PUBLISHED THURSDAY NOVEMBER 20, 1997
Copyright 1997 The Pensacola News Journal. All rights
Neighborhood sees no benefit from revival
By Kimberly Blair
News Journal staff writer
PENSACOLA - The Brownsville Revival wealth has
not spread to its community.
Within one block of Brownsville Assembly of God, the signs
of poverty, crime and fear are everywhere: elderly shut-ins living in shacks,
families crowded into dilapidated houses, prostitutes and drug dealers
openly working the streets.
Church leaders have said that the revival has generated
an outreach ministry, but the News Journal has found that the program is
not funded by the church nor is it an official church function.
The outreach activity was created by two out-of-state
visitors who came to the revival, saw the community 's needs and organized
a group of volunteers into Brownsville Revival Blessing Outreach. It receives
its support entirely from private and business donations, not from the
church or revival revenues. The church does help by providing storage space.
In 1996 the church had revenue of about $3 million from
the revival, based on its own estimates of $12,500 from each revival service.
Its annual budget for 1996 was $6.6 million, and it had a year-end cash
balance of $1.1 million.
Within sight of the church, an elderly man lives inside
a house where nearly every window pane is broken or missing. He has no
protection from intruders.
Up and down the streets, bungalows in good repair stand
next to houses that look abandoned roofs are sagging and walls are caving
in and plaster is mildewed but are home to some of Pensacola 's neediest.
From within one of the houses, a baby wails. A door opens
and children spill out the front door. They quickly claim a scattering
of worn-out toys on a dirt lawn. One child sits on a broken tricycle and
pretends to ride.
"I have never seen that church do anything for this community
in the past 2 years. And I see everything that goes on in this community,
said Dori Rice, who lives a block from the church.
She also said she watches johns picking up neighborhood
prostitutes a daily and nightly activity.
Evangelist Steve Hill tells revival crowds that the revival
's influence is cleaning up prostitution, drugs and street crime in Brownsville.
Not true, residents say.
"What has happened is the prostitutes have moved closer
into our community away from the church," Rice said. "Now johns are driving
up and down the streets where our children play."
Roscoe Urbaniak, who has lived a few blocks from Brownsville
Assembly of God for 50 years, said other crimes are on the upswing, raising
anxiety throughout the neighborhood. He told the News Journal that elderly
neighborhood women are afraid to come out of their homes because of a recent
rash of purse snatchings.
Rice and her neighbors also say they are seeing more and
more homeless people wandering their streets, sleeping in dumpsters and
People who live in the neighborhood say they have gone
to the church and been turned away.
Leaders of Brownsville Assembly of God, which has been
a thriving church for many years, blame the 2-year-old revival for the
church 's lack of attention to community need.
"We have been so overwhelmed by the revival. We haven
't had time to organize anything," said Rose Compton, the church 's business
Rice said the neighborhood hopes the church will act soon.
"Lord have mercy. They should open the doors every day
to the needy, Rice said.
We have so many homeless. They could open that kitchen
daily to feed them. They have the money. They have the people. That is
the only way they can reach the people is by helping them."
Assistant pastor Carey Robertson said church leaders have
been aware of the neighborhood 's needs for some time but have not had
a chance to tackle the problem.
"Our problem was organization," he said. "We started about
six months ago to get into serious discussions about the need and how we
would do this and fund it."
It took one woman, working on her own, to start a program.
Cathy Mack moved to Pensacola from Johnson City, Tenn.,
this year and was struck by the neighborhood 's needs.
"When I first came here I thought I 'd go to the Bible
school," she said. "I felt a calling to do this instead."
One of her volunteers is another revival transplant Barbara
Lee of Tyler, Texas.
Lee moved to Pensacola recently after attending four revival
meetings in December. "I was living an upper-middle class lifestyle before
becoming a missionary. I gave up the lifestyle to come here. Now I have
a modest lifestyle. But I 'm doing what I want: I 'm on the front lines,"
On Aug. 16, the outreach program went into action, canvassing
about 50 houses in the blocks around the church.
The volunteers knocked on doors and handed out Bibles,
Blessing Cards and revival tickets. The revival is free, but space in the
main sanctuary is limited; the tickets guarantee a seat.
The Blessing Cards had space for the residents to fill
in name, address, phone number and a list of urgent needs.
Jackie Cobb, 21, of Mallory Street credits the group 's
prayers for landing her not one, but two jobs.
"I was lazy. I needed a job but I didn 't have a desire
to look. When they prayed for me, it motivated me to find a job," she said.
The volunteers have done yard work and minor plumbing
repairs for an elderly woman. She asked that her name not be used because
she lives alone.
And they have helped Chuck Manning, 57, who said he barely
makes ends meet with a disability check and the money he makes recycling
"They bring me groceries," said Manning, who lost both
of his legs in an accident. "I think they are wonderful people."
Robertson, who is overseeing Brownsville Assembly of God,
says that the outreach program needs to focus mainly on spreading the Gospel.
"First, we want to evangelize. Win them over to Christ.
Then we will help with daily needs as well as spiritual needs," Robertson
Dave Corson, administrator for Pensacola 's largest church,
Olive Baptist Church, takes a different approach to outreach.
"Our number one responsibility is to present the good
news of Christ," he said. "But a lot of time a hungry person or thirsty
person can 't receive the good news you are trying to share because they
are hungry. You have to take care of their physical needs before the spiritual
Residents say that any improvements in the neighborhood
have come through the Brownsville Neighborhood Improvement Organization,
a volunteer group of people living in the area. They work closely with
the Brownsville Redevelopment Program, local law enforcement agencies and
Escambia County officials, Rice said.
Many business owners in the Brownsville community were
eager to talk to the News Journal about the church and revival 's failure
to help the community, but few would permit their names to be printed.
Several said they feared retaliation from the church.
As an example, a woman who operates a business on Mobile
Highway said revival regulars often come into her store and harass her.
And Jim Murphy, owner of neighborhood bar, Murphy 's Too,
said revival visitors have vandalized his place.
He says he allows people waiting in line for the revival
to come into his bar to use his restroom.
They repay him by defacing his bathroom walls.
"They use my bathroom and write, 'Come to Church,'" Murphy
Murphy said he is not offended by the message, but he
is offended that people who say they are disciples of Christ would deface