While finding a church that still has an old-fashioned revival meeting may be challenging, such an event was a much anticipated and successful experience for the residents of Palmetto Park Senior Living, a ministry of Baptist Retirement Communities of Georgia.
This fall, the elderly people who live in the Baptist retirement community located 40 miles southwest of Atlanta came in their walkers and wheelchairs, and former North American Mission Board evangelism champion Howard Ramsey on the occasion of his 94th birthday came in a golf cart.
The preachers for the week included Georgia Baptist Convention President Kevin Williams, pastor of First Baptist Church of Villa Rica, Ken Bevel, associate pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany who costarred in the Christian films “Fireproof” and “Courageous,” Andy Hannah, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lovejoy, Paul Mims, chaplain of Palmetto Park Retirement Village and Craig Bowers, pastor of Wynnbrook Baptist Church in Columbus. Those who supplied the music were extremely gifted Christian artists.
Last year Matthew Gaylon, the executive director of the Palmetto Park retirement facility, decided to implement a vision he had for establishing a spiritual awakening among the occupants of his facilities. He called the people to prayer, secured the preachers and singers and rented a tent.
Gaylon explained, “I chose ‘Fan the Flame’ for this year’s Revival with hopes of encouraging our people to continue seeking after God. Life, at any age, has its way of distracting us and suppressing the Spirit in our hearts, but we need to fan into flame the gift of God that is within us (2 Timothy 1:6).
“A good portion of our community have served God by serving others as pastors, missionaries, Sunday school teachers and worship leaders, but now their ministry field has changed,” he noted. “Their new mission field is in their own community with other residents, staff and visitors who need to be lifted up and encouraged. As long as we have breath in our lungs, we should praise the Lord.”
Pastor Craig Bowers, one of the preachers for the revival, has had a long relationship with the executive director of the retirement center and commented, “Matthew Gaylon is a genuine Christian and a faithful servant of our Lord. Georgia Baptists have a real treasure in him, because of his life and witness.”
The tent revival was apparently a great blessing last fall because Gaylon scheduled a second revival this fall, held Sept. 25–30, and indicated that it may become a tradition at Palmetto Park.
Sharalene Roper, the chief operations officer at Palmetto Park commented, “This revival has been months in the making. Our team has all worked hard this year, and we were so blessed by the preaching and the music, but most importantly, by the eternal decisions that were made.
“It is such a beautiful sight to see our residents ministering to one another, making salvation decisions and experiencing true revival,” Roper noted. “Our hope is that they fully understand that God has a purpose for each of them until they take their last breath. They have value and something incredible to offer to the surrounding community! I am excited to see them actively participating in future outreach.
“The last few years have been such a challenge due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this revival was just what we needed.”
Roper added, “I shared with Matthew that next year we will begin knocking on doors, as there are at least two neighborhoods within walking distance of our community. We have a surrounding community hurting and lost, and our job is to share hope.”
Paul Mims, who has a pastoral background, is the resident chaplain of Palmetto Park which includes preaching at the worship service on Sunday morning, teaching three Bible classes each week, leading a GRIEF SHARE group and being available for personal appointments as needed.
Chaplain Mims commented on the tent revival by explaining, “The revival is Matthew’s dream to add a distinct move of God among our residents who need to be empowered in their Christian lives. Our retirement home is not just a ministry, it is a holy place for God’s people. The dear people who live here were so excited when it began, and a large number were faithful each night. It accomplishes the reviving of faith, the saving of the lost among us and makes Christ our most cherished Resident.”