Town's Radical Change a 'Hope for America'

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MANCHESTER, Ky. -- Once known as the "Pain Killer Capital" of the nation, Manchester, Ky., is now known as the "City of Hope."

On a recent night here, hundreds attended the world premiere of "An Appalachian Dawn" - a documentary that tells the story of how God transformed a region held captive by corruption, poverty, and drugs.

Churches Band Together

The story began in 2004. The citizens of Clay County, Ky., were desperate. Their children were dying in record numbers from drug abuse. Drug dealers were rampant.

But desperation turned into prayer, followed by unity as people laid aside their denominational differences and staged a march through Manchester. They told the drug dealers to get saved or get busted. Local church pastors repented for not working together and for letting evil take over the land.

"First of all, when 63 churches in a small county marched through town together -- for us, that was bigger than the parting of the Red Sea. That just never happened. We never worked together," Doug Abner, Manchester Community Church senior pastor told CBN News.

"And today you can talk to the 3,500 or 4,000 people that were there, start talking about the march and everybody tears up." Abner explained. "It was just an awesome thing that happened and then from that, it's like all of the sudden the church had a voice in our community. We thought we had a voice before, but we really didn't."

Wildlife Returns

Since the 2004 march, nearly every facet of society in Manchester has been transformed -- from the drug culture to political corruption. Locals say even the land is responding to the increased presence of God.

"When God comes, He comes like a divine chiropractor," said George Otis, Jr., producer of "An Appalachian Dawn."

"He snaps things back into alignment that have been out of alignment," he said. "Whether it's in the political sphere, the economic sphere, the ecological sphere - He snaps them back into alignment."

"A few years ago there were no elk in this part of eastern Kentucky," Otis said.

"But right now they have the largest elk population east of the Mississippi," he he said. "The black bear have returned in very large numbers, which has brought tourists back into the area, which has begun to rekindle the economy in some of the local communities."

Even the city's water is better. In 2008, Manchester was named for having the best-tasting water in a city by the state of Kentucky.

Transformation Revival

Otis has researched nearly 800 cases of transformation revival around the world. But until Manchester, he said there was not one place in America that had met all the criteria.

"Transformation is not simply confined to a series of great meetings in churches or conferences," he explained. "So when you talk about the presence of God in church meetings -- that's one thing - but what about at City Hall?"

"Can they feel the presence of God there? What about in the local campuses?" Otis asked. "Can they feel it in the classrooms or in the jail and so on?"

Otis said the power of God fell on Manchester because the people of God fell to their knees.

"They had two choices. They could either throw in the towel and say, 'We're losing an entire generation to drugs. There isn't going to be a tomorrow in Manchester.' Or they could fight back," Otis explained.

"And it wasn't the whole community that fought back, it was really only a handful of people that did," he said. "But that's very typically the way it works in genuine transformation stories."

Phases of Transformation

Otis thinks Manchester met the three distinct phases of Transformation.

"What we call the invitation phase, where people call upon the presence of God to come because it's absent," he explained.

"There is a visitation phase where God responds to that entreaty of His people, and He comes at some dramatic moment, and something that wasn't there is there," he continued. "And then there is this maintenance phase, where God comes to His people."

Former drug dealer Steve Collett attended the premiere of the documentary.

"It was amazing. I never dreamed that God could take somebody like me, and the way I used to be, and put me where I am now," Collett told CBN News.

After years of running from the law, Collett gave his life to Jesus Christ and now helps other men get off drugs through a program known as Life Line at Manchester Community Church.

"Guys that's done time with me, they think, 'well he's either lost his mind or this is real,'" Collett said. "And I tell them, 'Look man, I found the right thing and his name is Jesus.' And we've had great results with that."

Hope for America

This fall, the story of Manchester hits the road in what they're calling "The Hope for America Tour," a 50-city tour across the U.S., featuring the documentary. The movie is already inspiring many who seek revival in their cities and towns.

Find out if the "Hope for America Tour" is coming to your city and watch a preview of the documentary. 

Anita Rayner drove three hours to Manchester to watch the documentary. She lost her son to a drug overdose when he was only 42.

"I was in tears a lot. It brought back a lot of memories. But that's why I have such a passion to try and help other people that are addicted," Rayner said.

Otis believes telling Manchester's story around the country will pave the way for other American towns and cities to see God's real transformation.

"I believe we are now 12 to 24 months away from a whole new crop of transformed communities in different parts of the U.S.," Otis said. "I can't tell you which ones they're going to be, but some of them are going to ignite."

Abner saod he still can't believe all that God has done in their town since the churches' march of 2004.

"I said, 'Lord, why Manchester? Why would Manchester, Kentucky, be the place?'" Abner recalled. "And He said, 'Because if people can understand how bad it's been and where you are now, it will give every city in America hope that they can change.'"

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