PIKEVILLE—Thousands of people gathered in Pikeville on Sunday, Nov. 11, for what was perhaps the largest religious crusade ever in central Appalachia, an economically depressed region where the scourge of drug abuse has broken families and filled jails.
Aware of the hopelessness many people are feeling, the Kentucky Baptist Convention organized the Hope for the Mountains crusade, an effort to trigger a spiritual revival in the mountains.
“We know there is hope for the mountains,” said Appalachian native Paul Chitwood who serves as KBC executive director. “What we witnessed here tonight is the evidence of that hope. We had a huge response, much larger than we expected.”
Evangelist Jon Reed, a Georgia preacher, said he understands the rut drug addicts have gotten into. He overdosed twice in his younger days and was involved in more than a dozen car wrecks before he gave his life to Christ.
“God is not wanting you to clean up; he wants you to give up,” Reed said. “I’ve got good news for you here tonight. God can save you, no matter how hard your heart has become.”
Other speakers, including Ashland resident Amy Compston, testified to the Lord’s ability to change lives. In an emotional presentation, Compston said her life was spiraling downward as a junky who was taking whatever drugs she could get her hands on.
Six years ago, Compston said she surrendered her life to Jesus, asking for His forgiveness: “I said I’m sorry for wasting my life. God, take my life and do with it what you want.”
Compston is now the founder of Amy for Africa, an organization that ministers to hurting children a half a world away.
Another heart-wrenching testimony was from Jason Lovins, lead singer of The Jason Lovins Band. Lovins told how he was conceived when his mother, then a 15-year-old Christian girl, was raped as she walked home from the pool. He told how that naïve teenage girl refused to abort him, opting instead to give him life.
Lovins had never shared his story until he was a student at Morehead State University.
“I had a pastor pull me aside and say ‘son, I don’t think you understand what the Lord can do with your story,'” Lovins said.
Now, Lovins tours the country singing with his band and telling people about forgiveness, redemption and the incredible depth of God’s love.
He said he was incredibly loved by his mother and grandmother who told him: “You don’t have a dad; you don’t have an earthly father; we don’t even know who he is, but you have a Heavenly Father who loves you more than you could ever know. I’m here to tell you, that has been enough.”
During a one-day evangelistic blitz, called Crossover, Kentucky Baptists fanned out across Pikeville and surrounding cities to tell as many people as they could about Jesus.
More than 100 boys and girls took part in a Crossover basketball clinic at the University of Pikeville on Saturday morning for first through 5th graders.
Organizer Shane Carr, youth minister at First Baptist Church of Pikeville, said a basketball clinic is a great example of “practical evangelism” because it builds on an activity or hobby people already love, and provides an opportunity to talk about spiritual needs.
“We believe in doing anything we can do to pour into people’s lives and let them know we love them. We want them to be successful, not only on a basketball court but in life. And we can do that through showing them how to play basketball and at the same time giving them the true help which is Jesus,” Carr said.
Other Kentucky Baptists visited area homes on Saturday hoping to have front porch gospel conversations.
“A lot of folks will say door-to-door evangelism is no longer effective,” said Todd Gray, KBC Evangelism Team leader. “But it is effective … for meeting people you don’t know. It’s effective for having gospel conversations with folks who are far from God. It’s effective to invite people to church.”
About 50 Kentucky Baptists, including 14 students from Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, met at Creekside Church in Pikeville before pairing off and going door-to-door.
Taylor Haley, student pastor at East Barbourville Baptist Church, said he brought a passenger van full of Clear Creek students so they could participate in Crossover. The group was assigned to canvas a nearby apartment complex and two trailer parks.
In Hazard and Prestonsburg, Kentucky Baptists helped low-income residents winterize their homes, and Thanksgiving food boxes were assembled at Grace Baptist Church in Pikeville to be given to people in need. (KT)
With additional reporting by Robin Cornetet.