Tonya Meck says she used to love to turn people’s faces red.
“I lived a very ungodly life and boasted about the things I did,” she explained. “I loved the shock and awe.”
Meck grew up in and out of church, and when she was nine her sister and cousins were getting baptized, and she wanted to do the same.
“I learned all the right answers,” she said.
But Meck didn’t really understand what she had done, and as she grew up, didn’t make Christ part of her life. But one day a few years back her whole life fell apart.
“I ended up having a stroke in both of my eyes, and I’m visually impaired now,” she said. Other health problems and family issues piled up.
“God was bringing me to my knees,” Meck acknowledged. “I felt this overwhelming sadness and emptiness, and I cried. It was like God opened my eyes for the first time to the Holy Spirit.”
And He began to transform her life. She moved from Michigan to Alabama to be closer to her son’s family, and started attending church. She was “starving” for information about how to help her relationship with Jesus grow, and “could not get enough.”
God began moving
God began moving in Meck’s heart to love Him more and love others, too. She started a feeding ministry out of her apartment.
Sometime later, Meck bought a house in the area of Hayneville Baptist Church and started attending there.
“I felt this calling that this is home and this is where I’m going to be baptized,” she said. “I had only attended the church for a month and asked if I could be baptized and join the church. It’s just been a blessing, a complete blessing.”
Meck’s story is amazing, and Neal Hughes, director of missions for Montgomery Baptist Association, said it’s part of the fabric of something even bigger God is doing at Hayneville Baptist.
“The church is having an unusual flow of the Holy Spirit upon their congregation,” he said. “Attendance records are soaring, with baptisms and recommitments among every generation.”
Pastor Andy Hepburn noted the church has baptized someone five out of the last seven Sundays, some after Vacation Bible School.
“We’ve already baptized eight of the nine children who made professions of faith at VBS, plus along with them some of their families,” Hepburn said. “VBS was a huge success this year. We missed it last year — it was all online — and people were ready to come back.”
That describes a lot of what’s happening at Hayneville Baptist right now, he noted. When in-person meetings paused for a while because of COVID-19 and the congregation tried other ways to meet, they had a “slow start” getting back to normal. But it was soon clear that even though their numbers were smaller, God was building a new excitement among the people.
“We had some high (attendance) days and some really low days,” Hepburn said. “But it was good. Even with smaller numbers, it seemed like God was doing more stuff in our lives when we got together even though the numbers were varying back and forth. Then sometime after July 4 it started this climb, and it hasn’t stopped yet.”
Openness to God
Hepburn said something about the pandemic pause made people feel a different kind of freedom when they came back to worship, almost like the normal routine had been broken in a good way.
“The openness of our people to God first and to others has just supernaturally unfolded,” he said.
And people have been coming to church and coming to faith. One man — Gene Wheeler — was baptized recently after Hepburn visited him and shared the gospel.
“I considered myself a Christian all my life,” said Wheeler, 69. “I was in and out of churches. I just never made the commitment. But as I talked with Andy, I felt it was time I did something. I know that’s all through the grace of God.”
He was “sitting on the edge of his seat ready to give his heart to Christ,” Hepburn said.
Hepburn feels like God is doing a “great thing” at the church, and that made the congregation’s 175th anniversary celebration Oct. 10 even sweeter.
“I asked God for One more revival in my lifetime, and it looks like it’s coming,” he said. “It’s on the verge of it; it’s happening.”