**This was originally published on Thursday, April 28, 2016, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column may be updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog.**
Although it is obvious from my columns that I am a Christian, I try to stay away from too much discussion of religion in my writings for secular publications. I was advised to do so years ago when I was editor of The Stokes News, and I obeyed…..with only the occasional mention of “the Good Book” or “the Man upstairs” (couched in those generic terms to spare me any scolding from the higher-ups). I typically write about family, our Southern dialects, county events, nature.
Yes, I noticed that even big-city secular newspapers often have a regular religious columnist or a “Religion” section. The Washington Post even has a religion reporter. Nonetheless, I kept on writing columns that would not rankle the likes of my former publishers at Heartland Publications, being the good little girl that I am.
But today I am stepping outside the bounds of “good-little-girlism.”
Recently, there was something in the realm of religion going on across this country that is most definitely newsworthy. In fact, it is so newsworthy that secular newspapers were picking up the scoop. For instance, I read an account of these events in The Logan Banner, a newspaper owned by the same company that owns The Stokes News.
The event? Revival breaking out amongst youth in WV and KY schools. No, I’m not getting this confused with the movies “Woodlawn” and “Facing the Giants.” This isn’t a movie I’m talking about; it’s real life.
Teenagers were preaching in the halls of their high schools. Kids were repenting in the school gym during lunch period. Youth were congregating on football fields at night to pray.
Although I’m sure this youth revival was actually birthed through prayer long before the initial sparks flashed, one of the first catalysts for this fiery outbreak was a young man named Skyler Miller, a two-time leukemia survivor who decided to preach in the halls of West Virginia’s Logan High School on March 24, 2016.
The Logan Banner reported: “‘I had been praying for a long time that Jesus would send me into the hall to preach the gospel because I wanted to be fearless and bold for him just like the disciples and apostle Paul,’ Miller said. ‘About 20 minutes before I did it, he told me, ‘Today is the day, Skyler. Go be a light and let the broken know who I am.’”
Rather than mocking him, students began to sit down in the hall to listen to Miller. By the next day, Good Friday, he was preaching in the school gym on his lunch break.
Less than a month later, just a bit south at Mingo Central High School, the school’s prayer club announced that a revival service would be held in the school auditorium. By the next day, word got around that the auditorium would not hold the expected crowd, so the event was moved to the school’s football field.
It’s a really good thing they moved it because the Williamson Daily News reported that nearly 3,000 people showed up. (And folks, this is in a town as small as my hometown of Walnut Cove—population 1,400!) Pictures from the event went viral on the Internet—teenagers with their hands raised, tears pouring, on their knees, being baptized in an inflatable swimming pool in the end zone. I saw pictures of weeping, praying students at several schools in the WV/KY border regions—not just high schools, but also elementary and middle schools.
It was indeed reminiscent of the scene in the 2006 movie “Facing the Giants” where students are in prayer huddles on the football field, as well as the scene in the recent Sean Astin movie “Woodlawn” where students are praying in the school gym. The latter is, in fact, based on the true story of the revival that swept through Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, AL, in the mid-1970’s.
Why am I so interested in this revival phenomenon? Because in 1996, I dreamed of a great revival in the area of Southeastern Middle School in Walnut Cove, NC. It was the first of many dreams of a revival starting in Walnut Cove, a town I hated at the time. I was taken by surprise by these dreams and fought for a while against what I knew to be true—that I would not be able to escape my hometown and needed to stay in order to pray for the coming revival.
In October 2000, I attended a Christian youth conference in Charlotte, NC. I had been studying the great 1906 Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles and was desperate to find a rare old book by Frank Bartleman, an eyewitness of that revival. Suddenly, I was approached by an older lady whom I did not know. She handed me that very book and said, “I got this for myself, but God told me to give it to you. You’re going to need it.” Talk about astounded!
I never saw that lady again.
Fast forward through 14 years of praying, hungering, thirsting for this revival in the town that I no longer detested but had fallen head over heels in love with. We arrive at late 2014 with me at a prayer meeting at the church I pastor, The Well. Enter another woman unknown to me. Since she came with a visiting friend from a church in Clemmons, NC, I assumed she was trustworthy.
After a time of prayer, I suddenly felt from God to go to this mystery lady and ask her to pray over me about Walnut Cove. I hesitated but finally yielded. Imagine my shock when she told me she had been waiting for me to come to her, and then laid her hands on my head and began to speak of Azusa Street and a revival coming to Walnut Cove. She spoke of things she could not have known in the natural.
But it is what she said next that hit me even harder: “This revival will be focused on youth.”
I had known that, to a degree, ever since that incredible Charlotte youth conference in 2000. This is why I organize annual youth rallies in Walnut Cove at Lions Park or in London Elementary School Gym. This is why I host youth Bible schools all summer long…..because I believe what swept through these small coal-mining towns of West Virginia and Kentucky is going to sweep through Walnut Cove as well.
Our youth are hungry for something more than traditional religion. They want a current move of God. They’ve searched long enough in drugs, alcohol, promiscuity. They want something real and lasting.
Yes, I’ll go back to writing about springtime and children and the old paths. But I just figured that if the Washington Post, The Logan Banner, the Williamson Daily News and others can touch on religion occasionally, so can I.
I feel revival rising…..