By Ron Gregory
WILLIAMSON — Economic development and a “turnaround in the minds and hearts of the area” was the theme as about 30 people gathered at noon, Thursday for the Mingo County observance of the National Day of Prayer.
The event, emceed by Regional Church of God Pastor C. Mitchell Bias, is part of a nationwide display by those seeking to promote “one voice united in prayer.” Mingo’s observance was held this year at the Williamson Fieldhouse.
Bias opened the event by explaining that it is nearly two decades old in Mingo County. Previous observances had been held in the courthouse circuit courtroom, he said. The pastor explained that the court facility was not available due to a trial that was being conducted there this year.
Bias also spoke of the Ignite Conference that was scheduled to begin Thursday evening, also at the fieldhouse. In a lengthy opening prayer, Bias asked that God “turn our region around.” He said Southern West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky “need to turn back to God. Stop doing drugs; stop wasting lives.”
A choir opened the event by singing contemporary gospel songs. They stood on the stage with those who spoke during the approximately half-hour ceremony, occasionally singing hymns.
The microphone was turned over to Jonah Johnson, Matt Petry and Kaleb Hanshaw. All gave testimony about the need for a religious revival in the area. They all prayed for God’s guidance in serving his purpose and noted that the area is “overrun with drugs and lawlessness.” They asked God to bless the community and the conference as well.
A pamphlet distributed at the entrance to the fieldhouse outlined the goals of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. Those involved were asked to pray for the nation and the federal, state and local government, the military, business, education, the church and the family.
Prayers also called on God to assist in an economic recovery for the area. Specifically, divine intervention was requested for the coal-to-liquid fuel plant in Mingo County. Plans for that plant, announced in 2011 when ground was broken near Gilbert, have been off-and-on for at least three years.
While U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin announced in 2011 that the plant could bring 3,000 construction jobs and 300 permanent ones to the county, prospects for actual construction had been reported as “dismal.” However, in recent months, a renewed push for the plant appears to be under way.
Hanshaw prayed about the need for “good-paying jobs here in the area.”
When ground was broken for the plant, Manchin said as much as 18,000 barrels of gasoline would be produced every day from 7,500 tons of coal.
Speakers Thursday spoke extensively about economic development and the need to “turn around this region.” One noted that President Abraham Lincoln came from a small town in Kentucky “but had a great impact on the entire country and world.” He said God could, therefore, use Mingo County and this region as an “example of how something small can become something very big.”
The Ignite Conference was to continue at 7 p.m., daily through Saturday at the fieldhouse.