BRADENTON -- The yellow tent glows in the twilight in a vacant lot on the corner of Sixth Avenue East and Ninth Street. It's the cool of the evening and the sound of gospel music beckons from the sidewalk.
For the past two weeks, people have been coming nightly to hear the Rev. Dayna Muldoon, or "Pastor Dayna" as she's known. She's a tent preacher and televangelist who spends an average of 17 days a month on the road, usually in Florida. She travels in a motor home, accompanied by a semi-trailer carrying an old tent formerly used by legendary preacher R.W. Schambach.
It's the only calling she's ever known, she told the Bradenton Herald. "When I was a child, I would pack a bag and tell my parents God was telling me to travel and tell people about God."
Ordained by the Full Gospel Tabernacle, she lives in Long Island, N.Y., but frequently visits Tampa, Jacksonville and Orlando with a crew that videotapes her revivals for broadcast that have been seen on local Christian TV stations. This is her first trip to Bradenton.
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The old-fashioned tent revivals are inviting, particularly for people who wouldn't normally go to church, she says.
"It's an opportunity to draw people together," she explained. "I want them to be on neutral territory, enjoying the presence of God under the stars."
On a recent evening, a trio of musicians warmed up the crowd of about 100, playing familiar songs. Most of the audience sang along.
In the front row, Sharon Warder of Sarasota was on her feet with outstretched arms, feeling the music as she sang. She's been there every night of the revival, which started April 7.
"I first saw Dayna on TV about a year ago," she said. "She opens up the spirit realm. She sets people free. And she's real," Warder said.
After about a half-hour of music, Pastor Dayna stepped on stage. After singing a few songs she delivered a message of hope and empowerment through faith in God.
She invited people struggling to find work up to the foot of the stage to pray.
"You may be looking for a job. ... God can make a phone ring," she told the crowd. Have faith, she said. "Your attitude determines your altitude."
Several people in the crowd stood to tell their stories of healing and redemption. King Douglas of Palmetto said eye problems made it nearly impossible to read.
After Pastor Danya prayed with him, he said his eyesight was restored. "I'm so happy," he told the audience. "She laid her hands on me. The spirit of God got in my eyes. Praise the Lord, that's all I can say."
His cousin, 82-year-old Otis Hoger of Palmetto, told of a Bible study that he says ended his addiction to smoking and drinking in a single weekend. "The Word got as good as ice cream to me," he said.
The Rev. Don Sturiano,pastor at Kingdom LifeChristian Church in Bradenton, was a guest preacher at the revival one night this past week.
Some of his parishioners have been volunteering this week, helping set up chairs, ushering and directing parking.
He says Pastor Dayna is the real deal. He says her passion for Christ and His people doesn't diminish when the cameras are turned off and the people are gone. "That's just the way she is," he said. He says he has great admiration and respect for people in revival ministry. "I have great love for people that pay that price."
Pastor Dayna's tent is in Bradenton tonight for an anointing service; and Sunday, for what she calls a healing and miracle celebration.
Both events start at 7:30 p.m. Barrels to collect canned goods to help Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee will be set up for donations.
Jim DeLa, Herald Faith & Values editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011. Follow him on Twitter @JimDeLaBH.