Reports are coming in of a massive revival building in small towns through out West Virginia’s coal country hard hit by the economic crisis and America’s harsh environmental policies putting thousands out of work.
An estimated 4,000 people have accepted Christ in this largely rural area where communities range in size from 500 to a few thousand people.
The first inkling of what was to come appeared in late March, 2016, when a student at Logan High, Skyler Miller — a leukemia survivor, spontaneously started preaching in the school hallways. Logan, West Virginia has a population of 1,779 according to the 2010 census.
Rather than reacting negatively to the message, many students stood and watched. The Holy Spirit showed up and some even responded while other students were looking on.
But the revival that tepidly stirred among the youth spread into a Church of God in nearby Delbarton, West Virginia — population 579 .
Pastor Mitchell Bias of Regional Church of God believed God wanted him to bring in a young 31-year old evangelist, Matt Hartley from Tennessee for a series of meetings.
There were meetings at the church from April 10 to 13th and then at a neighboring Christian School in Williamson, population 3,190. God was clearly moving, but the breakthrough came when Hartley preached at what they expected would be a small prayer group of about 40 teens at Mingo Central High on King Coal Highway in Delbarton.
Instead, 450 students gathered and after Hartley preached a short but stirring message on sin, 150 students responded to the Gospel. A second prayer meeting held two days later saw a similar crowd with well over a hundred students responding.
Meetings led by students continued at the schools in the areas. Videos started popping up on YouTube of kids preaching and students responding.
You know the revival is having an impact, when news of what is happening spills over into the non-church crowd. Local media began to investigate what was happening at the schools.
Student Jordan Matthews told WCHS-8 News, “It kept spreading to more and more schools and the next big one I saw was Mingo County and I saw 150 people get saved and I just saw a unity in this.”
Katie Endicott who is prayer coördinator for Mingo High told the TV station that the revival has hit six schools in the area and she estimates that 1,500 students have accepted Christ.
Meanwhile, the revival was building at the local church and Hartley agreed to stay on. When the church gave him the night off, the students took it upon themselves to organize a rally at the school’s football stadium.
Hartley agreed to preach to the crowd estimated at 2,500 students from 25 schools throughout the area. Again dozens came forward for salvation. Since then two more rallies have been held at the stadium with thousands of students attending.
You also know God is moving when resistance rears its head. An atheist organization, The Freedom from Religion Foundation, wrote a letter to the school board claiming that Hartley preaching at the schools was a “serious unconstitutional violation.”
The board responded that it didn’t know it was happening, until it happened, largely because it was student initiated. I smiled at the headline for this story in the Williamson Daily News. It read MCHS revival ruled unconstitutional.
It reminds of what happened shortly after the Day of Pentecost. We read in Acts 5, how the Jerusalem authorities threw the apostles in jail for preaching the gospel. That night, an Angel of the Lord broke them out their cells and told them to continue preaching.
On April 19, the churches who had seen their youth being impacted decided to join for multi congregation meetings. Since then, it has spread through other towns in this economic downtrodden and largely forgotten area.
In an interview with PE News, Billy Carrico of Bethel Temple Assembly in Williamson described it this way:
“We walk into a restaurant and people are talking about God. People who aren’t necessarily going to church are talking about it. Every church is being affected.”
Church leaders say 4,000 people have received Christ in the eight weeks since the revival started and people are regularly being baptized.
In many ways the revival has similarities to great past revivals. The Welsh Revival that hit Wales in 1904-1905 saw a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit that swept through the country and around the world. Approximately 100,000 people accepted Christ through this powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Similar to West Virginia, the revival started with students, who were attending a small Bible school.
The 1948 Revival started in a small town of North Battleford in the northern Saskatchewan, an obscure province in Canada. It was also sparked when the Holy Spirit fell on students at Sharon Bible College. This revival emphasized the gift of prophesy and returned the five-fold ministries including apostles and prophets to the church. It largely impacted churches around the world of a Pentecostal or charismatic persuasion.
- The day after ‘Azusa Now,’ God sent revival to humble coal-mining town in West Virginia: God Reports
- Thousands gather for revival at Mingo Central High School: WCHS 8 News
- High school students hold revival at Mingo Central High School: WCHS 8 News
- 6 things every leader should know about the revival in West Virginia: Church Leaders
- West Virginia awakening: PE News Assemblies of God
- MCHS revival deemed unconstitutional: Williamson Daily News