In the darkening days of winter as we head towards the longest night and the coldest months when we are weighed down by Covid of the threat of a lonely Christmas, the lack of hugs, of not singing carols in church, of being trapped it is easy to slip into a spiral of melancholy.
But there is always something we can do, something to show we are awake and alert and looking for he light, something to show that we are ready to follow our Lord’s commands and to be ready for His eventual return. You may not think what you do counts….. especially if you compare yourself with the importance of a doctor or a prime minister or a priest but God loves everyone equally and values their contributions. So if you feel a little weighed down and despondent, that you are doing very little by being at home take heart from the true tale from the book Dirty Glory by Pete Grieg, about the Hebridean revival –it is worth reading. Caspar gave a copy to each of the ministry team a few years ago and although we have used this illustration before it is worth reading again……. And then thinking about what God is calling you to do.
The Hebridean revival began in the tiny village of Barvas on the Isle of Lewis, where two elderly sisters, Christine and Peggy Smith, were sitting by their peat fire lost in prayer. One of them was eighty-two, bent double with arthritis and the other was eighty-four and blind. They couldn’t do much, but they could certainly still pray, and on this particular night their souls were burdened deeply by the complete absence of young people from the church across the fields. Outside the moon hung high in the sky and the windswept in from the sea, but inside the fire sighed and crackled, casting gentle shadows across the room as the Smith sisters poured out their hearts to heaven in their native Gaelic tongue.
Suddenly one of the women received a vision of young people filling the church. It was as simple as that – the sort of thing we might gloss over in many of our meetings today. But these two old prayer warriors were not so flippant. They summoned the minister to their house the following morning and informed him quite unequivocally that he would be needing to get ready. ‘Revival is coming.’
‘What do you suggest I do?’ he asked a little helplessly.
‘What should you do?’ they gasped. ‘You should pray, man!’ And then these two octogenarian saints proposed a deal. ‘If you will gather your elders and pray in the barn at the other end of the village at least two nights per week,’ they said, ‘we will do the same here from ten at night ‘til three in the morning.’
And so a remarkable series of late-night prayer meetings began in the village of Barvas on the Isle of Lewis in the year 1949. They persevered like this, praying for five hours a night, twice a week because they were convinced that God had spoken — and that when he gives a promise it’s our job to pray it into being. There were no instant answers, no further visions and certainly no teenagers miraculously turning up at church. But they refused to relent. The Smith sisters kept praying in their cottage, and the church elders kept praying in their barn for many weeks, until a particular night when one of the elders stood to read Psalm 24:
Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.
they will receive blessing from the Lord and
vindication from God their saviour.
‘Brethren,’ he said, ‘it is just so much humbug to be waiting thus, night after night, month after month, if we ourselves are not right with God.’ They nodded and he continued, ‘I must ask myself, “Is my heart pure? Are my hands clean?” He lifted his head and emitted a strange cry, then he fell to his knees and crumpled to the floor.
The barn was suddenly filled with the presence of God. It was a moment that would later be identified as ‘the catalyst that let loose a power that shook the Hebrides’.
The following morning the minister sent word to an organisation called The Faith Mission in Edinburgh, requesting a Gaelic-speaking evangelist to be sent to the island without delay. A preacher by the name of Duncan Campbell was duly dispatched and made his way north. By the time he reached the village of Barvas, the church was packed with inquisitive locals wanting to make sure that they didn’t miss out on whatever peculiarities might happen next.
‘What happened next’ is a holy thing, and I write about it even now with a sense of awe. It was as though the Holy Spirit began moving in the building. Many in the congregation actually cried out as if they were in physical pain. Some people arrived at the church after midnight, having been woken at home with an irresistible urge to come. That first meeting continued until four in the morning. Duncan Campbell himself had intended to stay in the Hebrides for just ten days but remained for more than two years, travelling from place to place, praying and preaching everywhere he went, leading countless people to Christ.
Dirty Glory is available from Amazon for less than a fiver.