For many in Canada and around the world, the Thompson-Okanagan region is exactly what one might picture when thinking about British Columbia.
Deep green fir trees blanket rising mountains. Picturesque horse farms stretch across fertile valleys. Crystal-clear water flows from massive Shuswap Lake, feeding the Thompson River. Fall foliage paints a masterpiece that would make the most accomplished artist envious.
Be in the right place at the right time, and you may even see a salmon crack the surface of the still water, a bear lumber across a backcountry road, or a moose peacefully drinking from a reedy swamp.
Perhaps that’s why this region draws tourists from across the country and worldwide, with many spending their summers enjoying its unrivaled majesty.
But, as is often the case, beauty can be deceiving. You don’t have to look far to see that people are struggling.
Many of those once-pristine mountainsides are now largely barren, with lonely blackened tree trunks a stark reminder of the historically destructive wildfires that burned through the area earlier this year. People throughout the Thompson-Okanagan region have been left homeless and hurting as their dreams, possessions and sense of security were consumed in a matter of minutes.
Or you could look at the issues of homelessness, drug addiction, and alcoholism afflicting the population. Deaths from fentanyl overdoses have left broken hearts and broken families searching for answers.
Beauty and sorrow, affluence and addiction. It was into this unique juxtaposition that Will Graham came with a message of hope—not just hope for this life, but hope for eternity—at the Thompson-Okanagan Look Up Tour in Kamloops, Vernon, and Kelowna.
Kamloops – The Hour of Decision
The opening night of the Look Up Tour took place Friday night, Oct. 14, in Kamloops. The raucous overflow crowd passionately sang along with music by Irish folk-rock band Rend Collective and Canadian country singer George Canyon (both of whom performed throughout the tour).
As the music came to a close, Graham took the stage and opened his Bible to Matthew 27, where he read about Pontius Pilate at the trial of Jesus.
“Tonight I want to talk to you about making a decision, the most important decision of your life,” said Graham. “What are you going to do with Jesus?”
Graham shared that Pilate had the opportunity to interview the living Christ. Pilate recognized that Jesus was innocent and that He was different. In fact, Pilate had the ability to make a decision to release Jesus, but he didn’t do it. Instead, Jesus was condemned to death on the cross.
“Every person who came in contact with Jesus had to make a decision about Jesus. They either followed Him or rejected Him. You can’t be neutral,” said Graham.
“Making no decision for Christ is making a decision about Him. That’s why this decision is so important. Eternity is at stake.”
People throughout the audience jumped at the opportunity to make that all-important decision. Among them was Luke,* an Indigenous man who has lived in Kamloops for nearly three decades.
“I’ll be honest, two-and-a-half years ago, I was in jail. I had lost my family. Just had a lot of hard times,” said Luke.
“But you know, God has just shown incredible, incredible mercy on my life. Just the miracles that happened. I think back to how it was for me before. It felt like when I did things my way, nothing worked. But when I allowed God to lead the way, I can’t even keep up sometimes with the miracles that happen.”
Luke is now active in a small native congregation that is built on a foundation of Jesus Christ and God’s Word and has his family back. That doesn’t mean life is easy, however. He shared that several family members have recently died from fentanyl, and his daughter—who responded alongside him on Friday night—is only ten days out of detox.
“She’s been in a real rough place, but God has pulled her out of that, and I’ve been praying for help. It’s a struggle. I can certainly feel the enemy resisting in every way.”
Luke—who proudly shared that he listens to Billy Graham sermons on YouTube almost every day and had to come see Billy Graham’s grandson preach—explained that it was important for him to walk forward at the Look Up Tour.
“I rededicated my life to Christ openly. It’s an opportunity to proclaim it,” he said. “It’s one thing for me to live it and say it. It’s another thing to be able to proclaim it, and also to show my daughter.”
Vernon – For God So Loved the World
From Kamloops, Will Graham traveled some 100 kilometers southeast to Vernon, British Columbia, where he held a pair of events on Saturday, marking the second day of the Thompson-Okanagan Look Up Tour.
During the afternoon session, Graham focused on the story of Nicodemus in John 3, encouraging those in attendance that they must be “born again” (John 3:3).
Later, in the evening session, Graham remained in the same book and chapter, examining the words of John 3:16.
“God sent His Son Jesus into this world to make a way, so we can have a perfect relationship with God … so we can have that joy and peace in life that is so elusive. He’s the answer that you’ve been looking for in life. It’s Jesus,” said Graham.
“Our sin separates us from God. So, how does a sinful person have a relationship with a perfect God? God took all of our sin, all the sin of the world, and He placed it on His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus died so that you can live. In return, God gave us Jesus’ righteousness.”
As Graham issued a call for people to repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus, one of the first to respond was Rico, a sunny Filipino man with a big, bright smile. After praying to accept Christ as Savior, Rico explained that he had been in Vernon for one year. Prior to that, he worked in Saudi Arabia for more than a decade.
Though he had never made a decision for Christ before, the Holy Spirit had been drawing and preparing Rico for several months. Before leaving Saudi Arabia, he felt burdened to pray that he would connect with a church in his new homeland of Canada. Now here, a friend invited Rico to the Look Up Tour, and he found what his soul had been seeking.
“God really connected with me today. I feel His presence and Spirit. I know He can forgive me. I have now direct connection to Him. Praise the Lord! It’s like I accept Him, that He saves me,” said Rico, beaming like a man who just discovered lost treasure.
“It’s unexplainable,” he added when asked how he feels after surrendering his eternity to Christ. “I have a desire now to know Him more. I’m encouraged to read the Bible more. I have these feelings of trust and faith in Him. This is what I prayed for a long time!”
Kelowna – Calling the Prodigals Home
The Thompson-Okanagan Look Up Tour concluded in Kelowna on Sunday, Oct. 15. A packed-out audience worshipped and danced along with the artists, but quickly settled in as Will Graham opened God’s Word to the parable of the Prodigal Son.
Graham shared that the prodigal wanted to live life by his own rules. He didn’t want to follow his father’s standards. Ultimately, there was a price to be paid, as the son was left broke and lost.
“I’m here to tell you, sin is fun. Did you hear what I said? Sin is fun … for a while,” said Graham.
“But then it leaves you broken. It leaves you worse than you were before. It robs you of joy and meaning. The fun wears off, and you need to do it again, and again, and again. After a while, you realize you’re in a cycle and you can’t get out of it. It starts to destroy you.”
Graham pointed out that the prodigal son finally became sick and tired of being sick and tired. He repented of his errors, swallowed his pride, and returned home to his father.
“Have you realized that you’re a sinner? We’re all prodigals. We’ve broken God’s laws. We’ve tried to do things our way, and it leaves us miserable. It’s time to realize that God is right and we’re wrong,” Graham said.
“It’s time to come home. God is waiting for you, but you have to get out of the pigpen. Will you return home to Jesus tonight?”
The message resonated, and people flowed forward, many with tears in their eyes.
One of those who responded was Maritza, who moved to Kelowna from Mexico. She shared that she was once involved in witchcraft but was radically saved from that life five years ago when she accepted Christ as Savior. She feels a special connection to the Graham family because her grandfather—who was also a believer—passed away one day after Billy Graham in 2018. When she heard that Will Graham was coming to town, it was a dream come true.
As Maritza listened to Graham’s message, she recognized that she had drifted from the Lord and needed to rededicate her life to Him. “It was speaking to me because I want to do things in my own way… I’m not fulfilled. When he said my Father was waiting for me to come home, it really touched my heart,” she said.
“My heart is just filled. He has given me this present to be here. He’s telling me, you are my daughter.”
The Journey of Faith
All told, more than 2,750 people attended the long-anticipated Thompson-Okanagan Look Up Tour with Will Graham. A total of 122 souls responded to the invitation to follow Jesus as Savior.
As the Look Up Tour comes to an end, the churches of Kamloops, Vernon, and Kelowna will now connect with each of those who gave their lives to Christ this weekend, help them to become a part of the church community and walk alongside them on this journey.
Eternity has been impacted this weekend, and many prayerfully believe that the Thompson-Okanagan region is seeing the first fruits of revival that will spread across the land.
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