Friends, siblings and strangers all walked forward together to the front of the stage during the youth-focused night of Will Graham’s Tasmania Celebration.

Drugs. Anxiety. Depression. Suicide.

You hear stories of it over and over again—and in Tasmania, Australia, it’s no different.

“Many people try to avoid pain,” Will Graham said during Friday night’s event in Launceston, Tasmania.

They try to avoid it through alcohol, drugs, sex, money or even by doing good things. “But it doesn’t fix it, does it? … The only way you can fix the problems in your life is to get to the heart of the problem—and that is sin,” Graham continued.

“That’s why Jesus came in the first place, for one purpose—to die for you. To rescue you.”

The youth-focused night brought young people from around the island to the Silverdome in Launceston, Tasmania, for the continuation of the Will Graham Celebration.

From the moment the doors opened in the arena, the air was charged with an energy only hundreds of youth can bring. They jumped up and down with singer CASS, belted out the lyrics to popular Planetboom songs, and worshiped with Josh Havens and Matt Fuqua of The Afters.

So when Will Graham took the stage, they leaned forward in their seats, attentively listening as the evangelist retold Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son, a young man who ran away looking to find happiness—but found nothing.

“Not knowing what the right way is, [many youth] are exploring different answers to find it,” said Oliver Mensah, lead pastor at Door of Hope Christian Church in Launceston. He sees some of the struggles young people face in the 21st century, and more specifically in Tasmania.

This was echoed by other youth leaders.

Rachel leads young people at Jailrace Community Church—where every Friday night, several children from around Launceston come for pizza and a message. Some come from broken families, others are in the foster system, and many struggle with mental health. They are looking for belonging and community, she explained. And that’s why they come.

And that divine sense of belonging is what eventually pulled the Prodigal Son to return home to his father—and urged many of the youth at Friday night’s Celebration to start or mend their relationship with the heavenly Father.

Many young people responded to Will Graham’s message, deciding then and there to follow Jesus.

Three sisters—Lily, Charlotte and River—came down together to recommit their lives to Jesus. A young, autistic girl went from standing nervously at the back to making a decision for Christ. A youth leader beamed after around 15 students from her group came forward at the invitation.

And Joseph Sucic made a decision that would change his life forever.

‘Most Definitely, and Absolutely’

Joseph Sucic sat listening to Will Graham’s message in one of the blue seats in the center of the the auditorium. His youth group from Gateway Church in Davenport, Tasmania, had bussed in dozens of students who were passionate and ready to hear the Gospel.

Joseph came “to learn more about God and how to get closer to Him,” he explained. “I don’t come from a religious family so all this stuff is really new to me.”

Since last November, he’s been to Gateway Church three times. “It’s one place I can really … ‘escape.’ That’s the word that comes to my mind.

“Six hours of being in that church has blown me away and fully changed my life in many ways. It’s absolutely incredible.” he continued. “I learned about Jesus and how amazing that is.”

So when Will Graham asked students to come forward and accept Jesus into their lives, he was the first of his friend group to get up and go, his flowered Hawaiian shirt leading the way. “I felt like a shock. I went up. I sort of hesitated at first and then was like, ‘No, go.’  I started walking.”

Joseph had decided to follow Jesus, “most definitely, and absolutely,” he said.

As the Tasmania Celebration continues Saturday and Sunday, would you pray that people would discover the freedom that can only be found in Jesus Christ?

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