REVIVAL IN WESTERN CANADA
By Oliver W. Price
Look what happened in Ebenezer Baptist Church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1971.
Searching for the power of Christ to transform his flock, Pastor Bill McLeod became deeply burdened in prayer. Prayer began to occupy a major portion of his time. He would move down the aisle of the empty church and pray for the people who usually sat in each pew.
He persuaded his church to clear the calendar of all other activities on Wednesday night. Then on Sunday he told his people, "If you have to miss a service, miss Sunday morning or evening, but don't miss Wednesday night." He stressed this until he saw the adult prayer meeting attendance rise from forty to one hundred and twenty. There were also two children's prayer meetings with a total of forty in attendance. Thus a total of one hundred and sixty out of three hundred members were coming to the midweek prayer meeting.
Then he invited his people to stay after church on Sunday evenings for a half hour of prayer. Next he started cottage prayer meetings scattered around the city. The attendance was not large but the momentum of prayer was growing. He set up a prayer wheel and asked people to sign up for fifteen minutes per day. Thus around the clock at least one person was always watching in prayer.
The deacons met on Saturday night for an open ended prayer meeting that began at 9:00 and lasted until they felt they had finished.
After two years of intensive prayer a crusade led by Ralph and Lou Sutera began in the church on Wednesday, October 13, 1971. The faithful gathered expecting little or no response and their doubts were confirmed when no one came forward t o "get right with God" on the first night.
On the second night God began to work in a prominent family in the church. Irma Derksen was one of the pillars of the church along with her husband, Sam, who was a deacon. She had been praying for her church, her city and her country while ignoring her own spiritually barren condition. he had a critical spirit. There were people in the church she didn't like. Furthermore, she wouldn't even speak to Sam's brother, Arnold, who was also a deacon. On that second night Irma went to the altar where she faced up to the deadly sins that were destroying her own inner life.
That night, Irma accepted the fact that Christ had died for her self-life. By faith, she claimed the power of the Holy Spirit. She left the altar radiant with joy. Rather than waiting for others to apologize to her, she went to them and asked their forgiveness. For her the Christian life was, as some say, a "whole new ballgame." (Lutzer, p.27)
Sam was not moved by his wife's decision. He had begun to doubt whether God ever answered prayer. His thirteen year old feud with Arnold was so bitter that for two years they had not even spoken to one another. They were split apart over the music program of the church. Sam had lost all hope of being reconciled to Arnold.
However, one night Arnold went to the basement with the pastor and another deacon. Sam was invited to join them and he asked his brother to forgive him. "Well, it's about time," Arnold snapped. However, God broke Arnold's arrogant spirit after the pastor and the deacon prayed. He confessed his sins and cried with a broken heart.
The brothers hugged each other as they both wept and asked for forgiveness. They returned to their waiting families who immediately shared the unity and love the brothers now possessed.
Pastor McLeod saw the inner life of his entire church transformed. The officers and teachers of his church came forward to get right with God. The man made structure of the church crumbled before his eyes. "Then I saw God take that crumbled structure and build a real church, His Church. It's beautiful to behold," McLeod explained. Love was knee deep in the congregation. Kurt Koch wrote:
McLeod told me in the course of a personal conversation, "The chief characteristic of this revival is love." People who previously could not stand one another have embraced each other and asked for forgiveness. Ministers have become reconciled with their co-workers. In all kinds of human relationships the sand has been removed from the works. Love has become the basis upon which all questions are settled. (Koch, p. 29)
The crusade overflowed Ebenezer Baptist Church as it stretched from the scheduled twelve days into seven weeks with twenty churches drawn into sharing the meetings. There was a new love and unity in the whole Christian community as the meetings were moved to larger churches to accommodate the crowds. One participant told Erwin Lutzer:
It was wonderful! ... We were all packed into the church, and no one asked whether we were Baptist, Alliance, Mennonite, or whatever. We sensed intuitively that we were all part of the same body --- the Body of Christ. (Lutzer, p. 33)
Conviction of sin and a determination to make restitution for past anger, bitterness, strife, dishonesty and crime was demonstrated by many whose hearts were touched. People returned to restaurants and hotels to pay bills they confessed they had not paid. One man drove sixty miles to confess his sin and pay his debt to an insurance company he had defrauded.
Young people confessed that they had been doing drugs, but with God's help they kicked the habit. Their parents repented of their bitter judgmental attitudes toward them.
One couple left the afterglow meeting at the church where people were praying for the needs of those who desire help. They were going home with their marital problems still unsolved. "Don't leave now," the leader told them, "or we'll pray that you have the worst night of your life". They left anyway, but prayer was answered when they returned at 1:00 a.m. to surrender their lives and marriage to God.
Kurt Koch asked Pastor McLeod, "Bill, what sort of sin was most frequently confessed?" He replied, "Arrogance, self-seeking and pride." (Koch, p. 35)
According to one estimate at least three hundred people were converted through the witness that went out from spiritually awakened believers.
A fugitive criminal gave himself up to the police and a surprised official asked, "Why are you giving yourself up?" The criminal replied, "I have found the Lord Jesus here in your town, and now I want to follow Him. That is why I am giving myself up." (Koch, p.27)
His unusual honesty led to his release from the charges. He brought his wife and three children to the crusade and she received Christ. The family was made whole again!
So why pray together? Because we need to meet with the Lord Jesus Christ and trust Him to actively take charge of us. He is our life and our strength. Andrew Murray wrote, "It is in the union and fellowship of believers that the Spirit can manifest His full power."
This report is based on messages by Bill McLeod and Erwin Lutzer. Quotations are from Erwin W. Lutzer, Flames of Freedom, (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1977) and Kurt E. Koch, Revival Fires in Canada, Grand Rapids, MI Baker Book House, 1975).
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