PUBLISHED SUNDAY NOVEMBER 16, 1997
Copyright 1997 The Pensacola News Journal. All
On the road:
Pleas for money intensify
go big time
with Awake America
By Amie K.
MEMPHIS, Tenn - Within
the dazzling steel walls of The Pyramid, the
arena that dominates the Memphis cityscape,
evangelist Steve Hill was shining.
The 6,000 people who flocked
each night to the Oct. 6-7 revival got the Hill
they've read and heard about, the fiery, feisty,
flamboyant man who glistens with sweat as he
shouts, stomps and shakes his fist at their sin.
Many came expecting nothing
short of a miracle.
Hill and the other leaders of
the Pensacola Brownsville Revival are finding
ways to reach even more than the thousands every
week at the Brownsville Assembly of God, where
the 2 1/2-year-old religious phenomenon is
conducted four nights a week.
Memphis was the most recent
stadium revival, or "outpouring," the
Brownsville leaders have produced in big cities
under the name "Awake America." In the
last year they have gone to Anaheim, Calif.;
Dallas; St. Louis; Toledo, Ohio; and Birmingham,
Ala. Hill says Awake America has barely been able
to break even.
At The Pyramid, Hill told the
audience: "I don't want to leave here with a
deficit. It's never happened before, and it's not
going to happen here."
Hill and the Memphis pastor
handling the collection, the Rev. Randel McCarty,
cited different figures at different times --
from $50,000 to $130,000 -- for the amount needed
to cover expenses.
McCarty, pastor of Cathedral of
Praise, a Pentecostal church in Memphis and one
of the hosts, urged the first-night audience to
give enough to raise the $50,000 cost of the
two-day Memphis event. He said that was the total
needed for the Pyramid rental fee and for the
transportation and lodging for the revivalists.
The next night, Hill announced
that $60,000 was needed, and he scolded the
audience, many of whom were return visitors, for
being stingy the night before.
"Last night didn't cut it,
folks," Hill said.
Filling the buckets
When Hill moved on to his
message, which is his term for his sermon, ushers
loaded white buckets of money onto dollies and
pushed them into a separate room, where they
began tallying the collection.
As Hill was wrapping up his
sermon and gearing up for the altar call, he got
the news: The collection was not enough.
He stopped everything and
renewed his money plea.
The ushers moved into the
audience again with the buckets.
Hill began the anointings as
the second counting got under way.
He was working his way through
the audience, laying on hands and praying for
people when an usher gave him the word that the
collection had still fallen short of the goal.
Hill stopped praying and anointing and exhorted
people to give again.
By the time the event was
ending, McCarty reported that $130,000 was the
amount needed to cover expenses and the
collection fell $6,500 short -- meaning they
raised $123,500 in two nights.
He did not explain why those
figures differed from the $50,000 he stated the
first night and the $60,000 Hill stated on the
Hill says he does not have
exact figures, but he does not think the Memphis
event was profitable.
"Memphis was so-so,"
Hill said in an interview a couple of weeks after
"Awake Americas, they're
not money-makers. There was a time, I think in
Anaheim, we sold $13,000 in books, which was
wonderful, but there's not a whole lot of money
to be made."
Awake America is an informal
joint venture, according to Hill's attorney,
Walter Chandler. It consists of Hill, Brownsville
Assembly of God Pastor John Kilpatrick,
Brownsville School of Ministry President Michael
Brown and Brownsville Music Minister Lindell
Cooley, plus the Brownsville church.
Kilpatrick's attorney, Larry
Morris, said that before the ministers go out on
another big-city crusade, he wants to make sure
they get incorporated.
Money is secret
Awake America's finances are
handled by the crusade coordinator, Jeff Gardner,
who works in Steve Hill's office. Hill declined
to release to the News Journal any financial
information about the crusades without consulting
his attorney, and Chandler refused without
Pyramid officials would not say
how much Awake America paid to rent the arena,
but they did say that the starting rate is about
$5,000 a night. The final rental figure depends
on how much extra service, such as ticket-takers,
security, technicians and other support staff The
Pyramid has to provide.
The top figure, according to
The Pyramid management office, could be about
$11,000 for an event such as Awake America's.
If the Brownsville team members
failed to raise the amount they wanted, it wasn't
for lack of planning.
In anticipation of the event,
they papered churches across the region with
fliers and posters.
For five days, Memphis
television stations carried commericals touting
A moving event
Both nights, people from across
the mid-South began filing in around 5 p.m. for
the 7 p.m. services in the 20,000-seat arena.
Many were already veterans of
the revival in Pensacola: They knew all the words
to Cooley's toe-tapping tunes and knew just when
to shout during "The Happy Song."
The newcomers learned quickly.
One young mother with an infant
in her arms got so caught up in the energetic,
infectious music that she jumped up and down for
several minutes, heedless to her son's head
bouncing up and down on her shoulder.
When another woman noticed and
offered to hold the baby while the mother
continued to leap and shout, the baby jerked
dizzily for a few moments, spit up with force,
His mother did not see that --
she had moved up to get closer to the stage,
leaving her baby in the arms of strangers.
After the music, after the
money call, after Hill's message came the altar
call. As he does at Brownsville Assembly of God
in Pensacola, Hill asked the people in the front
rows to pick up their chairs and clear a large
The urgent lyrics of the
altar-call anthem, "Mercy Seat," filled
the arena as Hill shouted: "Hurry! Hurry!
Get down on your knees before God! Hurry!"
Hundreds made their way through
the audience and knelt. Many more stood in the
wings because their chairs had been taken away.
Teen-agers who had been sitting
on the floor in front of the stage just stayed
Hill and the ministry team
moved around the arena floor and touched people
on the head and prayed for them by chanting
"Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! Fire, Fire, Fire! Now,
An overlooked believer
Hill promised to stay until
everyone had been prayed for.
"We didn't come here to
sleep," he said.
Yet Hill left both nights
around 11:30, while hundreds remained waiting
--some on their knees weeping.
On Monday night, one of those
who waited in vain was Althea Catron, 41, of
After reading about the
flamboyant evangelist in Charisma magazine, she
was hopeful that Hill could help her son, Erkins
Catron Jr., who has a brain tumor that prevents
him from walking or otherwise functioning
normally. He is 14 but is the size of a
Believing that a touch from
Hill would mean a touch from God -- and thus
would bring healing -- she sat through the
message and struggled to the front after the
altar call, slowly steering her son's bulky
wheelchair around crouched and sprawled bodies
until she was close to the stage.
For about an hour, she stood
there silently, staring straight ahead and
tightly grasping the han dles of her son's
wheelchair. Hill's ministers and prayer teams
moved all around her, passing her time and again
but never making eye contact or touching her or
Several people nearby became
upset that she was being ignored, and a woman
grabbed a member of the prayer team who was
passing by, tugging him over to the boy.
He stopped and prayed and laid
on hands. Hill never approached the boy.
Tuesday night, the mother and
son were back.
Hill passed her by again.
She stood and waited a
half-hour, attracting considerable notice, until
Hill's staffers pulled him over to the
wheelchair. Hill gave the boy an anointing touch
and prayed for him.
Althea Catron was happy.
Her son's condition did not
change, but she said the prayer gives her hope.
"I expect a miracle any time," she
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