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Entry 7 Hope Went Viral: Darlene and the Bibles

As I headed back to the office to do some more work and meet with students, I saw Wes, one of the engineers assisting with the livestream that began on Day 12. I asked him if he knew how many viewers we had. The University was live-streaming directly on the website like it always had for chapel. The chaos on YouTube was the most destructive of all social media with an enormous amount of disinformation -especially to those overseas. The need to avoid YouTube and move everyone directly to the website was crucial. It had totaled around 62,000 views in one day, but was unfortunately a fraction of YouTube views (all created by those outside the University) were receiving. During a normal chapel service, views are around 60. Most of those views come from faculty and staff who want to watch from their offices. So, to add that many 0s was more than unusual. Jim, the Media Communication Chair and Dean of the school helped build the infrastructure needed to make this livestream happen. I hadn’t seen him in two weeks but I heard others quote him. On Day 3, I overheard our assistant say someone in administration approached Jim to livestream the chapel on our website. Jim responded with, “Are you sure you want to do that? Our students are sharing very personal details and may not want everyone to know.” Like many revivals, the event started with many students making confessions. I wasn't in the chapel that day but as I understand from students, it seemed to be a "yea, me too" type of moment. I imagined a small group of students taking turns to vulnerably admit their faults while those who confessed before them comforted and prayed over them.

The evening of Day 14, I helped Oliver get out the giant Nutella bottle we bought together the day before to make a sandwich. I normally wouldn’t let him eat Nutella for dinner, but today I wasn’t picking this battle. I was so busy getting the boys settled, I forgot to eat dinner before driving to campus for my volunteer shift. When I arrived, someone quickly needed me in Hughes so I didn’t have time to eat the delicious food a local restaurant, Chuy’s, donated. I met about 10 other volunteers assigned to the lobby where they had naturally formed a circle to listen to the leader giving directions. The leader was the same man who shoved me the day before. I discovered his name as CE, a name I had heard a few times in the volunteer check-in room. He was tall, had a voice that declared attention and a military-like personality that made you feel at ease in a situation that didn’t quite feel controllable. During my time at the University prior to coming to Asbury, the campus experienced an F-4 tornado. Jesse and I were one of the firsts to the scene. It was in the middle of the night. The campus was pitch black due to power outages. It was on a Tuesday, the first week of the semester, so every student occupied the dorms. Every dorm building was hit and many leveled. The hallways were lined with hospital beds. Jesse and I directed the SWAT team where to go, as they didn't have campus maps. We removed debris so ambulances could drive in. We searched cars for bodies. It was the closest to war I have ever experienced. In many ways, although peaceful, the outpouring felt the similar. Those like CE were absolutely a gift from God.

CE had a gold pin on that said “usher”. I wore a custom pin with my name, department and Asbury University logo. Everyone that worked at the University had one. Faculty rarely need to wear it, but in the last 14 days, it served as a VIP pass for all security check points so I could not leave the house without it. Only one other person in the group of Ushers had an Asbury employee pin on. I recognized her, so I stood beside her. I knew her more than she knew me from the many emails she had to sent in regards to advising students. CE seemed to not see me at all as he assigned everyone a job but me, so I decided to take over the snack table in the middle of the lobby. The first time I had seen snacks as part of the Outpouring was on Day 4. A table of chips and granola bars appeared in the middle of the hallway at the backdoor and another at the front entrance of Hughes Auditorium. I was so excited to again have a different job. I was so eager to experience every corner of this event. I was told by my former student, Blake, now an Asbury employee, that they had been keeping a count of how many mints were being distributed and the current total was 87 lbs. The day before, the volunteers could barely keep up with resupplying. Tonight, the table was ready with chips, nuts, granola bars and bottles of water in neat, perfect rows. CE asked some athletic high school guys and girls in line to carry large cases of water to the snack station. They all happily agreed and stacked them one by one under my table. Some volunteers who had obviously ushered before mentioned it should be a small crowd tonight and should be easy. By a small crowd, she meant, people wouldn’t have to wait more than an hour outside.

A couple came in and someone decided to put them with me at the snack table. They asked me to train them so they would know what to do. I admitted no one told me anything. I showed her the bibles donated also in neat stacks. They were inexpensive, soft-cover, blue bibles with a trendy font on the cover that said “Holy Bible”. The lady introduced herself as Darlene and she immediately got excited. She asked,

“Who donated them?”

“I don’t know.” I said.

“Oh! I bet it was Billy Graham!” She said with such excitement.

I shrugged.

A volunteer earlier told me to only let people have one bible who didn't have one. I told her about the rule but mentioned I would have a hard time telling someone they can’t have more than one bible if they really wanted it, therefore, I didn’t plan to enforce it. She looked at me with a cute but rebellious grin and immediately agreed.

As the young adults came in, they were all very respectful. Some asked if they needed to pay for the snacks. Many told us thank you walking by. Everyone cooperated and filed to their seats. Darlene decided she wasn’t in charge of snacks anymore. She was in charge of handing out bibles. I think my rebellious comment encouraged her to take it to the next level. She had an excitement about her like she had won the lottery and was throwing money into the air. Instead, she was throwing bibles. As the students came in, she talked to almost everyone asking where they were from while giving them a bible. Every time someone would say somewhere further, she would look back at me with her mouth open saying,

“Oh my gosh, can you believe it!? Can you believe all of these people!?”

She seemed to be so happy, everyone that walked by seemed to have no other choice but to take one of her bibles. Her husband and I looked at each other laughing at her delight. After a few minutes, the bibles on the table were disappearing fast and he started to get nervous. He fussed on her, telling her to ask if they wanted one, not just give them out. She smiled at him with the same rebellious grin and continued to do what she liked.

Once the chapel was filled to capacity, CE seemed more relaxed but still on guard in the center of the lobby standing by us. I told him, “You run a tight ship around here. I love it.” On Day 13, I witnessed Dr. Morley yelling at people in the exact spot CE was standing. Dr. Morely was desperately pushing the door closed due to people trying to come through. The lobby was in chaos many days. Having someone demanding and somewhat intimidating was beyond necessary to keep everyone safe. My compliment seemed to be successful when I saw CE smile for the first time. I introduced myself. He offered a hand shake, eye contact and told me his name for the first time. Immediately, he shook the hand of Darlene’s quiet husband as well and thanked him. He quickly became aware of another problem and steadily walked away on a mission.

As I was replenishing the chips, I recognized my hunger and decided I would eat whatever chips were available whenever the lines of each option were bigger than the table could hold. Ironically, there were two Cheetos bags left in my box. It reminded me of our Hot Cheeto Mac n Cheese failure the night before. As I ate Cheetos without much to do, Darlene’s husband encouraged me to go eat dinner in the command center, so I did. Although I had only known her for an hour and a half, Darlene gave me the biggest hug bye as if I were her niece or grand daughter. I told her she was the highlight of my night.

My friend Mike and I coincidentally left at the same time to get some dinner. We talked about his wife, Linda’s case at faculty assembly. Mike is always eager to help out. He helped my husband and I move. He and Linda gifted us snacks during our move and we had dinner together a couple of times. Mike told me about his friend who worked for being there to write about the event. We introduced ourselves. He was with his son and connected to Asbury as an alumni. They didn't seem to be volunteering but were hanging out and chatting in the command center for a brief time while I ate. I understood the eagerness to write about the event, but it all seemed too quick. We were all too close to it. It wasn’t even over, and people every where had written about it. Many people I firmly respected were already claiming words to it all. My career is in media, so I understand the pressure of urgency but this event was different. The words recorded needed reflection. Because when you are this close, you don't see the big picture - what is really happening. I understand though, that even a glimpse of God is enough to make you as enthusiastic as Darlene and her bibles. You just can't help but be joyful and share the wonderful news of God's work and promise.

Artwork by Asbury student representing the outpouring's reach. Photo by Lisa Weaver Swartz

Jackson, TN, February 7, 2008 -- Blown in walls and missing roofs, Tornado damaged buildings at Union University, a Christian college that sustained major damage. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA

If anyone has images of the public snack tables to use as illustration for this post, please email me at Thank you!

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