The Church of Scotland and the Free Church had given out an instruction that everyone should pray for revival. This was not difficult for the people were well practised. Prayer was the basis of the 1934 and 1939 revivals. Prayer was woven into the very fabric of the church in Barvas and many spontaneous prayer meetings would start as people met with each other in their homes. It was a community at prayer! ‘they came to know the secret of humility, of seeking the Lord, of depending on Him to work, of importunately laying hold of Him, of passionately pleading with Him.’ There were signs of revival early in 1949, with people being saved on the island. One pastor declared that it only needed a spark!
The minister at Barvas, James Murray MacKay (who sadly died in 1954), invited Duncan Campbell (his second choice) to come over and minister, but he was refused due to Campbell’s busy schedule. Now there were two elderly sisters, one blind, who were amazing intercessors, who the minister respected greatly, and they told him that Campbell would come, so they and the church prayed and he arrived in Barvas, Lewis on December 7th 1949. There is a myth across the internet, that came from Campbell’s writings, that the Smith sisters prayed in the revival and were solely responsible for Campbell’s arrival. This story is untrue, the whole Island was praying in the revival and the whole church for Campbell to come.
I shall never forget the night that I arrived at the piers in the mail steamer. I was standing in the presence of the minister whom I had never seen and two of his elders that I never knew. The minister turned to me and said, “I know Mr. Campbell that you are very tired-you have been traveling all day by train to begin with and then by steamer. And I am sure that you are ready for your supper and ready for your bed. But I wonder if you would be prepared to address a meeting in the parish church at 9 o’clock tonight on our way home. It will be a short meeting and then we will make for the manse and you will get your supper and your bed and rest until tomorrow evening.” Well, it will interest you to know that I never got that supper.
We got to the church about quarter to nine to find about 300 people gathered. I would say about 300 people. And I gave an address. Nothing really happened during the service. It was a good meeting. A sense of God, a consciousness of His Spirit moving but nothing beyond that. So I pronounced the benediction and we were leaving the church I would say about a quarter to eleven.
Three hundred people were gathered at the church when Campbell arrived. After preaching a sermon, nothing significant happened. There was an awareness of God’s presence, more powerful than what Campbell had experienced since a revival he was involved with in 1921, but nothing extraordinary beyond that, and the service was closed at approximately 10:45 p.m.
With everyone having departed from the church, and Duncan Campbell and a young deacon being the only ones left, that young man, knowing God was going to do something much more that night, in the middle of the aisle, said to Campbell: “Nothing has broken out tonight, but God is hovering over us. He is hovering over us, and he will break through any moment.”
That young man then lifted his hands and started to pray, “God, you made a promise to pour water on the thirsty and floods upon the dry ground and you are not doing it.” He then intensely began interceding in prayer for a considerable period of time then collapsed to the floor.
At around 11 p.m. the back door of the church opened and a man entered saying, “Mr. Campbell, something wonderful has happened. Mr. Campbell, we were praying that God would pour water on the thirsty and floods upon the dry ground and listen, He’s done it! He’s done it! Will you come to the door and see the crowd that is here?”
It was then that Campbell witnessed many hundreds of people entering the church. No one had invited them. They had been drawn sovereignly by God, at that late hour of the evening. By 12 midnight the church was crowded out.
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