BOONE, NORTH CAROLINA – On Sept. 26 to Sept. 30, around 150 students prayed and worshipped in a white tent on Appalachian State University’s Sanford Mall.
“Through prayer, and I don’t say this lightly, I believe the Lord was telling me to ask Him for a tent,” Nathan Uttley, an International Business freshman and the visionary behind The Tent, said. “After praying about it for a few months, in May I was like ‘why don’t I just do it?’”
Uttley was inspired by David’s Tent in Washington D.C. where he worked for a summer. David’s Tent is a 24/7 tent stationed right next to the National Monument where, since Sept. 11, 2015, prayer and worship has consistently taken place every hour of every day.
With the help of the ministry he is involved in on campus, Uttley was able to gain permission from the school to put up the tent without any problems. However, after that initial success, Uttley’s commitment to The Tent began to be tested.
This past summer, he began experiencing health and family issues, reached out to others for support with little response, had trouble fundraising the $1,000 needed, and only had a handful of people committed to be involved in The Tent.
Once the school year began again, Uttley continued to struggle and “was overwhelmed, struggling in [his] classes”. He missed quizzes and assignments, but kept fighting to put on The Tent. Finally, God provided a breakthrough just weeks before the event.
“On Sept. 9, I was at this church service at our local house of prayer and they let me share,” Uttley said. At the meeting, Isaiah 54:1-4 was prayed over Uttley. Those in attendance then collectively gave over $400 towards The Tent, almost half of the budget goal.
After that meeting, provision began pouring in, including a tent for sale for only a little more than the cost to rent one, that could be used in continuing to put on The Tent for years to come. On the morning the tent was set up, Uttley expected it to be just him and one other person, but six people came out and helped.
The Tent at ASU was filled with prayer and worship for more than 80 hours during the week it was up. Students stopped in between classes, on their way home or while they were hanging out on campus. Music Education freshman, Lydia Tabor, spent about 12 hours worshipping in the tent throughout the week.
“It was just a place where anybody could come and sit for however long they wanted to, or however long they had, and just worship God,” Tabor said. “It was really hard to get yourself out once you were there.”
During The Tent, Sanford Mall, a place usually known for hate and protest, including by Christians, become a place where everyone felt welcomed and loved. Uttley said that one of his goals was to create an atmosphere of praise and joy, and was excited to see that happen as only positive reactions came from students who passed by.
“[The Tent] was birthed out of prayer, like everything good and fruitful in the kingdom,” Uttley said.