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Entry 1 Hope Went Viral: Outpourings

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

Social Media, Outpourings and the hashtag #asburyrevival reaching 200 million+

While volunteering to help host thousands of people at Asbury University, I vigorously wrote my observations of such an extraordinary event while obsessively following the media making comparisons and recording patterns. Social media is no doubt the mechanism of how people found Asbury in February 2023 and provides such insight on how the event unfolded while eventually dissolving on campus. By the time the outpouring event was over, I had well over 20,000 words to reflect on. Uploading around 1k curated words at a time, readers will learn of the parallel found both online and in the iconic Hughes Auditorium. For many visitors, they found God at the altar. But I saw Him all over campus in the most uneventful locations like in the janitor's closet, at the snack table, checking bags, and in small classrooms with vulnerable students. Perhaps for those who followed from afar, this will help bring them closer to how God works in the most ordinary, obedient people.

Episode 1/10

It is currently Feb 19, 2023. I was up until 1am and I am stiff and sore. Normally, I attend church here in Wilmore in-person, but this morning, at 8am online, I watched Pastor Robby from Long Hollow speak about his account of Asbury. For me, the only experience that comes close to this event was as a teenager at Long Hollow in 1996. The church was ready to shut down. Led by Cheryl Owen, we all as students in the youth group got on our knees and prayed for hours one Wednesday night. Other prayer services followed. A few weeks later, a guy named Lance Taylor showed up and called his friend David Landrith. The church has reached so many in the Nashville area with thousands weekly and millions online. I hoped to see someone from Hendersonville, TN represented in this space. If this event happens to be some sort of spiritual virus, I wanted it to spread to my home that has nurtured me so much. It seems many pastors visited Friday and Saturday to witness the outpouring. As the spiritual leaders in their area, it was as if they came to find out if it was real and be a reliable source for the congregation the following Sunday morning.

After hearing his sermon, I started trying to remember different stories from the last few days and I couldn’t remember what day I experienced what. It all happened so fast. As I was attempting to organize the library of information in my head from the last few days, I felt compelled to write like Francis Asbury did on his journeys.

I am only a few minutes from campus in the woods. It is quiet out here with only the noise of the breeze and a car passing by slowly every few minutes. I’m trying to find anything clean to wear as the laundry here has been neglected. I have taken many showers to wipe off the grime of each day being around many people, but I’ve been too distracted processing my thoughts to remember to wash my hair. I have a few minutes to type, brush my teeth and get my bike ready. I don’t know what is on the other side of those railroad tracks. It just can’t get any bigger. I’m scared but I just can’t not be there to witness every day of this beautiful invasion people outside of Wilmore, KY are calling a revival.

I put on my helmet and sunglasses. My electric bike, which is normally stored away for the winter, is brought out of it’s slumber. My husband, Jesse, cleaned it up, aired the tires and charged the battery for me the day before to navigate the traffic in our tiny town with only 2 street lights. It’s like the minivan of electric bikes which makes it feel more sturdy and less dramatic with turns due to its weight. It is odd to ride a bike around here among the large cars, so it receives quite a bit of attention.

The air was chilly but the sun was bright and warm. As I approached the railroad tracks to see the cars, there weren’t as many as the day before. For a moment I was relieved then quickly disappointed. I never thought the influx of people would ever reach its peak. People just seemed to never stop pouring in for 7 days straight. I easily drove through the crowds of people this time. The day before, I had to ride by bike through driveways and sidewalks to get through. New security volunteers were standing at the semi-circle with a badge that said "security" but no one made eye contact with me after seeing me pull up so I continued. Several police cars were parked representing surrounding areas including Danville, Kentucky, a small historic town 30 minutes away. I parked my bike beside two off-road vehicles on the sidewalk and walked in to get my volunteer badge. Unlike the days before, the room was similar to the day before. It indicated we had caught up and things were slightly more manageable. Although I saw leadership nearby, no one in the room represented cabinet and the system in place seemed to be working well. Things didn't seem to be planned out one hour at a time today. I didn’t see many huddled around making big decisions like I had before. I waited to talk to the volunteer coordinator as she discussed with the Head of Campus Safety looking at a map drawn on a white board. Someone had brought in from another classroom a few days before. With a faded, red expo marker, a former student of mine, Blake, roughly drew a large map of the roads indicating where the lines of people were forming. We were exchanging small talk while the registrar quickly approached the Campus Safety director to report the line was forming in the street and blocking cars. He calmly, without standing up radioed someone and police were on their way. I was asked to be a greeter in the Asbury Seminary gym across the street. I didn’t ask but was curious why I was told to go to the location, as it wasn’t part of our overflow list on the website.

As I was walking back out and putting my helmet back on, I saw my friend David. He asked if he could hug me. A few days before, he heard the news of my unwanted departure from the University due to extreme budget constraints and like many others, he was so kind to send me a brief email saying how sorry he was and wanted to know how much I would be missed. Since Covid, the University has had to make incredible sacrifices to keep it going due to financial impossibilities. Some of the most brilliant people I’ve met are no longer here. Although we have many generous donors, most do not donate to operational expenses, leaving Universities like ours with beautiful, new structures and no one to teach in them. My salary will be replaced by enormous utility bills for these new, impressive buildings. The University has been through a lot and I understood the decision as a very logical and unfortunate one. No one seemed to be relieved or excited to get rid of me but I couldn’t help feeling insulted. Those highly respected like my friend David’s recognition have really helped me cope.

So, here I am getting on my bike, soon to be unemployed here at Asbury, volunteering and doing what I can to make sure every visitor had everything they needed to find God. I wasn't doing this for my job. No one here was. It was Sunday so no one was required to help out. We all knew this had become so much bigger than all of us.

I parked in front of the gym. The Seminary isn’t part of the University. It is a completely different school with a completely different administration and faculty but happens to be across the street and named after the same guy. Especially in the last few years, both institutions are better off having each other to lean on. In the case of whatever this thing is called, the University would have really struggled without the Seminary offering their facilities and help. I walked in to find out what I was doing. An energetic younger girl walked in with me with a lanyard that said “prayer team”. She approached a gentleman saying she needed to find a “tall man with grey hair” and he fit the description. He nervously laughed, appearing insulted and kindly walked her where she needed to go. I told him I was suppose to be a greeter but it was obvious I was a bit unneeded seeing the amount of people with volunteer tags surrounding the doors. I walked in the gym to sit down blending in with visitors. Asbury Seminary is unique in that it participates in many sports, has a very large gym, personal trainers, yoga classes and more providing adequate space. It was dark with two projectors and screens. The uncomfortable chairs were metal, beige and typical. There were about 200 chairs lined in perfect rows across the gymnasium. Sarah and Greg were on the screen. I’ve seen them directing every day for 11 days now. Sarah looked more refreshed this time. Greg is always chipper and easy going and seemed the same as always. The sound was so good in the room, it was like Sarah was in the room when she spoke into the microphone. The cameras switched back and forth to show different views of Hughes. My students, Faith and Sevasti, were some in charge of the multi-cam production for each overflow location and it made me proud watching their work live. I sat quietly in the corner waiting to be needed. Dark outlines of people weeped and shouted. Many were sitting on the front row to get as close as possible. I thought about the story of the woman who touched Jesus' robe. Her faith alone healed her. Pastor Robby mentioned the people who make it to Asbury are absolutely finding God simply because they deeply expect Him to show up here. When He does, all they have to do is reach out and touch His robe.

Visitors watching the simulcast and worshipping on the lawn at Asbury University, Feb 2023. Photo by Lisa Weaver Swartz

Two families meet in line for the first time, becoming instant friends at Asbury Outpouring. Post found in public Facebook group, "Asbury Revival/Outpouring" Screen captured March 7, 2023.

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