Asbury athletes describe being on the mountaintop

Members of the Asbury University and Welch College women’s basketball teams join hands for prayer following their game at Asbury on Feb. 18, 2023.

‘Once you enter into the chapel, you don’t want to leave. You just want to stay and experience everything.’

By John Herndon,

WILMORE, Ky. – I will be the first to admit that my first reactions to what many are calling the “Asbury Revival” was a mixture of skepticism and curiosity. I never wanted to dismiss the possibility of a true revival, or as some are calling the continuous worship and prayer that has been going on for almost two weeks. 

But my background as a journalist lends itself to a bit of skepticism and a lot of curiosity when something new happens, especially something that is new in an area dear to my heart. And like so many Christians, I have been praying for a real revival or awakening to break out among God’s people for some time. 

Asbury University senior Jaclynn Ruble looks for a teammate during the Eagles 84-58 win over Welch College on Feb. 18, 2023. (All photos by John or Stephanie Herndon)

When the news of the chapel service that would not end started to make its way out of Wilmore, I knew I had already planned to head to Asbury University for women’s basketball on February 18. I had seen Eagle guard Jaclynn Ruble play when she was in middle school, then watched her grow into the Eighth Region Player of the Year as a senior at Anderson County High School. I had seen her play at Asbury and wanted to be there on her Senior Day when she would be recognized for an outstanding career with the Eagles. Jaclynn will reflect on her career at the end of this post.

However, the news about the revival or awakening grew more each day. Usually, it was positive and my skepticism all but vanished. Still, my curiosity grew, as did my desire to experience what so many were calling an outpouring of God’s spirit on this small college located less than 20 miles from downtown Lexington. 

I decided not to try to critique things from a theological point of view. I would highly recommend checking out Bob Russell’s superb blog post about the Asbury awakening.

Due to my work as a writer, first for The Anderson News, and now with, I have made a near-annual trip to Asbury to watch more Anderson County grads play for the Eagles. Every time on campus, I am struck by the emphasis on the school’s commitment to the words of its motto, “Academic Excellence, Spiritual Vitality.”

Such was to be the case Saturday. I wanted to see Ruble and another Anderson grad, sophomore forward Tiffani Riley, on the court. Unfortunately, Riley had suffered a concussion and had not been cleared to return to action. 

I also knew I would see another former Anderson player, Kali (Whiteside) Kells, who went on to Asbury to become the school’s all-time leading rebounder and now serves as an assistant coach for the Eagle women. It’s always a blessing to see Kali’s smile and positivity.

Saturday afternoon, Asbury rolled to an 84-58 win over Welch College to finish the regular season at 15-10. Ruble, who had been averaging 10 points a game and reached 1,000 in her career in the previous game, uncharacteristically went scoreless but dished out four assists and gave immeasurable vocal support to her teammates. 

Asbury University players Tiffani Riley (left) and Jaclynn Ruble greet Stephanie Herndon of following Asbury’s win over Welch College on Feb. 18, 2023.

Following the game, Ruble talked about her faith growing during her time at Asbury. “It’s crazy. My four years have flown by,” she said. “It seems like yesterday I was just playing high school ball and now it’s my senior year of college. I think Asbury was absolutely one of the best decisions of my life. In my four years, I have grown, not just as a basketball player or a student but in my relationship with Christ and that was my number one goal.”

And with thousands of people from around the world descending on this little town just to be a part of the “Asbury Awakening,” it was obvious that others wanted to enhance their own growth and participate in a time of praise, prayer, worship and, yes, revival even if they had no other connection to the school. 

I took the opportunity to talk with Ruble, Riley and men’s basketball player Alex Carpenter about the awakening and how it has impacted them. All three were in attendance when things began to move on Feb. 8.

“It started in the regular (chapel) service that we have every Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” said Riley, who noted that full-time students are required to attend 36 of the 42 chapel services per semester. “Everybody started to leave, then one guy went down to the altar and started praying. Students started gathering around him and praying themselves. Everybody started slowly coming back, worshiping again and it just broke out.”

It has continued non-stop since. 

“I don’t think anyone knew where it was going to go,” said Ruble.

Asbury is known for great revivals in its history and many are pointing to the similarities between what is happening in 2023 and another revival at Asbury in 1970. But with cell phones and social media these days, news travels much faster. The word spread like wildfire.

“We didn’t realize it until the next day when students from other colleges started showing up,” Riley continued. “Friends were telling each other and people started slowly coming in.”

Ruble was struck by what happened late one night. “It’s hard to bring into words. It’s just very humbling,” she said. “We were worshiping one night around 11 or 11:30 and students from UK came in. Students from Transylvania came in.”

Asbury men’s basketball player Alex Carpenter with John Herndon of

Riley added, “It kind of leaves you speechless. You can’t really put it into words. It’s something you just have to witness first hand. It really puts into perspective what God can do and sometimes that’s hard to realize.”

Carpenter agreed that the experience was like none other. “Once you enter into the chapel, you don’t want to leave,” he smiled. “You just want to stay and experience everything.”

The university has maintained a perspective. While the administration has encouraged the revival, it did not shut down classes. Extra-curriculars, such as basketball, went on as the school attempted to integrate spiritual growth into every aspect of life. “It’s taken some time management but the reality is that God is my first priority. That has allowed me time to go (to worship),” Ruble said. 

Carpenter noted that Asbury president Kevin Brown spoke during the on-going worship to remind students that God’s spirit is not confined to Asbury and that students and worshipers should develop a global perspective. 

“What we need to understand and what we are learning is that what is happening can happen anywhere,” he said. “It’s not just one place. It can happen anywhere in the world.

The school has announced that the on-campus revival services will be coming to a close this week but the impact is expected to be long lasting and widespread. “On Monday (Feb. 20), the University of the Cumberlands basketball team is coming here to worship together,” Ruble said. 

And the lessons are simple yet profound.

“The main thing I have seen during the revival is the unity and everyone coming together,” Carpenter went on. “It’s a demonstration of selfless love. It’s truly amazing to see everyone coming together from all over the U.S. to just come and worship. It’s nothing but just praising God and honoring Him and what He is doing.”

But that mountain top experience can’t continue forever. Visitors to Asbury must go back home. Students will continue classwork and will eventually graduate into the working world again. But the experience of the Asbury Awakening can continue.

“I hope that everybody that came in is able to take it back home with them,” Riley said.

We believe many would agree with that sentiment.


Asbury senior Jaclynn Ruble, a graduate of Anderson County High School, was presented with a game ball commemorating her 1,000th point, scored on Feb. 14 against Kentucky State. While she has a year of athletic eligibility remaining, she says she has not decided if she will return to the Eagles next season.

Jaclynn Ruble says choosing Asbury out of Anderson County High School has been all she expected and more.

She’s started nearly every game in her four years at Asbury and is undoubtedly one of the team’s vocal leaders. Despite going scoreless Saturday, the senior guard was usually directing traffic and exhorting her teammates whether on the court of taking a break on the bench. 

“I won’t say it has been easy, but I have great teammates and my parents were great for supporting me,” she said. “It’s been an unbelievable ride and I have been so blessed to be here.”

Ruble enrolled at Asbury for the 2019 fall semester. Before her first year at the school was over, COVID-19 had become a household word and was wreaking havoc on college campuses and their athletic programs. Eventually the NCAA – Asbury is making a transition to Division III from the NAIA – granted athletes a free extra year of eligibility.

Ruble qualifies for the extra year but said she has not decided if she would take advantage. “I haven’t made my decision completely. I just wanted to have Senior Night. I am still deciding about next year.”

Ruble, who is engaged to Carpenter, will graduate with a degree in exercise science and has post-graduation plans to be involved in teaching and coaching at some level.

Jaclynn Ruble fires a jump shot against Welch College.

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