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The Tide Came In! The Revival in Lewis (1949-1953)

By Mary Peckham

'A people saturated in God.' 'An awareness of the Almighty'. 'God coming down.' These were some of the expressions used in trying to bring to people' notice the reality of a Heaven-sent revival.

The winter of 1949 had not yet passed when some of the Lord's awakened people came to the realisation that the time had come when expectations were high and faith must be rewarded. Spiritual life was at a low ebb on the island; as someone said symbolically-the tide was out! But, the tide came in and in a moment everything changed!

The people awoke, the pews were filled and young people flocked to the churches. Come hail, rain or snow they came, walking miles to the place of worship or hiring transport.

There was no indication of what was to come in the first meeting that was convened in Barvas Parish church. The preacher complained that the meeting was hard and unresponsive, but as the people dispersed, one of the elders broke into a burdened prayer, pouring out his heart before the Lord. The congregation turned back into the church and Heaven broke over the scene. From then on people came in repentance before the Lord and the fear of God fell on the unconverted.

Conversation centred on what was happening and who was being saved. People rushed home in the Spring for the fields, from the moor and from the fishing to attend the services locally and elsewhere. There was such a hunger to hear the Word and never a complaint that the sermons were too long. When the service ended in the church it was announced that it would be continued in one of the homes and the people flocked there. The warmth and love and welcome was 'out of this world!' The sheer cutting edge of the 'sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God' slew the enemies of the Lord on every hand and exposed the sinfulness of the human heart. Who can describe the anguish of those whom God enlightened as to the lostness of their condition? How the tears flowed! The saints wept for joy and the sinners wept their way to the Saviour who alone could save them from their sins.

In the heart of London, Lewis people found the Saviour. One the high seas they sought the Lord. The prayers of the saints were abundantly answered as the Spirit of God penetrated into places inaccessible to the Lord's people. He arrested them in the drinking dens and at the dance and in the cinema. There was no place for them to hide. In one village drinking den, the Spirit of God arrested the men who frequented the place and all fourteen of them were afterwards found praying in the prayer meeting! A dance was disrupted when the local minister went in to tell them their musician had just been saved. He asked permission to lead in prayer and sing a psalm. God came to the dance and the M.C. left in tears, to be followed by the young people, some of who were saved! A Headmaster and his wife were among these.

Thirty people gathered in Arnol at a cottage prayer meeting. A blacksmith from Shader led in payer for a full half-hour. He closed his pray thus, 'Lord, I don't know where these, my brethren stand. I don't know how it is with the preacher, but if I know my own heart, I know I am thirsty and Thou hast said: "I will pour water on him that is thirsty and floods upon the dry ground." In the name of the Lord I ask that his promise be fulfilled.' The house shook. The dishes rattled in the 'dresser' and some thought it was a tremor. They went outside into the night and behold, from all over the village people were coming, some carrying chairs, to assemble in the meeting house, hungering to hear the word of God! Revival had come to Arnol! God was true to His Word!

Twenty-two young people with their hearts aflame for God, left Lewis for the mission field and eleven went to study theology and to fill pulpits in the Highlands and Islands. Others raised their families in the fear of God whilst many sought employment on the mainland, adding their witness to the local churches. Individual stories are too numerous to record but suffice to say like the Psalmist in Psalm 126, 'the Lord hath done great things of us whereof we are glad.' May the cry in the same Psalm become our cry, turn again our captivity as streams in the south.'