Local leaders say revival is happening at All Nations Camp Meeting on the Coushatta Indian Reservation.
It has been meeting six nights a week without a break for more than two years. But is it revival?
‘I’m not the same person’
As few as four and as many as 30 — plus one night a group of 80 in the area doing hurricane cleanup — but more typically a multicultural group of about 12 gather at 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday for Bible reading, testimonies and prayer.
“Everybody says by their own testimony, ‘I’m not the same person I was before we started meeting every night,’” said John Cernek, pastor of Indian Bible Church in Elton, Louisiana, adjacent to the Coushatta tribal headquarters where the tent meetings take place. “We’ve all been changed.”
Cernek has become the main leader of the gatherings that were started by the late Randy Carruth, the president and founder of I Am Able Ministries.
“We’re in the book of Daniel,” Cernek said of the nightly gatherings. “Once we get through Malachi we will have completed the entire Bible. There’s no way you can do that and not have your spiritual life enriched.
“I’ve been in ministry for more than 35 years and I’ve never experienced anything like this before.”
Dustin Miller, pastor of the Elton Assembly of God, is another leader of the camp meeting.
“When God builds something He builds it solid,” Miller declared. “With Facebook Live this message is going out around the world, reaching all nations.”
Cernek added, “We’re not praying for revival. We are living it!”
In one recent week, Cernek said he received calls from three men who hadn’t talked with each other, all with the same “prompting from the Lord.”
The first came from Miller, who said, “’I’ve got a burden to go door to door in Elton, to take a lunch basket — hot dog and chips — and prayer.’
[Cherokee Evangelist] Jimmy Muskrat called from Oklahoma to say, ‘I’ve got a burden to go door to door in [nearby] Kinder. Then Randy [Carruth] called me and said, ‘We’ve got a group from Kentucky making bags for us to pass out in the community.’
“Three men tell me the same thing and I say, ‘OK. Speak, Lord. Your servant hears,’” Cernek related. “Everybody at the camp meeting that night — it was unanimous — 20 people said, ‘Let’s do it next Wednesday.’”
What is revival?
Several Southern Baptist leaders talked with The Baptist Paper about what true revival looks like.
As part of Blackaby International Ministries based in Atlanta, Richard Blackaby speaks on spiritual awakening and experiencing God.
“God tends to work IN us before He works THROUGH us,” Blackaby said. “But whenever God does a work in us, it is never just for us. It is always to be a blessing to others.”
In 50 years of ministry, international evangelist Sammy Tippit has seen revival spread in Illinois during the 1970s Jesus Movement, in Romania in the 1980s, and several other places.
“People’s hearts are always going to be needy,” he said. “The gospel did not come west of the Mississippi [River] from white people, but from indigenous people. Revival is likely to come through ethnic communities, and my hope is that through these indigenous people at All Nations Camp Meeting, God’s word spreads from southwest Louisiana to the nation and the world.”
Preston Nix, professor of evangelism and evangelistic preaching at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, teaches about revival at the seminary level.
“Revival is a renewal of an individual’s walk with the Lord and a return to their first love,” he noted. “I differentiate between revival and spiritual awakening. Revival is God’s people — believers — getting their hearts right with God. Awakening is the Spirit of God moving out in the community.
“When Christians are revived they have a greater concern for the lost around them,” Nix said. “Revival and awakening almost always go together.”
He spoke of several types of revival, attributing them to the book, “FireFall,” by Malcolm McDow and Alvin Reid. They include personal revival, church or institutional revival, regional or area-wide revival; specialized revival among groups, of which the 1967—77 Jesus Movement might be the best-known (read story here); national revival and international or worldwide revival.
Nix said he was a teen in Texas when the Jesus Movement among West Coast “hippies” caught the attention of “church kids” as it grew. Rather than a mass movement in its beginnings, the Jesus Movement was a specialized revival that broke out among multiple smaller groups as word spread one-by-one of what God was doing — which in a short amount of time became a national phenomenon, Nix explained.
God brings revival
“How does revival start?” he asked. “There are two views. Jonathan Edwards in the First Great Awakening said, ‘Revival is like showers of rain that come from God,’ meaning without anything people might do.
“In the 1800s Charles Finney said, ‘Revival results from appointed means. If you plant a seed and water it, the plant will grow. If you repent, pray, seek God, He will bring revival.’
“Whatever view,” Nix said, “revival ultimately is dependent upon the sovereign God of the universe. Revival comes from Him.
“Every great movement of God is preceded by prayer,” Nix continued. “Matthew Henry said it this way: ‘When God gets ready to do a work, He sets His people to praying.’
“We never know for certain where revival might break out but it happens when people get burdened for themselves, the church and those who are without Christ. They’re seeking answers from the Lord for their own lives and God’s work in the world.”
Camp Meeting started small
Carruth was among four Southern Baptists who organized evening worship for Native Americans who came to help with hurricane recovery in 2019. That has grown into the All Nations Camp Meeting.
“We should do something for them,” Carruth told three friends. What started as evening services at a church grew, with permission to put up a tent on the Coushatta Indian Reservation.
“Let’s put up the tent with no start-date and no end-date, and see what God does,” suggested then-director of missions Jerry Johnson, who died in August. Carruth died from COVID-19 on Oct. 15, after four weeks on a ventilator.
“It’s not about me,” Carruth would say when telling people about the long-lasting camp meeting, which grew to nearly 1,000 Facebook Live viewers from 22 countries. “It’s all God.”
All Nations Camp Meeting, which had continued without pause during two hurricanes, two tropical storms and the death of three local girls, also met the evenings before and after Carruth’s death, his funeral and six nights a week since.
The Oct. 2 Bible study, the second anniversary of the gatherings on the Coushatta Reservation, was from the first two chapters of Micah.
It was eerily appropriate.
“Micah was a nobody,” said Indian Bible Church member Linda Langley, talking about the text from her perspective as a Messianic Jew. “Micah has no background, no pedigree, no training. Yet he’s one of the few prophets who got listened to — so God can and will use anybody and everybody, regardless of their background or life experiences.”
Like Carruth, an electrician by trade and church deacon who turned to ministry when he was sidelined by a workplace injury. He went on a missions trip at the urging of a friend, ministered among Mayan Indians in Mexico, and from that God gave him a heart for Indigenous people.
Micah’s message in chapters 1 and 2 is that “destruction is coming,” Langley noted.
Discipling the flock
Miller said he became impressed earlier this year to lead the congregation he pastors to be ready for what’s coming.
“Now I’m intensely discipling my people,” Miller said. “God has established something with All Nations Camp Meeting. What’s happening is that there’s a movement happening. We’re starting to see the dots lining up.”
Nix spoke of the desperation that causes some people to turn to God.
“Usually God has set some people to praying. It’s desperation,” Nix explained. “If ever there was a time we need to be desperate for God, it is now. There’s the health pandemic, natural catastrophic events, what’s coming out of Washington D.C. … If ever there was a need for desperate prayer, it’s now!”