October 5, 2006
Dozens of hands shoot into the air. Blue and pink cards wave high
above the crowd. The lights of the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre
brighten as several hundred "counsellors" move in to the crowd. The
counsellors are community youth group leaders and pastors who have
volunteered to come to the centre tonight and help out anyone who
is not yet a born-again Christian. They answer questions and hand
out an information package about Jesus and what it means to be born
again. Will Graham, the 31-year-old grandson of evangelist Billy
Graham, has just finished leading the entire building in a
"Only God can change your heart. Jesus wants to give you life,"
Graham says to the nearly full building. He is only one part of an
evening of Christian rock music and multimedia presentations
working to integrate faith with youth culture.
Saturday's event is phase six of a seven-phase youth training and
mentoring process organized by local youth leaders and co-sponsored
by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada.
Will Graham's talk moves from joking with the crowd about his
troubles with the metric system to his core message about accepting
"Buddha did not die for your sins. Muhammad did not die for your
sins," says Graham and refers to several stories from the Bible as
well as referencing real-life examples, eliciting cheers from the
The mixed crowd includes all ages from toddlers to grandparents,
but the majority are tweens. A teenage boy sporting a hat that
reads "Your Momma's as Big as Jesus" hangs back during the prayer
session only to rush forward when the music begins. A young couple
holds hands and whispers in the hallway during intermission.
Tree63, a three-piece rock band from Durban, South Africa, are the
headliners of the night, closing the show with their own brand of
energetic and catchy rock. Two songs into the set, lead singer John
Ellis asks the jumping crowd to "Take it easy. We don't need
Reading the lyrics off a screen next to the stage, everyone joins
in with Tree63's songs "Blessed Be His Name" and "I Stand for
"Music makes a better impact," says one counsellor, who was warned
before coming to the event "not to expect a night of hymns."
Opening acts Salvador and Joy Williams are stars in their own
right in the Christian rock world.
The 22-year-old Williams took to the stage for a quick set,
talking honestly with the crowd and encouraging everyone to sing
along. A petite blond, she belts out melodic pop music while
bouncing around the stage.
Salvador, from Austin, Texas, offers pop-rock fare that blends
traditional Latin percussion elements with trombones and
Between bands, short multimedia videos look at some of the other
stages of the Epicentre series. The final step,
global velocity, is from June 29 to July
11, 2007. Young people will head to the Port of Spain, Trinidad to
join local Christians to develop and implement ministries and
outreach activities for locals. Earlier stages in the process
include downtown and campus prayers as well as weekend workshops on
how to follow Christ. Almost all parts of the
Epicentre program include music.
"[We] really need Christ in Victoria. There's a lot of apathy,"
says one counsellor as she takes a break from the crowd of young
people in front of the stage. She hopes to get across the message
that Christianity can be personal and fun and that it isn't only
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada