Chase Gardner: Asheville, NC
Asheville has many nicknames. It’s known as the “Land of the Sky” for it’s natural beauty, and the “Paris of the South” for it’s rich culture and history. Recently two more nicknames have popped up on bumper stickers around the area: “Asheville: The Loophole in the Bible Belt”, and “Asheville: The Cesspool of Sin”. While the last two are a bit tongue-in-cheek, all jokes contain an element of truth. Asheville is perhaps the most “progressive” area in the South East, a mecca for those that love the outdoors, and a major tourist destination. A lot of people want to move there, and the area is desperately trying to keep up.
As my wife and I have spent time in the city over the past few years, we’ve enjoyed the culture and scenery, but we’ve fallen in love with the people. Many of those we’ve met have had similar stories. They came to a point where they wanted to re-invent themselves, to strike a new path for their lives. So they chose to move to Asheville. But jobs are hard to come by, and the ones that are available don’t pay very much. And the problems they hoped to leave behind have followed them. The city they knew would give them a new start has, instead, led them to poverty, divorce, addiction, and broken dreams.
My heart has been captured by this town. Everyone there is looking for something. They are looking for identity, purpose, and meaning. They are desperate for something weighty and eternal to give themselves to. They are hungry for something more, something real, something only Jesus can give them. There are many faithful churches in Asheville, but not nearly enough to saturate the 95,000 people that call Asheville home. Asheville needs more churches, more workers, more disciples. And we firmly believe that God has called our family to this task.
I know this verse is thrown around a lot when speaking of new ministry efforts, but, in all seriousness “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few”. I dream of the day when Asheville is known as much for the beauty of its Christian witness as the beauty of the landscape…when people moving there to find answers find them in Jesus. I believe we could see this in our lifetime. In fact, I believe it would be just like God to orchestrate something like this. From the “Hole in the Bible Belt” comes revival. From the “Cesspool of Sin” comes healing and restoration.