PUBLISHED SUNDAY NOVEMBER 20, 1997
Copyright 1997 The Pensacola News Journal. All
Fact or fiction?
trying to help worshipers
Kimberly Blair and J. Lowe Davis
Brownsville leaders say the
revival has done wonders for the Pensacola
They boast that it has performed miracles for
the afflicted and the addicted.
They do not highlight the burden the revival
is placing on the community.
They do not provide medical verification of
the healing miracles.
The News Journal 's four-month investigation
into Brownsville claims has found that the
revival 's benefits have been overstated and the
negative effects have been overlooked or
The revival is bringing in thousands of
visitors, and many of them spend some money here
but how many and how much? Nobody could provide
the News Journal with data that could gauge
whether the influx is an economic boon.
The Pensacola Convention and Visitors Center,
which is connected to the Pensacola Area Chamber
of Commerce, has kept no figures on revival
visitors and could not provide an assessment of
the revival 's economic impact.
Fast-food and buffet-style restaurants say
they have enjoyed increased patronage, ranging
from 5 to 20 percent, since the revival started 2
A number of motels have had more business
because of the revival, but most are ones with
rooms in the moderate-price and budget range.
Some of the motel managers complain that revival
visitors keep a tight rein on spending by
crowding a number of people into one room.
And then there are the revival visitors who
spend nothing at all because they have nothing.
Those are the ones the community 's charities and
service agencies are seeing in quantity.
Those are the people who are driving beat-up
cars, hitchhiking, or hopping on buses with a
one-way ticket in hand.
They have heard that the Pensacola Brownsville
Revival is the answer to all their emotional,
financial and spiritual needs.
They have heard that God is moving nightly
inside Brownsville Assembly of God.
They have heard that God will work a miracle
for them, if they can just get into the church
and get saved.
They have heard once they arrive, "God
But when the revival services end for the
night, a number of those people find themselves
without a place to sleep or anything to eat.
They seek help from the church.
They are turned away.
"A lot will come and want gas money to
get back home. We are not set up for that,"
said Rose Compton, Brownsville Assembly of God
"We have such a tremendous expense with
employees and products we use. We don 't have the
money for their personal needs."
The revival is taking in about $3 million a
year, according to the church 's estimate of
$12,500 a night. The church 's 1996 total budget
was $6.6 million and its revenue was $6.5
Receiving no assistance from the church, the
needy visitors find their way to public agencies
and charities, which are not set up or
sufficiently funded to handle the influx.
Loaves and Fishes has housed two families and
about 10 to 15 individuals who said they came
here for the revival, said Rick Humphreys,
executive director. But Loaves and Fishes is
mainly a soup kitchen with a few emergency
Humphreys is happy to help, he said.
Brownsville is one of about 20 churches that
donates money to the charity. Humphreys would not
say how much any of the churches give.
The Jesus Care Center, a soup kitchen at
Northridge Church, has fed many revival visitors
from many states as well as from overseas. One
man, in a wheelchair, was from England, said
Steve Hauck, who operates the kitchen.
"A lot come in and say they came to stay
to go to revival. They try to find work," he
Brownsville gave a one-time donation to the
center, he said. Neither he nor the church would
say how much.
Lon Roberts, pastor of Circle Baptist Church
and board member of the Escambia Coalition on the
Homeless, has helped several out-of-town families
of revival visitors plus four individuals who
were stranded when their money ran out.
"At least one felt like he was getting so
much from the revival he wanted to stay and get
more." But he had no money, Roberts said.
"He was not prepared."
"The revival has brought more needy to
the community than the social services can deal
Many agencies say they are just now beginning
to realize the extent of the negative impact the
revival is having on local resources.
Several agency officials fear the burden will
worsen as the revival goes on. They note that the
revival urges the visitor to "get here as
often as you can."
One agency, which relies in part on public
funding, has almost gone broke assisting the
revival poor, according to its spokesman. He
asked that the agency not be identified. Reason:
He wants to protect client confidentiality and
because he and other officials there don 't want
local donors to know they have nearly depleted
the agency 's resources on out-of-towners.
The Escambia Coalition on the Homeless has not
asked Brownsville Assembly of God to start
helping, Roberts said, because a Brownsville
member told him the church had a homeless program
called Hope Outreach Ministry.
However, the News Journal has found that Hope
Outreach Ministry is not a program for the
homeless nor is it church-funded. It is part of
Brownsville Revival Blessing Outreach, created
and run by volunteers with donations from local
businesses and individuals.
Social service agencies are not the only ones
bearing the burden of providing for the revival
Sue Williams, who operates Elegant Junk, a
second-hand furniture and clothing store on
Mobile Highway near the church, said she has
spoken with at least a dozen revival visitors who
ended up broke and stranded after attending
"I see homeless sleeping on church
grounds, convinced that church is the answer to
everything," she said.
Williams does what she can by giving them
clothes. She also gives them phone numbers of
agencies that might help. She keeps a list posted
on a bulletin board behind her counter.
Sybil Folsom sees those people as well. She
operates Sybil 's Kitchen, a small cafe on Mobile
Highway, two blocks west of the church.
"I give them a sandwich and a cup of
coffee," said Folsom, who says she is a
Christian and does not mind feeding the homeless.
She also does not mind lending an ear.
Folsom said that they all say the same thing:
"God told me to come to Pensacola. God said,
'Don 't worry about money. ' God will
Jean Rey, director of the Pensacola Bay
Baptist Association benevolence program, said
that many of the revival visitors are not only
poor, they lack good judgment.
"They 've heard there are miracles and
God will perform that miracle for them. I wish I
could invent a pill to give people good
"Brownsville needs a benevolent program
just like some of the other churches have.
"Brownsville should shoulder a greater
responsibility for those who come for revival.
They can take a percentage of the nightly
offering to fund it," Rey said.
Roberts, the Circle Baptist pastor, said he
would advise revival visitors to use common
Rey believes people can find what they are
seeking at home.
"I would want to tell them, 'Stay home
and find a local church,' " Rey said.
"God does not live just in Pensacola."
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