By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
HAMMOND – Revival came to the Southeastern Louisiana University campus in early April but is expected to continue in nearby communities for the foreseeable future.
Held at the campus’ University Center April 3-5, the Hope, Love and Freedom crusade featured messages by Walt Barnes, associate pastor of student and discipleship ministries at New Palestine Baptist Church in Picayune, Miss. It also included testimonies from SLU students and music by praise and worship bands from Natalbany Baptist Church, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the school’s Baptist Collegiate Ministry.
The revival is one of 10 Harvest events planned in 2017, according to Wayne Jenkins, evangelism and church growth director for Louisiana Baptists. Harvest officially launched Louisiana Baptists’ campaign to “pray for every home and share Christ with every person” in Louisiana.
Attendance ranged from 200 the first night to more than 700 the final night of the crusade. Lonnie Wascom, director of missions for Northshore Baptist Association, said an estimated 30 of the 90 churches in his association had members in attendance the last evening.
Wascom said even though he did not see many step forward during a time of invitation, seeds were planted among those in attendance.
“We had a number indicate a desire for another type of spiritual decision,” said Wascom. “I expect to receive a final tabulation of decisions by mid-April.
“The folks that attended were revived,” Wascom said. “When Walt Barnes said to not leave the crusade without any unanswered questions resolved, we had a number of people stay behind to ask for prayer and talk more about their decision.
“The focus was more on revival among Christians,” he continued. “We thought God wanted us to do a truly evangelistic event, which we did, but it turned out to be a revival, which is of the purpose of seeing believers get back with God. Anything you do for Jesus is a win.”
SLU BCM President Sam Taylor was among the students who gave their testimony. Taylor sensed a movement of God as he spoke before many of his fellow classmates.
“The speaker, Walt Barnes, was fantastic and really just helps you understand the text in such a way that leaves you face to face with the reality of who Jesus is and lets you deal with God one on one,” Taylor said. “He didn’t try to coerce anyone or manipulate their emotions. Walt simply preached the Word in such a way as to point people to Christ and let the Holy Spirit do the work.
“Through this I saw God wooing people to Himself, and opening their eyes to who He is,” he said. “I also saw those who were already believers be reminded of the glorious Gospel we cling to, and definitely be encouraged.”
Taylor said he is excited about how God will use the event to spark a revival, not only on campus but in the surrounding communities.
“I hope God uses this to draw people on Southeastern’s campus closer to Him and to further move Christians on our campus to love those around us, build relationships with them, share Christ with them, and to delight in our Gracious God and King,” he said. “I think this revival also has a chance to spill over into the community.”
The campus revival was dreamed about 37 years ago, when another student at SLU had the same vision. Randy Smith, pastor of Crossbrand Cowboy Church in Loranger, longed to see such a revival, which never happened for some reason.
But in August 2015, Wascom and Les Fogleman – then the pastor of Wadesboro Baptist Church in Ponchatoula but now retired – were taking a stroll across the campus when God revealed to them at Strawberry Stadium a vision to hold an evangelistic event there. Unaware of Smith’s desire years ago, Wascom soon received a text message from the pastor stating his burden for college students.
Smith said seeing the revival take place in early April lays the groundwork for a great movement among churches in the future.
“I feel for anything like that to go over well, the churches have got to get out and fulfill the Great Commission,” he said. “And that’s what happened here. A spark was made and we believe it could turn into a great thing for this area. You get so nervous planning it and wondering what will happen in the end and then God shows up and shows out.”