In the first Graham celebration in the area since the passing of well-known preacher Billy Graham, churches from the Tri-Cities gathered to share their faith with the area — with help from Graham's grandson — in the three-day Tri-Cities Region Will Graham Celebration at Freedom Hall Civic Center in Johnson City.
"They call it a celebration, and it really is; it's an opportunity to celebrate the good news of salvation that's available to us through Jesus Christ, and we've been preparing for this and praying for this for years now. A lot of groundwork has gone into this," said Tommy Hood, senior pastor at Central Baptist Church in Johnson City.
The weekend included a night of celebration on Friday, then a day for a younger audience with a kids’ program Saturday morning and an evening program geared toward students.
According to Scott Emerine, the Local Will Graham communication team leader and associate pastor at Covenant Fellowship in Bristol, 237 churches were involved representing 30 denominations in the region.
"For about three years they've been praying, working, raising funds, and so all of the community came together to put this on," said Emerine.
Throughout Freedom Hall during the events, everyone was local, from the ushers showing the audience members to their seats, to the children's choir on the projector screen and the counselors talking with those responding to Graham’s message.
Jim Harlan, the Tri-Cities Team leader for the event, said the idea started with local churches coming together and praying for revival in the area, and that turned into the group reaching out to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
He said working with all the participating churches in the region was an amazing experience.
"You know with all the issues we have today in the world with the divisiveness, for all the churches to come together for one purpose, and that is to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ, that is really unique and so, it's a been a beautiful thing to watch," said Harlan.
The Tri-Cities Region Will Graham Celebration will continue Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m. The celebration will feature music from Aaron Shust, Ellie Holcomb and Jennifer Trent and a message from Will Graham. There are no tickets required for this free event.
You can read a Q&A with Will Graham at the Johnson City Press website and a full schedule of events —along with a live stream of Sunday’s program- on the celebration's website, tcr.billygraham.org.