Will Graham, the grandson of world-famous US Evangelist Billy Graham, has just finished the first series of Reality events in the central-west city of Orange in New South Wales. Orange has a population of just under 40,000.
Organised by a local committee, chaired by Graham McLennan, Reality Orange saw 17 local churches working together. “It’s been a great response. The Christian Life and Witness classes, which were run earlier in the year, were excellent. Five hundred people attended and that was what brought all of us together,” Graham said. “We were also encouraged to specifically invite people whom we knew to come and hear Will Graham preach under the Operation Andrew program,” he said.
The weekend kicked off with a luncheon at the Orange Ex-Services club last Friday (May 4th) attended by the Mayor of Orange, John Davis and the Member for Orange in the NSW Legislative Assembly, Andrew Gee.
They were joined by 200 guests who heard host Karl Faase interview former radio broadcaster Stephen O’Doherty about coming to faith. Will Graham then spoke about his grandfather and how he was called to preach, before bringing an evangelistic message.
The remainder of the weekend’s events were held in the Orange Function Centre. The youth night on Friday night featured well known bands ‘Jonnday’ and ‘Compliments of Gus.’
Families were invited to the Saturday night event which featured children’s entertainers ‘The Toads’ and an interview with Home and Away actor, Lynne McGranger, who spoke about her Christian faith.
At each event, Will Graham spoke about faith in Christ and the importance of making a personal commitment. At the conclusion, Will invited people to come forward as a sign of their willingness to make their decision to follow Jesus.
The weekend ended with a Sunday afternoon meeting which featured an interview with Kate Bracks, winner of the television reality show, MasterChef in 2011. A resident of Orange, Kate spoke about her search for ‘something to believe in’ and then how she had committed her life to Christ in her early 20’s.
Each of the live events in the Orange Function Centre were webcast via the internet around the world.
A total of 711 places watched the webcasts over the weekend, including in India and Ireland. The Orange Sudanese community met in a local home with ten counseling packs provided by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The local Korean community were invited to watch the webcast at the Orange Prayer House with the Chinese community hearing Will's message in a local church.
Attendance for the three days was 2,400 with 129 people responding to Will’s invitation.
Online reviews of most of the Orange, Bathurst & Lithgow Reality Events can be seen at http://www.bgea.org.au/
Thirty respond to the Gospel after Will gives his Message. Most were teenagers, many from surrounding towns.
Orange Reality committee member Bruce Bennett said the weekend was a great success. “The numbers who attended, the quality of the artists who performed and the enormous volunteer effort was nothing short of fantastic. It must also be said that Will Graham himself, both as a speaker and as a person, was a breath of fresh air. He brought a simplicity and transparency to both his message and his manner, that made it hard not to like him,” said Bruce.
“It was also hard to miss his simple message about the need to get real about Jesus,” he added.
Team Youth Leader Dave Saunders was exuberant about the many youth groups coming together for the first time. "They were greatly encouraged", he remarked.
Reality meetings continued in Bathurst on May 9th and Lithgow, May 11th – 13th. Mr Graham also spoke at a supporters breakfast in Sydney on Monday, May 14th at Wesley Mission, 220 Pitt Street, Sydney.
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Luncheon with the Local State MP Andrew Gee and Mayor John Davis also present who gave a short message thanking Will Graham for visiting Orange City with Reality.
Elaine Cooper our Prayer coordinator writes
Thank you for your faithful intercession and partnership in Kingdom ministry. Thanks to meticulous planning, dedicated leaders and volunteers, godly artists and speakers, and faithful believers reaching out to their neighbours, the event was a wonderful success. Your prayers make a difference and will continue to do so in the weeks and months that follow as new believers learn more about Jesus, and as those who heard or saw a little of the Gospel continue on their own road of faith in Christ.
I pray that this time of reaching out to our city has been a great blessing to you.
We have plenty to give thanks and praise for:
- Hard work and attention to detail by everyone, no matter what degree of responsibility they had
- Generous donations of money, time, goods and services
- The commitment and vision of Will Graham, his team and BGEA and its associates in Australia
- People who turned up for meetings and brought friends from right across the Central West
- Enthusiastic response in high schools to the bands and Christian connections
- New believers and those who made a re-commitment, whether they went forward at a meeting or not
- The support across the churches of Orange
- The input John North has had in encouraging believers to make real connections for the Gospel among family, friends and colleagues.
But please, don’t stop praying now!
- That the Gospel will continue to spread in Orange through the lives of believers
- For the encouragement of the Churches and their leaders and for their protection and refreshment
- For the youth of the city, especially new believers and those who are interested to find out more; and for those who work in schools – chaplains, Fusion, Cornerstone, the High School Youth Worker, youth leaders, bible study groups and teachers and staff
- That youth groups within the Churches would be strengthened and grow, and their leaders encouraged and equipped and protected in the important work they do
- That prayer would constantly rise to the throne of God for our city, its leaders, businesses, institutions, families and citizens
- That the name of Jesus would be lifted up and glorified across Orange.
Stephen O'Doherty sharing his faith at the Orange Reality Luncheon
Andrew Gee MP standing on left
Mayor John Davis second from left with Councillor Fiona Rossiter to his right
Reality Orange Committee planning final details for the Reality event
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Will Graham brings Reality to Bathurst
A capacity crowd was on hand Wednesday night (May 9th) at Bathurst’s Pitt Straight Centre at Mount Panorama as local churches staged ‘Reality 2012’. Featuring Will Graham, the grandson of renowned evangelist Billy Graham, special guests included Kate Bracks, MasterChef 2011 winner and Australian Gospel singer, Steve Grace.
There had been nearly 12 months of organisation for this unique evangelistic event, a dinner for 270 guests. Despite this preparation, the venue experienced a last minute electrical blackout causing the lights, audio equipment and kitchen to be shut down. Guests enjoyed their entree in the dark while Kate Bracks shared her adventures on MasterChef and Steve Grace sang and played ‘unplugged’.
Power was eventually restored more than two hours later, in time for the main meal and for Will Graham to speak from John 3:16 about the opportunity of knowing God personally. The message was very well received and 64 people responded.
The organisers are grateful to the BGEA community for their support and thankful that electricity could be restored! The night was a major success for churches in Bathurst, with similar events likely to be planned in the future.
The chairman of the local Reality committee, Pastor Jeff Lloyd, summed up the atmosphere of the event, by saying that, “there was a great sense of God's presence on the night, with many people commenting on the quality of the speakers, the food and the professionalism shown. This was a significant night for the Kingdom of God in Bathurst,” he said.
Will Graham with 2011 Master Chef winner Kate Bracks
Steve Grace performing in the dark at Pit Straight, Mt Panorama, Bathurst
Will Graham shares the final Reality at Lithgow
Will Graham’s second visit to Australia for a series of Reality events concludedwith a series of meetings in Lithgow.
The Combined Churches of Lithgow, together with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, worked to put on youth and community events under the banner of ‘Reality 2012’. The events featured the winners of ‘Australia's Got Talent’ 2010, Justice Crew, the Melbourne Gospel Choir, up and coming artist Vita Adam and puppets by Quiz Worx.
Over 1,300 people attended the youth and community events. The youth event at Lithgow High School saw over 400 young people turn out to see Justice Crew and hear Will Graham speak on Friday night 11th May and over 900 people attended the events on Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th May.
Will Graham spoke at all three events bringing a message of hope and purpose to all who attended.
Reality 2012 was the result of 14 months planning by 14 local churches and right from the start, the commitment was to organise high quality, free events for the community of Lithgow. We praise God that with the help and generosity of churches, the Christian community and local businesses, the budget was met before the event took place.
“It was fantastic to see the church working as a body, contacts were established and friendships formed amongst volunteers and churches as a result of Reality 2012,” said Sandra Edge from The Salvation Army.
The organising committee would like to thank the many volunteers who gave up their time to make Reality 2012 a success. Without their hard work and commitment it would not have been possible for Reality 2012 to have taken place.
Most of all, the committee would like to thank the community of Lithgow for their support and attendance.
A full house in Lithgow for Reality