An ordinary chapel service at Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky. turned into a viral religious revival in early February, to which people from around the country responded.

It began Wednesday, Feb. 8 with 14 students who would not leave the chapel after a regular service. Instead of leaving, the students stayed to continue praying.

News of the old-fashioned revival, driven by participants, quickly spread on social media.

Jolene and Walt Catlett of North Platte were in Indiana visiting their daughter and family when they learned about it. Since they were just four hours away, they decided to attend as they journeyed home.

Students singing outside the chapel. (Photo by Eric Wiezorek)

The Catletts had been to a revival before, but they said this one was a memorable experience.

As they neared the scene, they saw vehicles with license plates from Massachusetts and Connecticut, While waiting an hour and a half in line to enter the chapel, they met a couple from Brazil, Jolene said.

Strict capacity requirements were kept at the chapel, which could hold 1,500.

“If six people came out, then six people were allowed in,” Jolene said.

The university students oversaw the event. People came to the forefront to testify about how God entered their lives. The crowd recited scripture, sang and prayed.

Jolene said people from around the world arrived.

“There is a great hunger in this country for God and it was proven by all the people who came,” she said.

Inside the chapel: Worshiping and praying before the altar. (Photo by Eric Wiezorek.)

Eric Wiezorek, a friend of the Catletts, heard about the event separately through social media. Likewise, he and his family headed to Kentucky. He said they gather often in prayer and worship.

They drove for 16 hours and arrived at 10 p.m.

Wiezorek said his children at first said they felt the same presence of God at the revival as in their family gatherings. He suspects the long drive and late arrival may have dampened their enthusiasm.

But the next day was different. Wiezorek said his daughter, Freedom, pressed through the crowd, determined to meet with God and in her experience, she did.

Wiezorek said four key concepts of a personal relationship with God came out of the revival.

• Audacious asking. When something is on your heart, stay with that prayer until God answers.
• Radical obedience. To be obedient to the voice of God and to quickly do what is asked.
• Christ-like authority. Understanding and conveying what it means to be a believer.
• Radical humility.

Jolene, Walt and Eric agreed that the culture at the revival dictated the four mandates to those in attendance.

“One student’s testimony in front of the worshippers would unlock hope in other people,” Wiezorek said. “The students maintained the culture, conveying those four concepts. Audacious asking became a part of my children.”

Walt Catlett said, “The tangible, weighty presence of God changes everything.”

Even though the trip was costly and Wiezorek lost days of work in his construction business, he said, “those things pale in comparison to the lives that were touched.”

The news media reported that thousands of children attended the revival and the generation the message seemed to be resounding with most are those 25 and under, also known as Generation Z.

Jolene described Generation Z as the lonely generation that has a strong desire to belong but is riddled with anxiety and depression. She said she witnessed kids making a connection while praying and suddenly they felt peace, hope, and a true sense of belonging.

“We have a responsibility to pray for and be available to this younger generation,” she said. “Our generation, the Baby Boomers, experienced several revivals and everyone is different.”

The Catletts believe the revival will meet the needs of the new generation who are struggling with the ability to identify themselves and wrestling with the question of their existence.

For Wiezorek, the revival brought to mind a passage from the book of Job, 14:7-9.

“For a tree there is always hope. Chop it down and it still has a chance — its roots can put out fresh sprouts. Even if its roots are old and gnarled, its stump long dormant, at the first whiff of water it comes to life, buds and grows like a sapling.”

The Catlett and Wiezorek families said they will cherish the experience for the rest of their lives.

Both families stayed at hotels in Lexington, Kent., a 20-minute drive, and ate snacks they brought with them or grabbed meals at local restaurants.

“The hospitality at Asbury was wonderful. When we were waiting in line, Asbury personnel would walk the line and ask if we had questions or if we needed anything. They always offered water and coffee,” Jolene said.

She said the Salvation Army showed up Feb. 17 to help provide food and drinks to attendees.

Asbury University is not new to revivals. In fact, the University experienced “occasions when significant moves of the Holy Spirit have swept the campus and reached across the nation,” according to their website.

Asbury’s first multi-day revival occurred during a snowstorm in 1905. There have been eight more, including this one in February, the school said.

The revival was eventually moved off campus after 14 days, but continued at other locations. More than 50,000 visitors reportedly attended at Asbury, which is a town of 6,000 people. And, as of Feb. 27, more than 100 million messages were spread about it on the social media Tik-Tok, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper.

The chapel where it began — Hughes Chapel — is more 100 years old.

Jolene Catlett said the university worked with the city fire marshal to make sure the rated capacity of 1,500 people in the chapel was not surpassed.

(This report was first published in the Bulletin’s March 1 print edition.)

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