This Week in AG History -- Nov. 19, 1950
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In October 1949, the Free Church Presbytery of Lewis met for a discussion of the spiritual state of their communities in the Hebrides Islands. The hearts of these evangelical ministers were deeply concerned at the drift from the church, especially among the young people of their island. They passed a resolution which was later published in the Stornoway Gazette: “The Presbytery affectionately plead with their people to … make serious inquiry as to what must be the end, should be there be no repentance; and they call upon every individual as before God to examine his or her life in the light of that responsibility which pertains to us all, that haply, in the Divine mercy, we may be visited with the spirit of repentance and may turn again unto the Lord.”
In the congregation in Barvas, prayer meetings began to be held in a barn three nights each week often lasting until four or five o’clock in the morning. During one of those meetings, a young man rose to read Psalm 24, asking his praying companions, “Brethren, we have been praying for weeks, waiting upon God. Now I would like to ask ‘Are our hands clean? Are our hearts pure?’” In the wee hours of the morning, a spirit of conviction swept through the barn and the men prayed earnestly in repentance.
That same morning Peggy and Christine Smith, both in their 80s, joined in prayer in their cottage a few miles away. Each sensed an intense presence of the Lord and Peggy said to her younger sister, “This is what God has promised: I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon dry ground. Sister, we are dealing with a covenant-keeping God.” So convinced was she that she sent a message to their minister, James Murray MacKay, to send a wire to the Faith Mission in Lewis to ask a Christian evangelist, Duncan Campbell, to come to their island.
Campbell replied that he could not come as he was already ministering elsewhere. He soon found that his scheduled convention was canceled, and he arrived in Lewis within 10 days. Arriving at 9 p.m., he was taken to the church for an immediate service in Barvas. The elders assured him that expectancy was high and that they believed God was going to do something in their meeting.
Yet the meeting was quite ordinary. After the end of the service at about 11 p.m., several stayed to seek God in fervent prayer. When they disbursed at 3 a.m., they found that something extraordinary happened during their prayer time. As they walked along the road, they found men and women crying out to God for mercy. Many had awakened in the night convicted that they must become right with God. The next day, without any advertisement, the church was crowded before the minister arrived. A stream of lorries (buses) brought people from all corners of the island. In the service, people began to cry out to God for mercy. After Campbell dismissed the service, many stayed to pray. Others who had left found themselves drawn back into the church. They prayed and sang until 4 a.m. when a messenger came that people were gathered at the local police station at the other end of the parish in great distress. The police requested that someone come and pray with them.
Campbell reported, “We went to the police station and I shall never forget the scene that met our eyes … scores of men and women under deep conviction of sin. On the road, by the cottage side, behind a peat stack, they were crying to God for mercy. Yes, the revival had come!”
This continued for five weeks with Campbell preaching in one church “at 7 p.m., in another at 10 p.m., in a third at twelve, back to the first church at 3 a.m., then home between five and six, tired but thankful to have found himself in the middle of what God was doing.” After this, the revival began to spread beyond Barvas and into neighboring parishes. The outstanding characteristics of the revival were a deep sense of the reality and presence of God accompanied by a deep sense of conviction of sin.
The revival affected both the church and the community. The Stornoway Gazette reported, “More are attending the prayer meeting in Lewis today than attended public worship on the sabbath before the outbreak of this revival.” It was also reported by Campbell that in the community “social ills were swept away as by a flood in the night.” Dance halls and drinking houses were closed. Family worship was prioritized in the homes and prayer meetings were well attended five or six nights a week.
Duncan Campbell summed up his thoughts on the revival in an address to the Keswick Convention of 1952: “We may organize. We may plan. But until we get on our faces and do business with a covenant-keeping God, we shall not see revival. We can have our conventions and our conferences, recalling the wonderful times we have had. But what we want – and desperately need – is a fresh manifestation of the mighty power of God, bringing men into conviction over sin and causing them to seek the Savior.”
Read the article, “Revival in the Hebrides,” on page 2 of the Nov. 19, 1950, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “Giving Thanks Always for All Things” by J. Narver Gortner
• “Harvest Secrets” by Lettie Cowman
And many more!
Click here to read this issue now.
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.