YOCEMENTO — “In the name of Jesus, be free! Lose her!” Pastor Darrell Sutton shouted as he laid hands on the head of a woman at the front of the stage.
A crowd of people, arms around each other or leaning on another, responded with murmurs and cheers of “amen.” A woman began sobbing as Sutton continued his work, moving through the crowd, talking softly to people and praying with them.
The pastor had finished a nearly hour-long sermon. At the end, he removed his suit jacket and microphone and called for people who wanted to be saved or who were troubled to come to the front, where he laid hands on them and prayed with them.
After awhile, he moved to the side of the stage and called for the young people to gather around. Young adults, teenagers and young children moved toward the stage.
“How many of you love Jesus?” Sutton asked, and hands went up.
“I believe God can keep you and preserve you. How many of you believe God can keep you from drugs, keep you from fornication outside marriage, keep you from alcohol?” he asked.
Hands went up again, and Sutton prayed with the group.
“Fire in the Heartland” was billed as an old-fashioned tent revival Friday night at Building 153, a large storage building just off Interstate 70 built by Julisa and Luke Haines. Luke Haines is a president and owner of Roofmasters Roofing, 2070 E. Eighth, and Julisa Haines operates a photography studio at 703 Main.
Unlike the old tent revivals, though, the building was air conditioned, likely a relief for around 300 who attended the Friday night session. The first hour consisted of praise music from a live band, with audience members singing along, hands raised and moving to the music. A Saturday morning sermon was also conducted at the same location.
The Haines said the revival was the conglomeration of people’s prayers.
“We just wanted to be obedient. He says jump, you say how high, OK we’re ready,” Luke Haines said.
The Haines, who said they don’t necessarily attend any particular church, said they had learned of Sutton through their friend, Tyler Gillum, of Plainville, and listened to his sermons from Red Cloud on the radio.
“One day, we just got in the car, we drove up there, and we went to the service, and it was just amazing,” Luke Haines said.
Both the Haines and Sutton said they felt led to bring a revival to Hays.
“Over the course of time, he kind of had a burden on his heart for Hays to have some evangelistic meetings, just a little bit different than what may be in a traditional church,” Sutton said of Luke Haines.
They began talking about it several months ago, Sutton said, working out a date that fit with his travel schedule.
“Hays, being a college town with so many young people, I wanted to be able to come down here and be able to give the young people a different perspective on another ministry,” he said.
“I really want to be an inspiration to them, to help them become people that want to reach the world,” he said.
In his Friday night sermon, which touched on the story of David and Goliath as well as Jesus’ crucifixion, Sutton talked a bit about his own reach to the world. He said as a teenager, he had a globe and maps in his room and would slap at them and declare he would one day preach in whatever region he touched.
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Sutton was called to preach when Jesus appeared to him in a dream, according to a biography on the Revival: Fire in the Heartland Facebook page.
He graduated from the Southern Baptist Seminary and completed doctoral studies at Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
He served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and then attended school in Jordan where he studied Arabic, the Quaran and Islamic beliefs. He became an evangelist-at-large for Jimmy Swaggart Ministries and led Bible studies in the Middle East, according to the biography.
In 1998, he was invited to preach in Red Cloud, which led to him and his wife, Tiffany, starting Revival Tabernacle. Today, they also oversee churches in Hebron and Friend, Neb., and travel the world in their ministry.
For some, “Fire in the Heartland” was a throwback to the past. For others, it fanned a growing spark.
Brandon Bartz, of Larned, came just for the revival from Loveland, Colo., where he was working on a job site for Roofmasters.
“I knew the Lord was going to be here. I just think the Lord is going to do a mighty work in Hays,” he said after Friday’s sermon.
Like the Haines, Bartz said he doesn’t attend a particular church, but incorporates his faith in his everyday life. He would like to do mission work, but his parents want him to stay in college. He’s studying construction science at Fort Hays State University.
Becky Schiferl and Jeanne Crawford came from Colby. Both attend Celebration Community Church there.
“I’m just super excited to see what the Lord’s doing in this region and how the Holy Spirit is moving. We just love it,” Schiferl said.
“God had a divine appointment for some of those people who were up there today,” she said.
“I loved seeing people get together,” Crawford said, noting people from several churches were present.
Friday’s event reminded Julisa Haines’ aunt, Julia Ross, Colby, and John Pyle, Hays, of a revival movement in Hays when they were students at Fort Hays State University in the 1970s.
Students began meeting at a bar called the Dark Horse on 10th Street, they said, and the bar became a church.
“This is like reigniting the fire,” Ross said.