In 1949, the The Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides experienced a massive revival which spread throughout the entire island. It filled the church with the youth, extended through even the most resistant communities and and brought thousands of lost souls to Christ. It was a truly remarkable revival and one which demonstrates the ultimately merciful and father heart of our Saviour.
2 Peter 3:9 (CEV) The Lord isn’t slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is. In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.
This was a revival that was contended for, one which was preceded by great repentance and intercession.
Before the revival, the Island of Lewis was much like any other part of England. The town of Stornoway, where the revival began, had emptying pews as church attendance waned, while pubs were thriving. Sin abounded, darkness prevailed.
But there were the prayers of the righteous. Two groups of believers in particular, desperate for revival and repentance.
Some men who lived in Barvas began meeting in a barn to pray and seek. Praying one night they were reminded by the Holy Spirit that God is a covenant-keeping God who has made many promises to His children.
“If this is true,” they reasoned, “we can enter into a covenant with Him, and, if we keep OUR part of it, then HE MUST KEEP His!” Has God given a “covenant promise” for REVIVAL? Immediately the words of God in 2 Chronicles 7:14 came to them:
“If My people which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven…”
That night they entered into a solemn covenant with God, to take upon themselves the “burden” for revival for the community, to humble themselves, and to prevail In prayer UNTIL REVIVAL CAME!
These men, made up of elders, deacons and believers from several different churches, continued to meet for several months. They met in the barn three nights a week, praying through until 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning.
On the night before revival broke out, they entered into a time of repentance, challenged by Psalm 24, that despite asking for revival for months, they themselves were not of clean hands and a pure heart. It was when they began praying for personal revival that the breakthrough happened. They continued praying until they were exhausted and by 5 o’clock that morning, the outpouring they had been longing for had begun.
In addition to these men, two elderly sisters, housebound and infirm, unable to attend church, made their small home their prayer closet. Peggy and Christine Smith were 82 and 84 and though they were weak in flesh, one blind and the other crippled with arthritis, these women were mighty intercessors and friends of God. The Lord gave them the promise of Isaiah 44 3 and they contended for this promise for their island in prayer day and night.
For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.
God showed Peggy and Christine that a Scottish preacher called Duncan Campbell was to visit them and that he would be used to bring about revival.
Despite Duncan initially advising that would be impossible for to visit due to clashing commitments, God cleared his calendar and he did indeed arrive for a two week visit, though his fortnight long trip actually lasted two years.
The first meeting was held in the old parish church. Many people had gathered in a great expectancy of a great “moving of God” but, strangely enough, nothing happened. It was just an ordinary service. Seeing the disappointment upon the preacher’s face, one of the praying deacons came up to him: “DON’T BE DISCOURAGED,” he said. “IT IS COMING. I ALREADY HEAR THE RUMBLING OF HEAVEN’S CHARIOT WHEELS. WE WILL HAVE ANOTHER NIGHT OF PRAYER AND THEN WE WILL SEE WHAT GOD IS GOING TO DO!”
They went over to a near-by cottage, and about thirty knelt in prayer, and began to travail before the Lord. Three o’clock in the morning, God swept in and about a dozen were laid prostrate upon the floor, and lay there speechless. Something had happened! God had moved into action as He had promised; revival had come, and men and women were going to find deliverance. As they left that cottage that morning, they found men and women seeking God! Lights were burning in the homes along the road—no one seemed to think of sleep. Three men were found lying by the roadside, in a torment of conviction, crying for God to have mercy upon them! The Spirit of God was moving into action, and soon the parish of Barvas was to be stirred from end to end.
The events of the second night will never be forgotten by those who were privileged to attend. Buses came from the four corners of the Island, crowding the church. Seven men were being driven to the meeting in a butcher’s truck, when suddenly the Spirit of God fell upon them in great conviction. and all were converted before they reached the church! As the preacher delivered his message, tremendous conviction of sin swept down upon the people! Tears rolled down the faces of the people, and from every part of the building came cries of men and women crying for mercy. So deep was the distress of some that their voices could be heard outside in the road. A young man beneath the pulpit cried out: “0 God, hell is too good for me!”
The meeting closed when the people began to move out. As the last person was about to leave. a young man began to pray. Under a tremendous burden of intercession, he prayed for three quarters of an hour and, as he prayed, the people kept gathering until there were twice as many outside the church as there were inside! When the young man stopped praying, the Elder gave out Psalm 132, and as the great congregation sang the old hymn, the people streamed back into the church again, and the meeting went on until 4 a.m.
The moment people took their seats, the Spirit of God in awful conviction began to sweep through the church, and hardened sinners began to weep and confess their sins.
Just as the meeting was closing, a messenger hurried up to the preacher, very excited:
“Come with me! There’s a crowd of people outside the police station; they are weeping and in awful distress. We don’t know what’s wrong with them, but they are calling for someone to come and pray with them.”
Describing the scenes outside the police station, which reminded one of the amazing days of Charles Finney, and the Welsh Revival, the minister declared:
“I saw a sight I never thought was possible. Something I shall never forget. Under the starlit sky, men and women were kneeling everywhere, by the roadside, outside the cottages, even behind the peat stacks, crying for God to have mercy upon them!”
Nearly 600 people, who had been making their way to the church, when suddenly the Spirit of God had fallen upon them in great conviction—like Paul on the way to Damascus causing them to fall to their knees in repentance!
Revival had surely come! For five weeks, it swept on in that one Parish, Duncan Campbell conducted four services nightly; in one church at 7 o’clock, in another at 10, in a third at midnight, and back to the first one at 3 o’clock, and home between 5 and 6 o’clock—tired, but very happy to be in the midst of such a wonderful moving of God.
After five weeks in this district the revival began to spread and what had taken place in Barvas, was repeated in other districts.
This incredible outpouring continued for two years. Several towns and communities saw this revival and were resistant, some even setting up meetings against what was happening. People were determined to resist this move of God and that it wouldn’t infiltrate their community. Each time these resistance groups and anti-revival meetings were set up, God would reveal it to some of His friends and they would join to pray for God to move and breakthrough. Surely enough, even the most resilient communities were swept up in the Glory and the revival spread like wild fire across the island.
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