Jul. 25—FAIRMONT — Following in the footsteps of his grandfather Billy Graham, Will Graham has come to Fairmont to preach the gospel.
In his three-day crusade, held at Fairmont State University's Duvall-Rosier Field, Graham's Mountain State Celebration has proven to be a success.
Fairmont is one of only four United States cities chosen to host Will Graham's 2021 crusade. Fairmont was on the schedule for 2020 — one of only two cities — but as with most events during 2020, the event was postponed until this year. So last year's travel plan was added to this year's, giving Graham a four-city tour, rather than two.
But how did Fairmont wind up on the short list? We can thank longtime friend of Graham's, Eric Miker, for making it happen. Miker, a Fairmont resident and youth pastor at Jewel City Church in Meadowbrook, proposed the idea of a Fairmont visit to Graham.
"He's the one who kind of spearheaded it and got it going," Graham said. "Eric's a longtime friend of mine. We were invited to come here, we looked at it, and we said this would be a good place to come to, to preach."
The wheels were set in motion. "It took a while to plan the event in Fairmont," Graham said. "But two months prior to the event's scheduled time, COVID hit and everything shut down."
By that time, the 2021 schedule had already been planned, so the team had to make revisions in order to fit both years' agendas into the 2021 schedule.
"It's been a long time coming," Graham said. "It's good to get back in the saddle — we haven't been able to do one of these things for about a year and a half."
Growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, Graham has a special appreciation for West Virginia.
"I grew up in Boone," he said. "That's why I like West Virginia so much. One of my local friends said it's an untapped state, and that's so true There's so much potential here and so much beauty that can draw people here."
Graham's topic for Sunday's service, which begins at 5 p.m., is the prodigal son.
"I'll be encouraging people to come back to the church," he said. "People who grew up in the church — and maybe they've kind of run away, or run away from God, more importantly — I want to talk to them about coming back, coming back to God. And God is longing to see them back."
Preaching wasn't always at the top of Graham's career choices.
"I wasn't always drawn to it," he said. "I wanted to ride motorcycles for a living — I really did — but it didn't pay very well. I love riding motorcycles."
For Graham, it was a gradual process to be involved in his father's and grandfather's work.
"I was a believer," he said, "but I just wanted to be a Christian motorcycle rider. But over time, God led me here. And I knew I had to do it. I was pastoring at the time in Raleigh.
"I tell people God tricked me, and I don't mean that in a bad way," Graham said. "I'm just saying God didn't show me the full picture. If I did, I probably would have run away. God said here, take this step, and I took that step, then he would grow me a little bit more.
"But if he had showed it to me all at once, I would have been like Jonah, I would have run down to Joppa, bought a boat ticket, and gone in the other direction."
Following in Billy Graham's footsteps has been no easy task.
"They're big shoes, you know, but I try to just use the shoes that God gave me," Graham said. "He cast a very big shadow — to be honest it's a wonderful shadow. People loved my grandfather, they respected my grandfather. It's opened up a lot of doors for me. Not because of anything that Will Graham has done but because they loved Billy Graham so much."
"I never want to take advantage of it," Graham continued. "But I do want to preach the gospel. I want to take that opportunity to preach the gospel."
Knowing that some people are still reluctant to attend crowded events, Graham said that anyone can watch his sermon through a live feed, www.willgrahamlive.com. For information about the Mountain State Crusade, go to https://fairmont.billygraham.org.
To reach Lori Riley, email firstname.lastname@example.org.