Will Graham Event This Weekend Can Help Huntington, WV Have Hope

By   •   November 4, 2015

Bill Smith Huntington WV
Bill Smith, the local school system superintendent, presents a student with an award. As the local team leader for the Tri-State Celebration with Will Graham, he knows firsthand the hopelessness many students feel in this economically depressed area.

“We’ve tried everything else to fix problems. Isn’t it time we gave God a genuine try?”

That’s what Cabell County Public Schools Superintendent Bill Smith said about the hopelessness he sees in Huntington, West Virginia, area students.

Smith is not only the school system superintendent; he is the local team leader for the Tri-State Celebration with Will Graham happening in his city this weekend.

Like every state, West Virginia has its share of troubles. Poverty, unemployment and drug abuse are some of the biggest issues. In Huntington, one of the main challenges is the violent crime rate.

After having the students in his school district take a survey that indicates their level of overall hopefulness, the results showed Smith one thing: this generation—this city—desperately needs hope.

And this weekend’s Celebration just might be the catalyst the community is looking for.

“Overall, these surveys showed us that only around 50 percent of the schools’ students have a sense of hopefulness,” Smith said.

“The faith-based community is what can bring ultimate hope into the lives of people in this area. And there are ways to talk about the issue of hope without crossing any lines.”

One way Smith has worked to prepare the Huntington area for the Celebration is by tackling the issues of addiction and homelessness, right there in the schools. He has, along with his faculty and some local members of the faith-based community, coordinated anti-drug and bullying presentations that help the students understand the consequences of their actions and give them tools to combat addiction.

Since these presentations take place as school-sponsored programs, the topic of faith is not addressed by the presenters. However, at the end of the presentation, the speaker does invite them to a local church to hear more.

“There can be an amazing ripple effect when the local faith-based and civic communities tackle these social issues together,” Smith said. “A lot of people think we can’t do anything faith-based in the schools without proselytizing. But that’s not true.”

He hopes to see many of the students and their families come to the Celebration this weekend and hear a life-changing message that will hit home.

Sam Hardy, Celebration director for Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has been working with local leaders and residents for the past year in preparation for this weekend, and has seen for himself the need for hope in Huntington and beyond.

“There is such a sincere need to plant hope in the lives of children and youth and even adults. There is this general sense of, this is the way life has always been and I’m not sure if I see much hope for the future. So, this weekend has great spiritual implications,” Hardy said.

“There are a lot of broken hearts and broken spirits, and there is a need to see God spiritually move in this community—and to move the bonds of addiction and of poverty.

“We really need to see—and expect—God to restore hope in that region. I’m trusting Him to plant hope in the lives of children and young people that have not had anything good happen to them. They need to know there is a good future for them, and they can have it with Christ.”

You can have hope today.

Downtown Huntington, West Virginia, sits on the Ohio River and is home of the Marshall University Thundering Herd. The area is known as the hub of the coal industry. One of the reasons for the economic depression of this region is the decline of coal demand.