By Mark Ellis
Many baptized immediately (Photo: Charlee Lifestyle Photography)
The day after 70,000 people jammed the L.A. Coliseum to cry out for
revival, God sent the wind of the Holy Spirit many miles away to a
humble town of 500 in West Virginia coal mining country.
“We’ve prayed for many years for this,” says Mitchell Bias, pastor of
the Regional Church of God in Delbarton, West Virginia. His church had a
live stream from the Azusa Now event on April 9th with their own prayer gathering, but little did he know what would happen, beginning the next day.
It seems Pastor Mitch had invited Matt Hartley, a 31-year-old
evangelist from Tennessee, to preach at the church’s “spring revival.”
“I felt impressed of the Lord to connect with him,” he notes. “I knew he was a young evangelist.”
After Hartley checked his schedule, he proposed April 10-13 for their
event. “He came and started that Sunday. We had tremendous services the
morning and evening on the 10th,” says Pastor Mitch.
Matt Hartley speaking April 12th at Regional Church of God
The next day Hartley spoke at a chapel service for the church’s
Christian school in Williamson, the adjacent town, which Pastor Mitch
describes as another “tremendous” gathering.
On the 12th, Hartley spoke at a prayer club meeting at
Mingo Central High School at the invitation of the students. The club
normally has 30-40 students show up, but everyone was shocked when 450
students arrived – more than half the high school.
“He (Hartley) preached the Gospel, preached against sin,” Pastor
Mitch recounts. “I know it’s not popular, but he did. It wasn’t a
At the end of the message Hartley gave an altar call. “He gave an
invitation and 150 students responded to receive Christ. There was a lot
of emotion. They cried. He prayed for them. They were touched. It was a
move of God,” Pastor Mitch says.
Revival at the high school (Photos: Kaleb Hanshaw)
“The Lord did it. It was a sovereign move of the Lord.”
Two days later, another prayer club meeting was held at the same high
school. About 450 students came, and 150 more students received Christ!
Meanwhile, Pastor Mitch’s church continued their revival services at
night. “The crowds continued to grow at our church,” he recounts. “We
wanted a revival. We wanted a radical move of the Lord. But we didn’t
anticipate this would happen,” he says.
Young people from the high school began attending in the evening, along with others, and the word spread that God was stoking the fires of revival.
“By Saturday we were going to have a break and let the evangelists
have a break.” But some of the students decided they wanted to organize a
rally at the stadium.
Some 2500 to 3000 students from 25 schools in the area jammed into
the stadium. Hartley preached and again had a great response as the Lord
touched many hearts with salvation.
“The next Sunday morning and evening we had huge attendance at our
church. After the Monday evening service we realized we couldn’t
accommodate the crowds,” Pastor Mitch says.
One student, Mackenzie Lester, received the Lord in that first week
and posted this on her Facebook page: “I’m so happy to announce that my
best friend and I made the most amazing decision tonight, we completely
gave our lives to God. Three days ago my life was changed for the better
and I have pastor Matt Hartley and Kaleb Hanshaw and the rest of the
prayer team to thank for that.”
(Photo: Mackenzie Lester)
“They have really opened my eyes, and made me see such wonderful
things that I’ve never saw before. Tonight is a night that I will never
Another student, Cynthia Kaye, also posted on her Facebook page:
“Tonight 602 people came to Revival and 32 of them were saved. The
numbers keep going up! God is moving, and I’m pumped to see just how far
“I’m beyond blessed for him to have
given me a second chance, and so glad I can say I’m saved! The joy I
feel is unlike anything I’ve ever felt in my life. He is so good, and I
just wish everyone could feel the way I do. God is so good, and he’s so
great. This is just the beginning of what God is getting ready to do.”
On Tuesday, April 19th
the meetings moved to the Williamson Field House. “There, it became a
multi-congregational revival,” Pastor Mitch notes. “We led the worship; I
welcomed everyone and introduced and Matt preached. Scores and scores
of people – not just young people — were getting saved.”
After meetings on multiple nights a week for five weeks, the revival
spread to Logan County, with gatherings at the Coal Field Jamboree. “We
feel like the revival will continue to course through this state,”
Pastor Mitch says. “We don’t want this to be a novelty. It’s got to be
the real thing or we’re not interested. We just want the Lord to get the
He hasn’t seen any unusual supernatural manifestations. “We don’t have any gold dust appearing. Nobody’s
Pastor D. Mitchell Bias with his wife, Regina
teeth are being filled supernaturally. No one is barking like a dog or laughing.”
“We want the Lord to inhabit this place. We need him. We are desperate for him.”
Pastor Mitch finds some irony in the Lord choosing to bring revival
to small towns in an equally humble state. “This state is a hidden
place. You can’t even see us on the Weather Channel. They never mention
us. I watch them cover Pittsburgh or Lexington or Richmond, but they
don’t even see West Virginia. They never mention us. Some people don’t
even know we’re a state.”
In 1998 Pastor Mitch attended a prayer event in Flatwoods, West
Virginia organized by Ron Thaxton. “While we were there the Lord gave a
prophetic word like he was speaking to a person, but he was speaking to
our state,” Pastor Mitch recalls.
That word has been “emblazoned in his spirit” ever since:
Do not disdain your hiddenness, West Virgina. For I have hidden
you for the last days. If you will seek me for further revelation, I
will show you what this is all about.
“Then the Lord quoted from Micah 5: But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth…”
Pastor Mitch is hopeful the wind of the Sprit will continue to blow.
“I believe the revival will just continue to spread from county to
county,” he says.
“This is not about us. Let the Lord do what he wants. We’ve prayed for many years for this.
Pastor Mitch notes that West Virgina is the only state in the U.S.
formed by executive order by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil
War. “Primarily it was that our people did not believe one person could
own another person. We did not believe in slavery and would not stay a
part of that.”
“Williamson is known as the heart of the trillion-dollar coalfield. God invented coal and he put it here,” he notes.
In 1904-05, God sent revival to the quarries and mining areas of Wales during the Welsh revival.
“My house is in a valley and off in the distance is a coal mine on
the mountain top and a deep mine. A beautiful stream that is crystal
clear runs from there near my house. I don’t wipe coal dust off my
furniture. We are smack dab in the middle of it.”
For whatever reason, the Lord smiled once more on those who go down
into the heart of the earth and mine its riches. While many are out of
work today, they have felt a wind from God lift their spirits and fill
them with unsurpassed joy, as they continue to watch many entering His