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Renew at Exit 92 tent revival to take place

Renew at Exit 92 tent revival to take place Renew at Exit 92 tent revival to take place
By Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, Senior Staff Writer, [email protected]

Tent revivals, a gathering of Christians in a tent erected specifically for the meetings, began in Appalachia in the early 1800s. The movement spread throughout the country, and tent revivals were a common occurrence up through the 1960s.

They don’t happen much anymore, but Crawford County will be the site of a tent revival June 23 to 27 at Carefree.

Named “Renew at Exit 92” because it will take place in a field next to that exit off Interstate 64 West, it’s being organized by a group of Christians, not any church in particular.

“It is a true tent revival,” said Paul Walerczak, one of those organizing the event. “It can hold 500 people.”

Pam Smith is also helping organize the five-night revival, which will include music, preaching by different evangelists and baptisms.

“Tent revivals were a big part of my childhood,” said Smith. “I’ve always been drawn to them. … This one is a big one. The vision caught on really quickly, and it took off like fire.”

The revival is intentionally family-friendly and will begin with a light meal and snacks such as cotton candy and popcorn from 6 to 7 p.m. Kids can enjoy a bouncy house and inflatables. Worship will begin at 7 p.m.

“We know families are busy, so they can come at 6 and get something to eat and at 7 we’ll transition to a time of worship and preaching,” said Walerczak.

The event is completely free of charge, and there won’t even be a free-will offering collected.

This revival is unique in that there will be someone on-site 24 hours a day. Anyone is welcome to stop in at anytime. Pastors will be easily identifiable by their red Exit 92 T-shirts.

Walerczak said a goal is to reach truck drivers who pass through the area all day and night.

“Truckers go through 24 hours a day. Six thousand vehicles a day pass through that area,” he said. “It’s the hub of the county.”

Providing an opportunity for truck drivers to worship, talk or ask questions is important, said Walerczak, because many are on the road and not able to attend church.

“The tent location is strategic,” he said. “It’s been on our hearts for two years to have a revival.”

He stressed that church is not a building.

“Yes, we meet on Sunday, but church is what we do every day,” he said. “We’re meeting people and their needs where they’re at.”

The number of Americans who attend church regularly has declined during the past several decades. A Gallup poll found that just 47% of U.S. adults belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque in 2020. That’s the first time the percentage has dropped below a majority and reflects a big decline from 1999, when 70% reported belonging to a church.

“We live in a busy time, a busy culture with lots of things competing for our time,” said Walerczak. “That’s one reason we’ve seen a falloff in attendance.”

Smith said it’s therefore even more important for Christians to evangelize in a meaningful manner.

“We’re trying to go where people are at and offer an opportunity for them to come to know Jesus,” she said. “How can they know Him if they’ve never been told?”

Referring to the overall decline in church attendance, she said, “Let’s face it, the numbers and statistics shows there’s a lot who aren’t coming to where we are. We need to reach the ones who don’t know.”

Walerczak said services will be available to those who cannot attend in person, live-streamed on Facebook under the Renew at Exit 92 page.

The organizers also have an FCC license with an FM transmitter and services will be broadcast on 87.9 FM.

“We’re trying to use technology in the ways we can to reach as many as we can,” Walerczak said.

Organizers have been meeting every two weeks at the site (weather permitting) to pray for the revival.

Anyone is welcome to attend the remaining meetings, set for 7:15 p.m. June 14 and at 7 p.m. June 22. In the event of rain, meetings will take place at Crawford County Consolidated Church.

There are more than 35 churches involved with at least six represented on the core leadership team.

“There are a lot of great churches in Crawford and Harrison counties,” said Walerczak. “We hope this central event is where people can learn more about various churches and find one that will suit them. It’s about finding a church they can get plugged in to.”

Smith said she feels in awe when she considers the potential impact of the revival.

“This is a very unique situation,” she said. “This could be very far-reaching as people take it back to where they live and lives are changed.”