The Bible is coming to life beyond belief in the heartland of the Buckeye state. Clergymen from Richland County, Ohio, are reclaiming the nexus between church and state and proving they are the juggernaut that can bring social change to their region.
Like night and day, this former "belt buckle of the Rust Belt" is now on the brink of becoming a new loop of the Bible Belt.
This report supplies ample evidence of pastors working in tandem, making an eternal difference in culture. This account also documents tangible blessings that followed hand in hand after biblical obedience. One of the most profound instances of this divine momentum includes a timely signature clergy collaboration calling for resistance to a federal government which hit below the belt.
Local Clergy 'Johnny on the Spot'
Bountiful August rains in the midst of a five-month drought in 2016 came at just the right time. This rainfall had a ripple effect, bringing an unusual abundance of milk and honey, and propelling a robust harvest. Despite being the second hottest August on record, milk productivity countywide increased 43 percent from the previous August. Meanwhile, swarms abounded for a bee population still stinging from the colony collapse disorder, with one prominent beekeeper declaring the summer of 2016 as "the best bee season in a decade."
"Showers of blessing" became new buzzwords to come out of a sticky situation. In spite of the drought, one farmer exclaimed "In 74 years of farming, I have never had 80 bushels of soybeans an acre like I did in 2016!" Another farmer proudly boasted of having five cuts of hay that year. ... but that's not all.
This extraordinary turn of events occurred one month after clergy drew national attention for challenging the Washington, D.C., establishment. Leading clergymen from over 100 congregations across Richland County sent a letter to local and state school officials calling for civil disobedience to the Obama restroom mandate.
Citing the mandate jeopardized privacy and safety of women and children, these ministers took a bold stand when many were afraid to challenge a hostile federal government. Interestingly, 50 years prior, the county seat of Mansfield drew headlines addressing the same issue of public restroom safety when the city permanently closed down and buried underground public restrooms on the city square to stop lewd behavior.
This same month also saw a sudden exodus of witchcraft with two out of the three area psychic stores closing. Legislative efforts to attack religious freedoms were also averted. And despite an infant mortality rate nearly twice the national average, no cases of premature infant deaths were recorded. Last but not least, the clergy's milestone moment saw no traffic fatalities during the same summer vacation month.
According to the ancient promises described in Deuteronomy 28, simple obedience by pastors became a pivot point to set these wheels of blessing in motion; one act of faith can change a nation.
Repealing the Clergy Gag Order
When addressing public issues of morality, clergy have the right of way. Second Chronicles 26 shows Azariah the high priest and 80 other courageous priests confronting the prideful King Uzziah when he challenged biblical authority. In this case, taking the moral high ground did not involve neutrality, it involved championing truth by confronting authority.
Christ regularly confronted politicians. Lively debates are recorded between Christ and the Sanhedrin over issues like paying taxes, food requirements, health care on the Sabbath and commerce inside the temple. Consequently, when Moses confronted Pharaoh over slavery, their confrontation impacted the agriculture, public health, transportation and weather patterns of a national superpower. These encounters became defining moments.
It goes to show, you don't have to change everything for everything to change.
Walking in Faith Leads to Charters of Faith
Throughout recent times, Richland County clergy have taken well-timed biblical stands that have helped define the faith community while simultaneously providing a mechanism to hold community leaders accountable.
After the U.S. Supreme Court redefined marriage in 2015, leading clergymen from 66 congregations publicly called Richland County to a day of prayer and fasting. The clergy statement defined immorality scripturally, took ownership over the community's sins and also cited two redemptive case studies of community turnarounds that ensued after each society repented.
That following year, eight of the nine mayors throughout the county gave pornography awareness proclamations. Also, police shut down a human trafficking brothel in response to a crime tip given by 14 area pastors. Just one month after clergy sparked this investigation, another brothel by the same name was closed in Lancaster, Ohio.
Alluding to this crime tip by the clergy, the Mansfield Police Chief in 2018 stated: "We have had unprecedented church involvement for several years. They have been very supportive and have helped uplift the community and helped get involved in solving crime ... they have done great things."
This is a powerful statement, reinforced by the fact that Mansfield has had three consecutive years of declining crime. Consequently, in 2017, several law enforcement agencies have placarded "In God We Trust" on all their squad vehicles, a stark contrast to one generation earlier when area law enforcement were enlisting the services of a California psychic to solve crime.
But psychics didn't see this coming when farmers had the best winter wheat crop recorded in 47 years after 36 pastors in January 2016 sent a written warning to a local business against hosting a psychic reading. The clergy made it crystal clear that psychic reading can involve consumer fraud of unsuspecting persons and could hold the business liable to litigation. The warning was given the same time the area began experiencing a five-month long housing upswing where the average number of days a property is on the market dramatically dropped and average sales prices went thru the roof.
In response, local veteran realtors stated that the turnaround was "unheard of," and that they had never seen a real estate market like it before. Suddenly, properties in Richland County became sought after and no longer forsaken, not bad for a county that led the state in foreclosures the previous two years. As a result of the upswing, the clerk of courts one year later commented that "foreclosures are down significantly. It's a huge drop, and I'm not completely sure why."
While New Age benefited from abandoned buildings as haunts, clergy are taking ownership of their community, and the future is becoming more certain: no man's land is becoming promised land.
Speaking of sorcery, police found marijuana growing on a church roof 30 years ago; but in 2017, clergy led a grassroots effort against local legalization efforts, with 70 pastors sending a policy letter to local government calling for prohibition of medical marijuana. The City of Mansfield and several villages and townships followed the clergy's lead prohibiting the dispensing and cultivation of the drug, due to its adverse health effects, affiliation with crime and inevitable illegal diversion. In fact, the director of economic development pointed to the clergy letter as the "death note" that killed a nearby Ontario City marijuana facility proposal.
Pastors became the talk of the town in 2016 when policymakers were actively considering a local syringe exchange program. Subsequently, a letter written five years prior by 72 area clergy opposing donations to a syringe exchange injected fear and closed the matter from going any further.
This same year the clergy opposed needle exchanges, seven pastors armed with drug treatment ministries confronted the County Fair Board, calling for the cancellation of a fair beer garden. The clergy caused a stir in the community, demonstrating that the beer garden did not meet its revenue goals and brought a bottleneck to security. The very same night the pastors presented their concerns to the board, a mysterious fireball was spotted and made landfall inside county limits. Five government agencies responded to the explosive scene, but the incident remains an enigma. For the pastors, these trailblazers that night became the stewards of the mysteries of God. No coincidence.
No Such Word as 'Coincidence' in Hebrew
In January 2017, clergy from over 100 congregations in north central Ohio sent an apology letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the position the Obama administration took in not blocking United Nations Resolution 2334. This anti-Semitic resolution called Israel's sovereignty of the promised land "an international crime."
Ten days after the apology letter was sent by the Ohio clergymen, a massive natural-gas pipeline was approved for construction thru north central Ohio after the project was held up by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The Rover Pipeline Project is more than twice the size of the controversial Keystone Pipeline. With its approval, the 713-mile pipeline brought an economic rebound, with hundreds of thousands of dollars to the stagnated local economy at a time when energy projects often go contested.
According to Department of Agriculture numbers, the spring turkey harvest in Richland County saw a dramatic increase from the prior year, whitetail deer harvested was the best in four years and the cow herd in Richland County, which is estimated in late winter, was measured at its largest size in over 30 years, which is utterly amazing.
The astounding blessings the area experienced from the apology letter aftermath provoked 42 area clergymen to also request the county treasurer to invest taxpayer dollars in Israeli bonds.
The day the county treasurer announced the county government would invest nearly $200,000 in Israeli bonds, was the same meeting that half a million dollars in unexpected revenue was announced to alleviate a budget shortfall. This clergy apology letter had a snowball effect and sends shivers down your spine to think that the blessing of Abraham still impacts our generation.
Almost half a year after these astounding blessings made international news, the deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset visited north central Ohio in the autumn of 2018 to thank the area for its support of the Zion state. The visit provoked one Israeli journalist to write an article entitled: "Does Rural Ohio Lead the World in Love of Israel?"
For what it's worth, according to media reports, a loud unexplained boom was heard over Richland County the same day the local newspaper first published the story on the Israeli-clergy apology letter. Power Company officials and emergency responders were scratching their heads trying to determine the source of this strange phenomenon. In retrospect, some say it was the voice of the Lord thundering His approval when the news first broke. I call it God restoring thunder back to the pulpit.
Reverend El Akuchie is coordinator of the Richland Community Prayer Network, founded in 1998 and based in Mansfield, Ohio.
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