By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
CLARKRANGE — When it comes to sharing the love of Jesus Christ in the marketplace, Robby Cardwell has done it — literally.
What’s more, he has done it in one of the largest marketplaces in the nation (and maybe the world) — the (Highway) 127 Yard Sale.
The 127 Yard Sale is billed as “The World’s Longest Yard Sale” (according to its own website). The yard sale is 690 miles long and spans six states, starting in Addison, Mich., and ending in Gadsden, Ala.
One of the main stops along the route is in the Clarkrange area, north of Crossville.
Cardwell and his wife, Gretta, members of Fairview Baptist Church, Corryton, began attending the yard sale five years ago. They buy and sell primitives and antiques so it was a natural fit for them. Three years ago they rented space and began selling at the annual event.
In a conversation with vendors across from them, Cardwell shared that he and his wife have their own ministry. He has preached in crusades in the Knoxville area as well as Nicaragua. Evangelism is his passion, he noted.
The couple invited Cardwell to lead a church service in their tent for vendors and anyone else who wanted to attend. “I jumped at the chance,” he said, adding that he and his wife are always open to opportunities that the Lord provides.
Since then, Cardwell has held each year including the most recent service on Aug. 7.
The latest service had 20 participants. The first two had anywhere between 25-40, Cardwell estimated. He noted that many vendors left this year on Saturday due to extreme heat and high humidity.
The services are very casual, Cardwell said. “We tell people to come as they are.” This year, Cardwell passed out cards to vendors and buyers announcing the time and location for the Sunday “Tent Church” service.
Preaching from II Corinthians 1:9, Cardwell delivered a message on “More Than I Can Bear.” Noting he had positive feedback, Cardwell said those in attendance included both Christians and non-Christians. “I was sowing seeds.”
At the end of the message Cardwell closed the service with a time for prayer requests and prayer.
In addition, Cardwell enjoys talking with buyers who visit his booth. “You never know when there will be an opportunity to share about Christ or to witness to someone,” he said.
While “The World’s Longest Yard Sale” might seem to be an unusual place to share the gospel, it definitely provides opportunities as literally thousands of people stop by the booths over a four-day period.
“Sometime the Holy Spirit leads you to initiate a conversation and before you know it, you’re ministering to them,” Cardwell said.
Cardwell’s pastor, Jeff LaBorg, expressed appreciation for the couple’s commitment to Christ. “Their passion for souls takes them across the street, around the state, and over the seas to teach and share the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.
He noted the Cardwells often go the extra mile. Fairview has a group of prayer warriors who gather at the church at 9 p.m. on Saturdays to pray and intercede for the worship service the following day. He shared that the Cardwells would drive two hours to attend the prayer gathering, then get up early the next morning to lead the service at the yard sale.
“Simply said, they love Jesus and want everyone to know the life changing love of Jesus. It is a great honor and blessing to be their pastor,” he added.