Sometimes, a good story just begs to be told. In this case, I didn’t hear anything about the story until the action was already at an end, but I was convinced people who had not already heard about it would read every word.
As a news writer, this isn’t the type of thing you get a chance to write about often, if ever, and I caught a few “funny looks” from at least one of my fellow reporters as they heard me making phone calls about it.
The story was that of a revival at a small United Baptist church in rural Martin County, about halfway between Inez and Warfield. Weeks after the final call to salvation, people are still talking about what happened during the 34 nights of meetings there.
“The last count was 103 people saved, and the church only holds 92 or 93,” said Michael Marcum, who preached every night along with his brother-in-law, Brent Haney, during a revival at Big Elk United Baptist Church which began in December and continued for 34 days, spanning Christmas and the New Year.
“We had over 200 people most nights with folding chairs all around the pulpit and we opened the windows by the kitchen and put up mining tarps and boxed it in and put some propane heaters and electric heaters out there. There were some cold nights! The first night we didn’t have anything set up but there were people standing out there. We had several people get saved from out there.”
Marcum said the country church, located on Black Log Road between Inez and Warfield and one of 20 in the Old Zion Association, didn’t do anything drastic to spread the word about the revival.
“I think it was simply a move of God. That’s the only way I can explain it. We didn’t do anything different than you do for any other revival,” he said, explaining he was humbled by how quickly word spread. “We had people calling us. They send messages ... we got messages from Alabama — we had people drive from Columbus, Ohio, just for the service. People spread the word on Facebook.”
With free-flowing waters just across the road, Marcum said church members who helped tend their guests with heaters and mining tarps also found work lights to illuminate a natural baptismal for those who sought salvation.
“We have a little waterfall and a creek. It was somewhere around 80 or 90 of those 103 who were saved, we baptized right there at the church,” Marcum said, chuckling as he recalled the temperature of the little creek on those cold winter nights after church. “It was cold, but well worth it.”
Marcum said he is among many who has listened to older Christians tell stories about passionate revivals with overflow crowds, although that was something he had never experienced before it happened at Big Elk United Baptist Church.
“God allowed me to be part of one and it was amazing,” he said. “I’ve heard old preachers talk about times when there were 40 or 50 saved at a revival and I always wanted to see it. We had two or three people saved on Christmas.”
While the United Baptist church tends to have an older congregation present, Marcum said most who attended the revival, and accepted Jesus, “were in their 20s and 30s.”
I made a call to a person who accepted Christ during one of the later revival services and left a message with someone at the number. I told the stranger on the phone what I was working on and he expressed his surprise at the interest from a newspaper reporter, then added he was a little disappointed the revival was ended “just when a lot of people were starting to hear about it.”
Marcum said there are no immediate plans for another revival, although he admits it was hard to bring an end to more than a month of such intense and rewarding worship. “The church was still packed on the last night,” he said.
It may not have been front-page news, but it is certainly a story worth sharing.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2651.