20,000 Visitors Turn Up in Small Kentucky Town for Unexpected Religious Revival Event

20,000 Visitors Turn Up in Small Kentucky Town for Unexpected Religious Revival Event
Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, is the scene of a religious revival. (Courtesy of Asbury University website)
Steven Kovac

On the morning of Feb. 8, an ordinary chapel service at Asbury University, a Christian college in Wilmore, Kentucky, turned extraordinary.

When the 45-minute service was supposed to conclude nobody left.

So, what was the draw that kept so many in the Hughes Auditorium?

The hundreds of students who remained there around the clock for the next two weeks are convinced it was a spiritual power.

On social media, some of the lingering students described the divine presence as a palpable “weight” in the air.

Students at the revival service at Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky., on Feb. 9, 2023. (Courtesy of Daryl Blank)
Students at the revival service at Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky., on Feb. 9, 2023. (Courtesy of Daryl Blank)

In the succeeding hours and days, this spiritual phenomenon that Christians call “revival” spread throughout the campus, the small town of Wilmore, the surrounding area, and dozens of college campuses throughout the United States.

People, including many parents, began pouring into Wilmore (population 6,000) from all over the country and even the world to take part.

One participant noted that a show of hands in the Hughes Auditorium on Feb. 14 revealed that 90 percent of those in attendance at that moment were from out of state.

Local Resources Overwhelmed

By Feb. 20, college and municipal leaders determined that Asbury (enrollment 1,600) and the city of Wilmore did not have the capacity to shelter and feed the more than 20,000 visitors flooding the campus and town each day.

They called for the revival services to move out beyond its epicenter at Wilmore to other communities and venues, and for a resumption of the regular class schedule.

Not wanting to hinder the revival school officials had for nearly two weeks opened three additional auditoriums, altered schedules, canceled classes, and made many other special accommodations, but the local infrastructure was now overloaded, they said.

When he heard about the revival at Asbury, Pastor Daryl Blank of Cincinnati, Ohio, drove two hours to join the students and support them in prayer.

“When I arrived, the campus was crowded with parked cars. Eerily nobody was outside walking around. They were all at the revival. It was beautiful. Completely unscripted. The five hours I spent praying with the students seemed like one hour,” said Blank, who came back for more the next day.

What Is Revival?

Pastor Daryl Blank (Courtesy of Daryl Blank)
Pastor Daryl Blank (Courtesy of Daryl Blank)

According to evangelist, author, and revival expert, Rick Flanders, the word “revival” in the Christian sense means “to restore to life—the normal, healthy, spiritual life ... for every believer.”

From what he has seen and heard on social media Flanders told The Epoch Times that the revival among Christians at Asbury is, from the biblical perspective, “the real thing.”

“The spread of revival can positively affect the culture and even the direction of a nation,” he said. “I’ve seen it many times throughout American history.”

Spiritual revivals are nothing new in the United States. They occur in individual believers, church congregations, and other religious groups frequently.

They can be short-lived or last for decades.

A seven-day revival similar to the present ongoing event in Hughes Auditorium occurred at Asbury in 1970, one of many in the school’s history.

A large-scale revival called the Third Great Awakening swept much of the country in the decade before the Civil War. That revival was preceded by the First and Second Great Awakenings of the mid and late 1700s.

In each instance, a waning Christianity was dramatically reinvigorated.

Though revival is a spiritual phenomenon not tied to politics or any particular social issue, the reinvigoration of Christianity has been credited by some historians with paving the way for America’s independence from Great Britain, the creation of our founding documents, and later the abolition of slavery, according to Flanders.

What a Revival Looks Like

Cell phone video recordings posted on numerous social media platforms show hundreds of students, professors, and other visitors falling to their knees in prayer—some alone, and others in small groups—in response to the numerous confessions and testimonies.

Hundreds of voices spontaneously join in the singing of one spiritual song or hymn after another with next to no instrumental accompaniment or formal direction.

At times the large crowd of students fell into what one described as a “holy hush.”

One participant, Todd Bentley, told The Epoch Times in an email, “I have two words to describe my experience, love, and holiness. You can feel the anointing everywhere on the campus.”

Former friends reconciled their differences and forgave one another. Long-held grudges were abandoned, and bad habits are forsaken. Denominational and doctrinal differences were put aside, according to the posts.

Blank said that over the hours he observed people come and go, with a number bringing in snacks, drinks, and bedding.

“Rotating small groups keep the meeting going 24 hours a day, with attendance swelling to more than 1,500 during peak hours,” he said.

People who couldn’t come in person reported on social media that they were gathering for similar meetings in their own homes and churches.

Blank said he had personal knowledge of young people departing the revival asking the leadership of their churches back home to hold their own special prayer meetings.

Media Frenzy

The growing event caught the attention of the national media, with reporters from numerous outlets overwhelming the college switchboard with calls and filling administrative inboxes with emails.

Reporters flocked to Asbury and took up positions outside the overflowing auditorium as the revival meeting continued into the weekend and beyond.

By Feb. 16, the revival had 34 million views on TikTok.

Alexandra Presta, the editor of the college newspaper, wrote in an article that the event is about Jesus Christ and not about any leaders or participants.

Presta wrote that an attitude of humility is necessary to keep the revival spirit going.

Blank told The Epoch Times he does not see the revival that began at Asbury ending any time soon and is overjoyed to see it spreading revival throughout the country in answer to people’s prayers.

Steven Kovac reports for The Epoch Times from Michigan. He is a general news reporter who has covered topics related to rising consumer prices to election security issues. He can be reached at [email protected]
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