JENA, La. (BP)–The revival that began Feb. 17 in Jena, La., is moving into the heart of the black community as it enters its seventh week March 31.
“In the Bible, seven is the number of completeness,” L&A Baptist Church pastor Jimmy Young said. “God is doing a complete restoration and unification work here in Jena, so it is only fitting that the seventh week finds us at the same location where thousands gathered on Sept. 20 of last year.”
Some 20,000 people descended on Jena for the “Jena Six” rally led by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
Now, at the same location — the Ward 10 Recreation Complex just south of Jena — a large tent capable of seating 1,000 people will be erected for services that will begin at 6:30 each night, Monday through Friday, March 31-April 4.
On behalf of the black community, Young and Trout Creek Baptist Church pastor Roger Green are coordinating the seventh week of services in conjunction with the primary worship leaders for the previous six weeks of revival, Bill Robertson, interim pastor at Midway Baptist Church and director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s pastoral leadership team, and Craig Franklin, associate editor of The Jena Times.
“We’ll keep the same format that we’ve been using throughout the past six weeks,” Young said. “Craig Franklin and his family will lead the music and right now, Bill Robertson is the scheduled preacher.”
Both Young and Green have preached at services during the past six weeks, along with several other preachers including Robertson, Franklin, John Hebert, Jimmy Keene and evangelist Harold Danley of Elaine, Ark. -– the only person asked to come in from outside the area.
“This is not about one man or even two men,” Robertson said. “Many have preached and led music and many have testified during these services. Everyone is clear that this is from God and He has used many different people to accomplish His purpose during this protracted meeting.”
The Jena leaders from the African American and Anglo communities have repeatedly expressed their passion for God to be glorified in Jena. They are convinced the healing and the life transformations that have transpired are demonstrations of the spirit of God working among the churches of Jena and LaSalle Parish. The host black pastors are praying that the Anglo community will continue to come when the meeting is moved to the Ward 10 complex, while at the same time their prayer is that many more from the black community will attend as well.
“We wanted to host a week of the services but we have no church building large enough to hold the crowds attending,” Young said. “So, we have acquired a 1,000-seat tent that will be utilized at the Ward 10 complex. We pray that everyone will come and join us.” The tent belongs to the central Louisiana Baptist associations. The cost of securing the tent for the Ward 10 complex has been underwritten by Midway Baptist Church, with volunteers from various churches to assist in erecting it on the grounds.
The extended revival meeting started at Midway Baptist Church on Feb. 17 and continued there for two weeks. For the third week, the services moved to East Jena Baptist Church where John Hebert, regional strategist for the Louisiana convention, is the interim pastor. The crowds had increased so much that the only building large enough in Jena to accommodate the number of people attending was the Jena High School gymnasium where racial tensions erupted last year putting Jena in the national spotlight. For the revival’s fifth week, services moved to Temple Baptist Church, and week six, at First Baptist Church in Olla.
During the past six weeks, more than 100 people have come to know Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. The majority of those decisions have been by adults. At least three have surrendered to a call to the ministry, while hundreds of other decisions have included fresh surrender to the lordship of Christ and reconciliations both relational and racial.
The meetings are marked with extended invitations of confession of sin and repentance and requests for personal forgiveness. Many have testified during the services and asked for forgiveness for their personal role in damaging the community.
In addition to these services, many other revivals have taken place in the LaSalle Parish area, all reporting an outpouring of God’s Spirit, including Oak Grove Baptist Church and the United Baptist Church. Other denominational groups also are experiencing the fresh wind of God at work. Maranatha Assembly of God, Whitehall Pentecostal Church and the Sanctuary Family Worship Center, for example, have hosted revival meeting during the past month and, because of the stirring of God’s people, have been extended past the scheduled time frame.
“I think what we’re seeing is a movement of God among God’s people,” Robertson said. “This area has witnessed tremendous turmoil over the past two years and God has heard the prayers of His people and now we’re seeing the result.
“A retired missionary called me the other day from Oklahoma to pray for the revival in Jena,” Robertson said. “This godly man called out to God asking for the revival to sweep across our land one more time. Before he was finished praying, I was on the floor … humbled that God would do such a work and start it here in Jena.
“Basically, what we’ve seen is God’s people getting right with Him and each other,” Robertson continued. “God has brought about this revival and as a result, people are being saved, lives are being changed forever and a true peace has come about, bringing unity to this area like we’ve never seen.”
John L. Yeats is director of communications for the Louisiana Baptist Convention and recording secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention. For more information, contact Robertson at 318-451-9141 or Franklin at 318-312-0752.