RC Talk: Ichthus property's new owners prayerfully consider options

Joe and Cheryl Lycan bought the former site of the Ichthus Festival and renamed it Servant Heart Farm. They plan to hold faith-based and family events and said they're open to hosting the festival.
Joe and Cheryl Lycan bought the former site of the Ichthus Festival and renamed it Servant Heart Farm. They plan to hold faith-based and family events and said they're open to hosting the festival. Lexington Herald-Leader

WILMORE — It's quiet for the first Friday in June at 9521 Harrodsburg Road.

A few vehicles roll in and out of the front gate for this stop on the U.S. 68 400-mile yard sale. But not much rustles tall grass in the field beyond the black barn except the occasional jogger.

In Junes past, this site bustled with workers putting up tents and temporary buildings and setting up stages for the Ichthus Festival.

This week was supposed to be the 43rd annual Ichthus Festival in Wilmore. But in December, the festival's board decided to close down the event and Ichthus Ministries, citing insurmountable debt exacerbated by the costs of the mortgage and maintenance of the 111-acre festival site.

Both the property and the festival's name and related intellectual property were sold, to different owners.

The Ichthus Festival is slated to return under the auspices of the Creation Festivals. Ichthus 2014 is scheduled for Sept. 26 to 28, 2014, at the Kentucky Horse Park.

But the new owners of the former Ichthus farm have plans for the property, and they don't involve building McMansions on the outskirts of Wilmore.

"The Lord put it on our heart that these grounds must be secured, so we started listening to God and praying," says Joe Lycan, who with his wife, Cheryl, bought the property in March.

The Lycans went to Ichthus for several years, Joe singing and playing guitar and trumpet in the band Sons of Thunder. He is a geologist, based in Williamson, W.Va.

"We totally believe in Wilmore, and what God has honored," Lycan says. "We have seen the legacy of revival and ministry, and thousands of souls won in this community. We believe the hand of God rests on this community, therefore we have invested in it and the things of God in it."

The Lycans initially offered to work with Ichthus to settle the property, but they couldn't agree on terms. The couple bought the property after it went into foreclosure. They say they offered to let Ichthus have the festival at the farm, but the festival has announced it will go to the Horse Park.

Festival director Mark Vermilion said it's a new era for chthus, he and the Creation staff want to try new things to address patron concerns over the years.

"People aren't so into roughing it and going long distances to get where they are going anymore," he said, citing the Horse Park's accommodations and location at the intersection of Interstates 64 and 75. "People have looked at the Horse Park and said it could be one of the best venues for a festival in the country, and we have it right here."

He did not, however, rule out future options for the festival, including taking it back to the Wilmore property, which has been renamed Servant Heart Farm.

"I'm so glad they bought that property and have a vision for that property, and that it's about spiritual impact and serving Wilmore," Vermilion says. Ichthus might look at having concerts at Servant Heart later this year, he says.

The Lycans say they are on a holy mission, and they believe they received confirmation of that early this year in a dream and a vision. Joe Lycan says he had a dream of pillars of fire over the Ichthus grounds. A few days later, both they and former Ichthus director Jeff James witnessed a shaft of sun that looked like a pillar of fire. James saw it while praying at the Ichthus property.

"The Lord did that," Lycan says.

Cheryl Lycan says, "We were in pretty serious negotiations at that time. Signs and wonders, I have never seen a sunset like that. So I am expecting God to do wonderful things here."

What form those things will take, the Lycans are not sure. They would like to build on the music heritage established by Ichthus, but maybe not at quite that level, at least right away.

"We plan on doing some small events this summer and making it open to the public at no cost," Joe Lycan says. "We have a bunch of musicians that want to worship God, and we're going to bring them together and some prayer teams together and see who wants to do in Wilmore what the Lord would have us to do."

The Lycans also are open to hosting secular events that are "wholesome and family oriented." Joe says he did balk at a country artist who wanted to have a concert at the property and sell alcohol.

They also are considering 18th-century re-enactments, which they are involved in, and allowing the property to be used by Asbury University, which is how Ichthus started, with Asbury Seminary professor Bob Lyon and students.

"The legacy of the Lyon family, and how God used those humble servants to bless the community, is the spirit of what made Ichthus a wonderful ministry," Joe Lycan says. "And we want to carry on the tradition on the grounds and in Wilmore and Jessamine County of what the Lord mandated and ordained, to be servants of the living God and not servants of ourselves."