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Evangelism and the elderly: Tent revival at retirement community yields spiritual harvest

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PALMETTO, Ga. – A tent revival at a Georgia senior living center where seven people made “faith decisions” last month shows a continuing trend of older Americans turning to Jesus.

“We’re seeing this happening nationwide,” said Tom Patterson, a retired Southern Baptist pastor who leads the group Intercessory Prayer Missions. “It’s exciting to see this awakening among our seniors.”

Matthew Galyon, executive director of the Palmetto Park Senior Living, an extension of the Baptist Retirement Communities of Georgia, arranged the tent revival for the 125 residents, enlisting pastors and worship teams from nearby churches to lead the five-night event.

Galyon said he wanted to show Palmetto Park residents that God is still faithful, and that He is still working through them even though they’re retired.

“Their mission field may have changed from a church, another country, or a Sunday School class, and, instead, it has changed to our community,” Galyon said. “People still need to hear about God’s love. I want our tenants’ faith to be renewed, know that they are not alone, and that God still has a purpose for their life.”

Patterson said about 65 percent of the people who came to Christ in the past year through his ministry have been 70 or older and had come to realize they had a void in their lives that had gone unfilled.
 
“They’ve tried everything else – success, wealth, prosperity – and it hasn’t brought them peace,” Patterson said. “They know there’s 'something' lacking, and they’re finding that ‘something’ is Jesus.”

After two years of  social distancing amid a global pandemic, Galyon said the revival was a welcome event for residents and staff.

The pandemic forced organizers to rethink how to make the tent revival an evangelistic outreach to the outlying community while protecting the health and well-being of Palmetto Park. The decision was made to limit in-person attenance and to share the services via social media and Livestream.

Leading the tent revival services were Benny Tate, Gordon Powers and the choir from Rocks Springs Church; Bryan and Robin Calhoun from Calvary Baptist Church; Pastor Stephen Dervan from Oak Hill Church; and Brian and Ivy Scoggins, Ken Adams and the worship team from Crossroads Church.

In addition to the volunteer churches, worship teams, and choirs, several Palmetto Park’s very own resident pastors and missionaries served and preached, including Paul Mims, Steve Jett and Richard Bobo.

Sharalene Roper, chief operations officer for Baptist Retirement Communities of Georgia, said residents have hearts for evangelism and missions.

“Every decision to follow Christ truly birthed revival throughout the entire community,” she said. “God gave assurance to the residents that He loves them and seeks a living relationship with them. By the end of the week, the staff was inspired that their hard work played a part in revival and reminded everyone that every small act and every decision in our work are for the glory of God.”

Baptist Retirement Communities Chief Executive Officer Shannon Watson said it was an honor to see God moving.

“I pray that God continues to use our communities to be the light upon the hill.” Watson said. “Every generation needs revival. I am so proud of Executive Director Matt Galyon and his team.  This is just one example that shows their heart for the spiritual needs of our community. Many lives were changed during this old-fashioned tent revival.”

Once the pandemic is over, Palmetto Park Senior Living plans to expand its outreach into the outlying community. Additional revivals are planned to allow residents “to find a new purpose in not only growing in the relationship with the Lord, but also in serving Him through true community outreach and evangelism.”
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To learn more about Baptist Retirement Communities of Georgia, Palmetto Park Senior Living, Clairmont Crest Senior Living, or Hiawassee Park Senior Living, call 404-325-9077.

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