Ian, a local teacher and counselor for the Central Scotland Celebration of Hope in Falkirk, pushed through the crowd at the open-air Falkirk Stadium. He was looking for a friend—his boss, Julie. Still overwhelmed with delight that she was there, he wanted to thank her for coming. He’d been diligently sharing Christ with her for the last year.
Will Graham had preached a strong sermon and had given the invitation for people to come forward and receive Christ. The counseling was almost over. Soon the crowd would disperse, and Julie was nowhere to be found. Suddenly Ian spotted Diane, a Christian friend and fellow teacher who had agreed to come to the event with Julie. Diane ran up to him with this beautiful news:
“Julie went forward! Julie went forward!”
Ian was ecstatic. Julie had been completely closed to the idea of Christianity when he first started witnessing to her. He had hoped the Celebration would bring her one step closer to a greater acceptance of Jesus. He wasn’t expecting this news.
When he met up with Julie, she told him that once she got to the stadium, she found herself surrounded by people with such warmth that her wariness about Christianity dissipated and her resentment melted.
“She knew that this was a place of unity and a place of pure love,” Ian said. “And suddenly it just all made sense, and she realized that she did believe everything that was being said. So she just collected herself to go forward.”
More than 700 others made their way to the front of the stadium during the June 15-17 Celebration to make commitments to Christ. The stadium, usually alive with sports events, resounded during the Celebration of Hope with music from Aaron Shust, The Afters and Newsboys. Each night, the crowd pumped their fists in the air as the groups performed. Some sprang into dance.
Then Will’s distinctive voice, like the voice of his grandfather in Glasgow in 1955 and 1991, and his father 20 years ago in Perth, rang out with truth: “God’s been chasing after you,” he said on Friday night, as Scots cozied up in their jackets and sweaters to ward off the chill.
“What would happen if today was the last day of your life?” he asked on Saturday. “Would you have any regrets? … The Bible says in the span of eternity your life is like a vapor. We’re never guaranteed a tomorrow.”
Then Sunday: “Salvation is a Person, and His Name is Jesus. He’s the only One who died for your sins.”
Situated between Edinburgh and Glasgow, Falkirk district was once known for its heavy industry, but that has all but disappeared. The area, now home to about 160,000 residents, draws tourists each year to see the Kelpies, a pair of gigantic horse sculptures and the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first and only rotating boat lift.
The region’s spiritual climate has changed since Mr. Graham held his multi-city Crusade in 1955. About 50 percent of Scots attended church regularly in those days, compared to only 7 percent today.
“The secularization of our nation has impacted Falkirk,” said Michael Rollo, pastor of Found Church. “But there is a relatively strong evangelical community.”
More than 300 pastors took BGEA’s discipleship training in preparation for the Celebration, and 1,500 attended the Christian Life and Witness Course. Those numbers are particularly encouraging, said Celebration director Gary Cobb, because people aren’t that comfortable sharing their faith.
“A lot of people view evangelism as being rude,” Cobb said. “They don’t want to talk about their faith so much.”
The church in Scotland has been described as a “sleeping giant,” said Alistair Barton, the prayer team chair, when the Celebration was announced. “But tonight I want to declare: ‘The sleeping giant is stirring!’”
More than 9,500 attended the Celebration, with another 31,000-plus from 87 countries watching online.
“I have been so blessed by attending the Scotland Hope Celebrations in Falkirk this weekend, and [I] re-committed my life to Jesus,” a woman named Elizabeth wrote on billygraham.org. “I made a decision to follow Jesus during the 1991 Crusade in Glasgow when Billy Graham so clearly spoke into my heart. [I’m] thankful for Will for following in his grandfather’s footsteps as he speaks with such conviction of Jesus’ love.”
Christians had spent months preparing for the Celebration, and they are now praising God for victories in their families.
“My 19-year-old nephew, Keith, went forward tonight and, with my husband by his side counseling him, he gave his heart to the Lord,” said Hazel Christie. “We are ecstatic and praying that his decision will challenge other family members.”
Churches and faith leaders are encouraged.
“It’s been an awesome weekend,” Rollo said. “It’s just been fantastic to see all these people coming forward. We believe that people will come to realize that God is alive in Scotland.”