re Filipino or American. It doesn’t matter if you’re old or young,” he continued. “Every person has to answer this question: What will you do with Jesus? That’s the question I ask you tonight.”
As Graham offered the chance to make a decision for Christ, the audience came in waves. Hundreds clogged the aisles, some running together hand in hand.
Pastor Jo Alfafara of City Church, who helped lead the Celebration planning, stood to the side of the stage watching the multitude respond.
“It was almost like a magnet when the altar call was given,” Alfafara said. “It was like a slingshot and people couldn’t wait to get out of their seats and they all just rushed forward. No hesitancy at all. It was like a flood of people running forward towards the stage.”
And it’s just the beginning.
“We’re seeing individual lives changed one at a time, but now they will go home and affect their towns,” Alfafara shared. “Word spreads fast in the smaller towns, so they’ll be going back and telling everybody about their experience here, and that should have a multiplier effect.”
The Cebu Celebration of Life with Will Graham continues tomorrow (Saturday) morning with a Children’s Celebration, followed by two more evening events.