Will Graham might still be a bit jet-lagged from his latest Celebration in Fukuoka, Japan, but that is not slowing him down from preaching or curbing his enthusiasm for the Central Mississippi Celebration in Clinton, Miss., this weekend.
Clinton is located just 10 miles from Jackson, Miss., the state’s capital and largest city. This free three-day event will take place at the 3,300-seat A.E. Wood Coliseum on the campus of Mississippi College. Celebration coordinators are expecting an overflow crowd.
At a press conference this afternoon, Will explained why coming back to the Jackson area has special significance to him: The last time his grandfather was here was 1975—the year Will was born.
More importantly, it was here in 1952 where Billy Graham made a bold statement on racial equality by physically removing the ropes that segregated his white audience from his black audience at one of his Crusades.
That same spirit of unity continues more than 60 years later, as 170 churches representing 30 denominations have participated in the prayer, planning and coordination of the Central Mississippi Celebration.
“I ate with members of the local committee yesterday, and so many of them explained to me that even if the events of the next three days didn’t take place, the enjoyment they have had working together was well worth it,” said Will. “They have learned so much about what they can accomplish when working together and putting Jesus first in everything.”
The Celebration, while for everyone, is poised to reach the hearts of Mississippi’s youth.
“One thing I love about the Bible is that it doesn’t change. Every generation has its issues. Especially with young people today, and the amount of time they spend on technology, more and more young people are feeling alone.
“So, I am going to open up God’s Word every night and teach through a passage of Scripture, and give people a chance to respond to the Gospel,” he said. “Will Graham can’t change anyone’s heart, but God can. I didn’t make the heart; He did. God can touch people’s hearts, and that’s what we want to see this weekend.”
Even after this Celebration is long over, the collaboration of the people of central Mississippi will not soon be forgotten.
“We have had great support,” said Bob Hickling, Celebration Director. “No one has rolled out the red carpet for us quite like Clinton—or central Mississippi for that matter. And Mississippi College, just like the city of Clinton, has really just opened the door for us. This community really has gotten behind us and made it work.”
Clinton mayor Phil Fisher, who is doubling as Celebration Executive Team Leader, echoed the same sentiment.
“This weekend is the culmination of over a year of praying, planning and coordinating through the efforts of Mississippi College, area churches and volunteers throughout the central Mississippi region,” he said.
“Mississippi has a strong tradition of faith and community working together to build stronger ties, and these volunteers have served as a great example of that partnership. I am eager to see the impact of this Celebration on all those involved.”
Visit the Central Mississippi Celebration website for a schedule of events and other details.