Students who have walked the halls of Mingo Central the last couple years say the West Virginian high school has a different feel these days.
Prayer has mostly replaced profanity in the hallways. Bible studies are more frequent than fights in the cafeteria. And every morning, a group of students meets at the flag pole before the first bell to read Scripture and pray.
“The Lord has swept through this area,” said Aerianna McClanahan, a junior who is part of the Mingo Central prayer club. “People have been on fire for Him. The thirst we have here is unquenchable.”
Today, on the National Day of Prayer, many southern West Virginians plan to stoke the flames of their regional revival by standing with Franklin Graham during his Decision America Tour stop in Charleston. After all, prayer is at the core of what’s happening in their community just 90 miles southwest of the State Capitol.
“We know this [revival] was birthed in prayer so we know the only way for it to continue is to stay in prayer,” youth pastor Katie Endicott said. “We are not looking for this season to end here in southern West Virginia. We really believe that revival is going to spread all across the state. It’s going to spread all across the nation. We want to partner with all of our brothers and sisters, and we want to stand united and pray together.”
An ‘Appalachian Awakening’
Many credit a Tennessean evangelist, who has conducted several revival services during the last month in Mingo County, for triggering change. Within the last month, hundreds of students have given their lives to Christ and thousands region-wide have been impacted. The Mingo Central prayer club sponsored a student-led worship event that drew almost 3,000 people and included baptisms in an inflatable pool on the school’s football field.
These events have been pivotal, Endicott said, but the native West Virginian knows the roots of this “Appalachian Awakening” go much deeper than that.
“This is an area that has really been consecrated in prayer and through prayer for generations and generations,” Endicott said. “This has been decades in the making. People have been praying for this their whole lives.”
People like her dad, a pastor, who would wake up at 4 a.m. to go to church and pray. Or her uncle, who actually quit his job so he could devote his entire day to prayer. She admits the family wasn’t too sure of that decision, but the fruit decades later speaks otherwise.
A Generation Rising Up
Lives are being touched, like that of junior Blake Hackney and senior Savannah Estep. Both Mingo Central students accepted Christ during this time of revival.
“It took all this for me to understand that I have a Lord and Savior,” Blake said. “I felt a huge boulder was off my shoulders.
“What motivates me is I think about God. I think about what He did. He died for us so us wretched sinners could have eternal life. He died for me so I’m going to live for Him.”
Blake, Aerianna and Savannah are among the hundreds that are now involved in the school’s prayer club, which is planning another football stadium gathering in mid-May. They’re diving into God’s Word and quickly dismissing the thought that this might be just a trend for the area.
“We’re praying that we’re a generation that just wakes up and uses what God has given us to break all the generational chains and curses,” Aerianna said.
These students have seen hardship as family members and friends have lost jobs in the coal mining business and elsewhere. Economic depression is real in this county, where more than 28 percent of people live in poverty. Drug use is rampant, and at least one report ranks southern West Virginia in the top five for fatal overdoses.
“Our area has been devastated by the economy and by drugs, and like I said, people have prayed and they have prayed and they have prayed, but it has been such a place that has been gripped by all this stuff,” Endicott said. “It was overwhelming, and people were really losing hope.
“This [revival] moment has really turned everything around. People are excited. People are passionate. People have joy. People have hope. You can’t go anywhere without hearing what God is doing.”
A Region-Wide Movement
The movement of God hasn’t been limited to Mingo County, though. In nearby Logan County, junior Skyler Miller felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit to just start preaching one day. A two-time leukemia survivor, Skyler always leaned on God, but he actually began a personal relationship with Jesus after his second diagnosis.
On March 24, 2016, three years to the day of his initial diagnosis, Skyler preached to a group of his friends during his lunch period. He gave an altar call at the end and many, including some curious passers-by, accepted Christ.
Watching God move in the region has been a blessing for Endicott.
“This is what we have believed. We did not give up hope. We always knew that the Lord was going to send true revival and true awakening to southern West Virginia. We’ve had many revival services. We’ve had great moves of God. But there has been nothing like this.”