Evangelist and speaker Will Graham, grandson of the late Billy Graham, will headline a three-day Christian celebration in Helena this fall.
The Big Sky Celebration will take place at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds from Sept. 6-8, featuring Christian music, prayer and preaching. The event will also be held in Great Falls from Sept. 13-15.
Will announced the celebration to a group of pastors and other members of the Christian community during a kickoff event Tuesday at the Helena Civic Center. Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines also attended the kickoff.
Will's ministry, while not on the same scale as his grandfather's, is similar. He travels the world and preaches Christianity to those who will listen, from Thailand to Australia to the Philippines. The Big Sky Celebration is part of the same outreach that runs in the Graham family.
"People ask, 'How did you pick Helena?" said John Cass, executive director of celebrations for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. "It was not by chance. We got an invitation."
A Hamilton man named Scott Larson sent a letter to the association, asking them to come to Montana and celebrate and preach, Cass said.
"People say we blow in, blow up and blow out," Cass said. "We don't operate like that."
Will said he and the association "still want to do something in Hamilton," but decided that coming to Helena would make more sense.
Junior Castillo, the association's celebration director, has been working with Helena and Montana pastors over the past six months to put together the celebration.
"We receive an invitation and consider the needs in the community," Castillo said. "Then we put a team together and move forward."
Castillo said there are currently nine different teams working on the celebration, as the logistics of a major event are daunting. "The only way this could happen is listening to the hearts of pastors," Castillo said. "Everything is with and through pastors."
Will said he was glad to be back in Montana.
"My wife and I spent our honeymoon down in Ennis," he said, where a late June snowstorm left 3 inches of snow in the young Graham's rental car, something he now laughs about.
Will's father Franklin Graham visited Great Falls and Helena in 2016, and the Grahams had hoped to visit again, but "it was not the right time," Will said.
"We're grateful to be in Helena," Will said.