Locals tell of their experiences in campus revivals in the region

Lesley Guilaran isn’t sure what to call what she experienced at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kent., last week.

Neither is Benito Munez, a senior student at Lee University who graduated from Madison Academic in 2019.

Some on social media are calling it a revival or an awakening. Leadership at Asbury is calling what’s happening on their campus an outpouring.

Whatever it is, both Guilaran – a special education teacher in Jackson-Madison County Schools – and Munez said it’s a God-focused experience as a time of praise, worship and repentance.

“It’s really exciting to see what’s happening and how it’s affecting different people in different ways here at Lee,” said Munez about his college that’s located in Cleveland, a few miles north of Chattanooga. “Whether you’re in the chapel in the afternoon when it’s crowded or when there aren’t many people in there in the evening, it’s a reverent time of people reconnecting with God.”

Asbury had a regularly-scheduled chapel service on the morning of Feb. 8. At the service’s conclusion, a group of students stayed in the church and continued a prayer service. Students who’d gone to class after the service returned and prayed with them and began a marathon service full of worship, praise, repentance and preaching that lasted nearly two weeks without stopping.

Guilaran, who’s a wife and mother of two, wanted to go to Asbury for a couple of days.

“God knew it was a desire of my heart to be able to go up there and just be a part of what’s happening there for a day or two, and He put it together to where it could happen,” Guilaran said.

After her husband, Fonsie, got home from work on Friday afternoon, a former student of his whom she’s friends with on Facebook contacted her after she posted asking if anyone wanted to go.

“We talked, and we both said we could be ready in an hour, and sure enough, we were on the road headed for Kentucky an hour after that,” Guilaran said. “Fonsie stayed home with our children and was OK with me going.”

Guilaran and her friend, Rebecca, made the trek and arrived at Asbury at 1 a.m. on Saturday morning.

“We had Rebecca’s 6-month-old baby with us, and it was cold,” she said. “So they let us in to the chapel sooner than normal because of the baby, and what I saw in there was something I’ve never seen before in church.”

Students from Asbury led the service, and there was no schedule to it. Students prayed, sang, worshiped and some would step to a microphone on the stage and bring a word from God they felt led to bring to the congregation.

“And it was genuine and authentic with nothing added to it,” Guilaran said. “The singing when I was in there was one singer, a guitar player, a piano player and a person sitting on a beat box and when one person would start a song – playing or singing – the rest would join in and lead the congregation with no lights or smoke or anything like that.

“Just us and God, each of us doing business with Him whatever that looked like for each of us.”

Asbury’s round-the-clock service inspired similar services on other college campuses, with Lee being one of them.

“I was raised Catholic and attended St. Mary’s at home in Jackson, but it’s beautiful to see this work God is doing crossing denominational boundaries because God isn’t a God of denominations,” Munez said. “He calls us all to be saved, all to repentance and all to worship him.”

And Lee’s service has personally led Munez to a deeper relationship in his own life with God.

“There have been a couple times when I’ve tried to go to the chapel in the afternoon, but that’s usually the busiest time,” Munez said. “So I’ve had to just go home and have my own personal worship there, and you don’t have to be in a crowded chapel during a revival event that we’ve never seen in our lifetimes to worship God.”

Guilaran agrees with Munez’ statement. Guilaran, Rebecca and the baby stayed with a cousin in the area around Asbury on Saturday morning and went back to campus that afternoon.

The line to get in wrapped around multiple buildings and was more than a mile long. After finding out they’d probably be waiting in line for eight hours before getting in, they both decided to experience what was happening outside on lawns in front of large screens with simulcast videos of the service.

“We weren’t in the chapel, but I’m glad to know God isn’t confined to one location,” Guilaran said. “He was out there with us too as we made new friends as strangers would hear each other’s stories and pray for one another.

“I felt God leading me to really look at myself and things in my own life that need cleaning up, and the whole weekend really was a great reminder of how my life – all of our lives – should be focused on Him, glorifying Him and following Him.”

She said one food truck traveled to campus from another state and was serving food to people in line, funded by the owner’s church back home. Churches and groups on campus were supplying bottles of water and food from different places like Chik-fil-A to those in line.

“It was the body of Christ being the body of Christ,” Guilaran said. “Serving each other and lifting each other up the way Jesus told the disciples to do.”

Both Asbury and Lee – along with other schools – began making announcements this week that they didn’t want to end the services themselves, but they did feel led to move them off campus as safety and classes still need to happen on campus.

“I know the people here plan to do what we need to do to keep it going if that’s what God is calling us to do,” Munez said. “And that’s the big key to all of this it feels like – obey Him and let Him lead.

“Which is what we’re all called to do in the Bible. We’re seeing what can happen when we allow God to truly be in charge of our lives.”

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news