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Entry 9 Hope Went Viral: Final Entry

It is now 7 months since the outpouring began. I am surprised by how quickly the hype moved on. However, looking back, there are consistent themes throughout those days in February 2023. I'm embarrassed it took me so many days to realize God's independence in the movement we experienced. During the first few days, we had one police officer often hanging out behind the stage of Hughes where the two buildings meet and many entrances meet. I spoke with him and told him of my many concerns for our safety. Monitoring social media, I could see thousands of people were coming to Wilmore. I felt like I needed to be a Paul Revere, but again, I was dismissed. The officer told me there was nothing to worry about. Unsatisfied and frustrated, as I walked back to my office, God's voice became so clear when he said, "Heather, I don't need your help." From that moment on, I transformed my eagerness to feel in control to simply a participant. As a result, I began noticing what God was really doing. Not only was he working in the hearts of these travelers, but he was giving all of us in Wilmore a gift as well.

Throughout the outpouring Wilmore, KY experienced by surprise, many questions circulated the web but a few were more common. Toward the end, there was continued criticism of Asbury "ending the revival" and skepticism that this movement would have a lasting effect on anyone. People wanted logical answers with graphs and charts to provide evidence. But God does not work for us. He works how He likes in the hearts of a community and has nothing to prove.

On Day 16, Feb 23, the physical evidence of outpouring seemed to dissipate. The plastic shopping bag that seemed to be a humorous metaphor was still stuck in the tree but wet and limp. The birds began singing louder that morning. The air was warmer. As I drove through campus I only saw one local reporter interviewing someone across the street at the Seminary. Police were still guarding the entrances. On my way to class a group of older women stopped me to ask where the bookstore (closed) was to purchase some Asbury swag. Trucks were pulling up to prepare for the Collegiate Day of Prayer, ironically hosted by Asbury this year.

As I felt empathy for the staff running on little energy, Greg Haseloff, walked out of Hughes with extra pep while waiving at me with a cheerful look on his face as if it were any other day. During the first weekend of the outpouring, on one of the busiest days, I volunteered as an usher. After helping a mother take care of her child throwing up in the stairwell trash can, a lady walked up to me and asked, "What's that man's name that is on stage?" "Greg Haseloff. He's the University Pastor." I answered. "Oh, I just love him! I just love that every time he gets on stage, he only says his first name and that he works at Asbury. He never says his title." The staff that were needed on stage, including the President, always said their first name and did not follow with their role at the University. They simply said, "...and I work here at Asbury". I'm not sure of the original intention behind the pattern, but seeing the activity online, it was a true security gift they gave themselves. Especially during the height of the digital aggression, I began to worry about Sarah, Greg, Jeannie and especially Kevin's safety.

I continued to monitor the monstrous activity happening online that final Thursday - all still in full swing. Although things seemed to die down in real life, a lot was happening in the digital space. I continued to find ways to scrape content for archiving. I managed to archive 20% but it didn't seem like enough for future research. Chaos was still in full-swing on YouTube. The international community believed the outpouring was still happening on campus. I predicted many would continue arriving in the next few days. I desperately emailed and texted everyone to make them aware of the need to archive and take care of the many guests from outside the US, but it was obvious everyone was running on below empty.

Without any expectations, I made an effort to communicate our need to be on YouTube to set things straight. I walked to the Marketing Department to find my friend, Abby, the Marketing Director. I think Abby worked 100 hours straight at a time. She was like the media paramedic for 2 straight weeks. As I was annoying Abby in her office, my student Marcie (not her real name), walked in visually upset. She asked if she could come in and talk. She immediately began crying. Many of our Journalism students were eager to be involved with things happening and communicating the story from the inside. Many national news agencies were contacting them through their social media profiles. As a result, many took advantage of the opportunity and their faces appeared on the news followed by many comments. I can't think of a student interview or article I wasn't proud of. Despite our advice, Marcie spent the night reading those comments with many being incredibly cruel. They made hurtful comments accusing her of being overweight and a failure. Abby and I assured her that those comments were certainly untrue. It was evidence that she was doing something right but also very vulnerable. We all hugged with her in the middle and told her she should not talk to the media anymore. Students were not required or even encouraged to talk to media but many of their parents pushed them to. I urged many students to be very careful about the requests, and at this point, things were moving on in a way we didn't have much insight on who was involved.

The years leading up to the outpouring has been extremely difficult for institutions like Asbury. The position of Asst. Professor was once a job that offered security, healthy pay, status, resources, a promotional path, and a position suitable for all ages and disciplines. However, since I began teaching full-time, my career has been hanging by a thread. I entertained other opportunities while at Asbury but they never felt right for myself or our family. Something keeps us here in Wilmore, KY to this day. Staff and faculty at Asbury have all experienced deep discouragement in our work. No matter how hard we work, it's never enough. During the height of the social media chaos wrapped around the Biden Trump election, I lost many students in my program. They understandably could not be part of this disturbing career at the time. I found myself going to night school to learn other skills such as Animation in order to interest more students. I looked to make myself valuable in other ways on campus and co-taught to help others. But as soon as I was able to celebrate my program numbers returning to it's original health, I was let go. We had all invested in projects, people, and work that seemed to turn into nothing. We all needed the reminder that God is here with us. All outsiders online, travelers, town's people, Asbury students, faculty and staff all desperately needed one thing: Hope.

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