Ripples traveled across the surface of Lake Wailes, perhaps the only movement in a mist so heavy it seemed to cloak with holiness the men sitting in its midst, who gathered to pray Tuesday morning.
And it is perhaps the ripple effect of their prayers that these 13 men were praying for, as the members of the Business, Civic and Ministry Coalition lifted up the Lake Wales Revival and prayed for spiritual awakening and times of refreshing in the city.
The men, who gather every Tuesday at Capernaum Inn, a minister’s retreat center, chose this Tuesday to meet instead under the eaves of the pavilion that sits upon the lake.
The sun rose for a second, then was suddenly engulfed in a pearlescent shimmer behind the clouds, yet warmth arose from their prayers.
John Kimbrough, co-director of the Coalition, prayed, “Father, there is something special about sitting out on this lake this morning, being out in the elements, God. I’m so thankful for what You are doing in the city, God … My prayer is simple, Father, I pray that a revival takes place in the churches and that a revival takes place in this city, Lord. Encourage these men of God to continue the work that they do. God I pray that as they become weak, that You would strengthen them. God, as they become torn down that you would build them up, God, that they may continue to be able to compel everyone that is in their flock to continue on this journey.”
And thus began preparation for the Revival, which begins at 7 p.m. Thursday and continues through Sunday night under the tent.
The event has run concurrent with the Pioneer Days Celebration, and has become an annual tradition now.
Jim Way of Capernaum Inn noted that when he first moved to Lake Wales, he had no idea what God had for his life here.
And yet, he notes, it wasn’t long before he helped organize the men into a praying group which encompassed all races and religions, unified under one goal; to minister to Lake Wales and foster unity to heal the racial divide.
The first Lake Wales Revival was the first time that churches of all races were combined under one tent, worshipping and celebrating their unity.
There were Baptists, Catholics, Pentecostals, Church of God, and others.
The Rev. Roscoe Williams spoke at the First Revival, noting that God “can and will” make a difference.
The Revival then set the tide for others to come.
Joseph Jennings, who ministered at the Revival to many, which also included the youth of the community, had visited most of the area schools to share his message of living pure, drug free lives, and making right choices.
Jennings recently passed away, sending shock waves through the Coalition, and they lifted his family up in their prayers as well, asking God to send “another Jennings” to the youth of the Lake Wales community. Jennings was a former gang leader who built his ministry on helping those who struggled with drugs, alcohol and other abuses. One young man at Lake Wales High School told him during his visit there to not “leave us hanging,” and asked that he would come back. Jennings had one more opportunity to return, and did. But his presence surely will be missed at this year’s revival.
There were tears under the pavilion as the men prayed for each other and the things they face in ministry.
Rev. Stephen Livingston noted, “We are all dealing with a spirit of apathy. We’ve got to address that. Jesus prayed specifically, so should we. It’s in every church to a degree.”
He asked God to give the pastors a fresh hunger for “the Word,” and that they would “have a heart to evangelize.”
The pastors all shared their hearts, the things they deal with — fatigue of the ministry and apathy in the churches.
They prayed for blessing, refreshing and revival.
Since its formation, the Business, Civic and Ministry Coalition has taken a proactive stance in helping the community. They held a “Great Giveaway” in which everything was free — household items, clothes, furniture, food. Anyone who had a need was able to come, and one family traveled ten miles just for the food. Another time, the Coalition, along with many other businesses and private individuals, did community projects at various locations throughout the city, some for private individuals who needed help, amongst many other projects. They are active in every element of the city, with ministers being assigned to the schools, to help reach out to them and see what their needs are. Some are assigned to keep watch over business and government officials, to minister to them.
The men grew quiet again as Pastor Scott Markley prayed.
“All of this is Yours, Lord. Lake Wales is Yours, this ground that we are going to pitch a tent on is Yours, and that tou have ordained us to give praise to You.”
Then he prayed for the directors of the Coalition, “for Kevin and John, that their efforts might be rewarded.”
Rev. Billy Graham’s son-in-law, Jim Wilson, will be speaking every night, delivering the message in promoting “My Hope America,” Graham’s final message to the nation. Wilson has spoken in 43 countries of the world, proclaiming the gospel.
The event is free and open to the public. There is a children’s revival running at the same time, for children ages 5-12. Music and snacks will be served nightly.