WILMORE — Mount Freedom Baptist Church members had a bird’s eye view of the Asbury University revival in February.
The church is located across the street from where the Asbury campus begins. A lot of the college students in the church were part of the revival from the beginning, said Mount Freedom Pastor Nathan Elliott, who has served 15 years at the church.
Mount Freedom did not just watch what was happening, they experienced it and participated in some spirit-filled moments.
“It really was something,” Elliott said. “I talked to several friends who had experienced it directly, other clergy who had gone. Between all of us, the general sense was of ‘I don’t have anything to criticize about it.’ In terms of experiencing it personally, seeing how it was led, all of us just sensed the Lord did something here.”
Elliott said the revival was simple, but effective.
“The extraordinary thing was it wasn’t extraordinary,” he said. “There wasn’t any dimming of the lights, no smoke on the screen, it was all very simple. The level of engagement was incredible. Everybody was very much awake and leaning in and just alert. Where else do you have people there for like eight hours and be that engaged?”
Mount Freedom offers to assist
The revival started on a Wednesday (Feb. 8) and the following Sunday morning, Elliott said he texted Mark Troyer, the vice president of Asbury, to tell him the church was praying for them.
“I also told them our people and our facility are available as you need us and I passed that on to Sarah Baldwin, the dean of students,” Elliott said. “I contacted Sarah again and she said this coming weekend they were expecting a lot of people and asked if we could simulcast.”
Elliott committed the church from 5 to midnight for the following Friday, Saturday and Sunday where a simulcast of what was happening at the Hughes Auditorium would be shown before asking for volunteers. The pastor sent out a text to members and quickly had 15 volunteers for each of the three nights who agreed to serve.
“We were packed. Every single seat was filled, and people were in the aisles and sitting on the stage,” he said. “I was there with 15 volunteers from church each night. We had badges on and prayed with people. It was really neat. People were pulling me aside to pray with them.”
He said a couple from northern Indiana attended the Saturday service and were “just defeated,” Elliott said. “The husband had this addiction to heroin and could not break it. He had walked away from recovery programs. They wanted prayer.”
Elliott gathered some others, took them to another room in the church and laid hands and prayed for them. “It was earnest prayer,” he said. “They talked to me and said, ‘We don’t want to go back home. We even have heroin in the car.’ ”
A couple in the church who were former missionaries had already invited them to spend the night at their home. “I said, ‘Let’s pray again’ and we prayed for God to show us what to do and then we talked a little more,” the pastor said.
Elliott said he had made a recent visit to Isaiah House, an addiction treatment center in Harrodsburg, where he met a man named Troy, one of the representatives. It was 10 at night, but the pastor texted Troy and he immediately texted back. He asked if they could call and Troy agreed. “I put him on speaker (phone) and he explained it to them and they said ‘We don’t have the money for this.’ Troy said don’t worry about that, we will find the financing. They came back to church the next morning and said they were ready to go (to Isaiah House).”
The man completed the four-week program and came back to Mount Freedom where Elliott said he and his wife were “beaming from ear-to-ear. They’re going through the eight-week program together in the fall. That’s just one of the stories from the simulcast.”
Elliott likened the couple’s story to a biblical account in Mark when a woman in her desperation to be healed simply wanted to touch the edge of Jesus’ garment.
“She had tried everything, spent all of her money and heard the news about Jesus. She came up behind him thinking if only I can touch the edge of his garment. I really felt that represented them. They had tried everything they could. They heard the news of what was happening (at Asbury) and thought if only we could come. It was exciting to pray with that kind of desperation. We have no other hope (than Jesus). That’s how that unfolded for them. They formed a good relationship with Maria and Mark Walker, the retired missionary couple who gave them a place to stay on the Saturday night, and are keeping contact with them.”
Elliott applauds Asbury leadership
Elliott said he believed the Asbury revival was a true movement of God. He said the two weeks will be long remembered especially by anyone living in Wilmore. The school administration’s handling of the revival was something else that stuck with the pastor.
“I was very impressed with leadership over at Asbury and the decisions they had to make,” he said. “They were very committed to praying and not make this a celebrity event or even try to capitalize on it. Even first night we were open, President (Kevin) Brown and Mark Troyer came over to our church and stood and talked to me 15 to 20 minutes. They were very grateful we opened the doors.”
Asbury University leadership turned to prayer from the beginning of the revival when it had stretched into late afternoon on Feb. 8. A mix of administrators, staff, faculty, friends and university neighbors quickly mobilized. They gathered in a storage closet off the side of Hughes Auditorium and then repurposed a classroom to facilitate and support whatever it was that God was doing.
The group decided to have ministers stay in Hughes and have security watch the building, but keep it open. They would let the students stay and pray and sing as long as they wanted.
Meeting in prayer closet at Hughes
“it was a special moment. This isn’t sustainable for it to always be like this, but it’s something you enjoy when it’s there,” Elliott said. “I told Sarah I could not imagine a better team being in place than was there in terms of the leadership they provided. They devoted themselves to prayer. They had a large closet where they would meet to pray. They were committed to praying about every aspect of this. I trust their decision (to move it off campus). The Lord brought it here at this time for a reason, and they sought as best they could to be sensitive in every step. I trust they were listening to the Lord.”
February was an incredible month for Mount Freedom, the pastor said. A 10-person group returned from a mission trip to Colombia where they met with IMB missionaries with church ties on Feb. 2. There were six baptisms on Feb. 5 and the Asbury revival began on Feb. 8.
The pastor said what happened at Mount Freedom because of the Asbury revival showed him “people were ready for the moment, to step in place and do their part.”
He said one woman, a young mother of four, said she went, and it made her feel awkward to be there. “She said, ‘I was expecting it to have an impact on me and it didn’t.’ I said, ‘Maybe it was because God did a revival on you six months ago.’ She almost died in August and after that her whole life changed. She was out front, calling to people, bringing them into the church (before the simulcasts). That was one of the big lessons to see the people had been prepared and ready for the moment to serve.”
Mount Freedom has been on an upswing since recovering from a fire in the sanctuary in May 2020 that caused $450,000 in repair and restoration.
It was no surprise to the pastor that they responded so quickly when asked about serving during the Asbury revival.
“The Lord has been good to us,” he said. “I can’t say enough in praise of my people. They love the Lord and are eager to serve him and are such a peaceful and devoted church.”
This story originally appeared on Kentucky Today, the online news website of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
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