For many in the United States and around the world, the Thompson-Okanagan region of British Columbia is exactly what one might picture when thinking about Canada.
Deep green fir trees, rising mountains, and brilliant fall foliage paints a masterpiece. But, as is often the case, beauty can be deceiving.
You don’t have to look far to see that residents are struggling. There are issues of homelessness, alcoholism, and drug addiction, and deaths from fentanyl overdoses have left broken hearts and broken families across the region.
Beauty and sorrow, affluence and addiction. It was into this unique juxtaposition that Will Graham came with a message of hope. Not just hope for this life, but for eternity—at the Thompson-Okanagan Look Up Tour in Kamloops, Vernon and Kelowna.
Kamloops – The Hour of Decision
Oct. 13: On the three-day tour’s opening night in Kamloops, a lively overflow crowd sang passionately as Irish folk band Rend Collective and Canadian country singer George Canyon played worship music to set the stage for Will Graham.
“Tonight, I want to talk to you about making a decision, the most important decision of your life,” said Graham. “What are you going to do with Jesus?”
Graham’s message centered on the story of Pontius Pilate at the trial of Jesus, found in Matthew 27. Even though he knew something was different about Jesus—and that He was innocent—Pilate sentenced Jesus to death on the cross.
“Every person who came in contact with Jesus had to make a decision about Jesus,” Graham said. “They either followed Him or rejected Him. You can’t be neutral.
“Making no decision for Christ is making a decision about Him. That’s why this decision is so important. Eternity is at stake.”
People throughout the audience jumped at Graham’s invitation to receive Christ. Among them was Luke,* an indigenous man who has lived in Kamloops for nearly three decades.
“I’ll be honest. Two-and-a-half years ago I was in jail. I had lost my family. Just had a lot of hard times,” Luke said. “But you know, God has just shown incredible, incredible mercy on my life.”
Luke has been a struggling Christian for some time, but he is attending a small native congregation that is built on God’s Word, and he has his family back. That doesn’t mean life is easy, however. He shared that several family members have recently died from fentanyl, and his daughter—who responded alongside him on Friday night to rededicate their lives to Christ—is only 10 days out of detox.
“She’s been in a real rough place, but God has pulled her out of that and I’ve been praying for help. It’s a struggle. I can certainly feel the enemy resisting in every way.”
Vernon – For God So Loved the World
Oct. 14: From Kamloops, Will Graham traveled some 70 miles southeast to Vernon, British Columbia, where he held a pair of events on Saturday.
During the afternoon session, Graham focused on the story of Nicodemus in John 3, encouraging those in attendance that they must be “born again” (John 3:3). In the evening session, Graham remained in the same book and chapter, examining the words of John 3:16.
“God sent His Son Jesus into this world to make a way, so we can have a perfect relationship with God,” Graham said. “We can have that joy and peace in life that is so elusive. He’s the answer that you’ve been looking for in life.”
As Graham issued a call for people to repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus, one of the first to respond was Arturo,* a Filipino man with a big, bright smile.
Arturo explained that he has only lived in Vernon for a year. Prior to that, he worked in Saudi Arabia for more than a decade, and a friend invited him to the Look Up Tour. He found what his soul had been seeking, and he prayed to accept Christ as his Savior.
“God really connected with me today,” Arturo said. “It’s unexplainable. I feel His presence and Spirit. I know He can forgive me. And I have a desire now to know Him more.
“I now have direct connection to Him. Praise the Lord!”
Kelowna: Calling the Prodigals Home
Oct. 15: A packed-out audience worshipped with Rend Collective and George Canyon, but quickly settled in as Will Graham opened God’s Word to the parable of the Prodigal Son.
Sharing how the prodigal wanted to live life by his own rules, Graham explained that there was a price to pay for not following his father’s standards.
“I’m here to tell you, sin is fun. Did you hear what I said? Sin is fun … for a while,” said Graham. “But then it leaves you broken. It leaves you worse than you were before. It robs you of joy and meaning.”
Graham pointed out that the Prodigal Son finally became sick and tired of being sick and tired, repented of his errors, and returned home to his father. “It’s time to come home,” he said to the audience. “God is waiting for you, but you have to get out of the pigpen. Will you return home to Jesus tonight?”
The message resonated with many people streaming to the front—some with tears in their eyes. Maria* was one of those responding, recently moving to Kelowna from Mexico. She shared that she was once involved in witchcraft, but was radically saved from that life five years ago when she accepted Christ as Savior. Since then, she had fallen away from God, but Graham’s message was convicting.
“When he said ‘my Father was waiting for me to come home,’ it really touched my heart,” said Maria, who had a special connection to the Graham family as her grandfather passed away one day after Billy Graham in February of 2018. “My heart is just filled. He has given me this present to be here. He’s telling me, you are my daughter.”
The Journey of Faith
All told, over 2,700 people attended the long-anticipated Thompson-Okanagan Look Up Tour with Will Graham. More than 120 responded to the invitation to follow Jesus as Savior.
As the tour comes to an end, the churches of Kamloops, Vernon, and Kelowna will now connect with each of those who gave their lives to Christ this weekend, help them to become a part of the church community, and walk alongside them on this journey.
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