The Interceders Encourager No. 38
The Hebrides Revival and Awakening 1949-1953
In the first part of this survey of the wonderful work that God did in the Hebrides in the period 1949-1953, we saw why and how the movement began in December 1949.
The meetings continued at Barvas and Shader, with the buildings so crowded that people were sitting on the pulpit steps. ‘After Meetings’ were held in homes after the services in the church buildings, which did not finish until three or four o’clock in the morning, while anxious souls were dealt with in every meeting.
On December 20th, at the fifth service of the day, a similar event to that at Shader on the 11th took place. Just as the people were leaving, a young man at the gate leading to the church building began to cry for God to have mercy. An elder began to sing the words of Psalm 102, and the whole congregation that was outside the chapel took it up, then came back inside the building with many others, and before that meeting ended, twelve men and women sought and found the Saviour.
After two weeks in the parish of Barvas, Duncan went home to Edinburgh for a break over the Christmas period, then returned to the same area for two more weeks of crowded meetings. A further week was spent addressing meetings in other parishes, described by the missioner as "another week of God’s right hand," which is common terminology for God showing His favour, His power and His victory,(from Ps.48:10, Ps. 98:1, etc.)
One day, Peggy Smith spoke to Duncan Campbell and said, "I feel led to ask you to go to this particular part of this parish. There are mighty sinners there that need salvation, and they will become pillars in the church of our fathers." Duncan continued the story. "Well," I said to her, ‘I have no leadings to go there. They will be opposing me and I don’t think I could get any place to hold a meeting in.’
‘Mr. Campbell,’ she said, ‘If you were living as near to God as you ought to be, he would reveal his secrets to you also.’ I took that as a rebuke and went back to the manse and said to the minister, ‘I think we ought to spend the morning with the two sisters and wait upon God with them in their cottage.’ So she and her sister knelt with us in the little room. And that dear woman began to pray, and I can give you her prayer. ‘Lord, you remember the conversation we had this morning at two o’clock and you told me you were going to visit this part of the parish with revival. And I have just spoken to Mr. Campbell about it, but he is not prepared to think of it. You had better give him wisdom because the man badly needs it.’ When we rose from our knees I asked her, ‘Peggy, where do you want me to go and where is the meeting to be held?’ ‘Oh, you go and God will provide the congregation and the meeting place,’ she replied.
The following evening I went, and there must have been a crowd of anything between 300 and 400 gathered round a seven roomed bungalow, which was so packed with young people anxious to be in it that the man of the house who wasn’t a Christian, but a God fearing man, suggested that they should get onto the beds in rows of threes, take off their shoes and pack themselves like herrings. So that was what they did, all these young people packed into the bungalow, with perhaps as many outside.
I got out my text: Acts 17:30. I spoke for about 10 minutes when one of the elders came to me and said, ‘Mr. Campbell, will you come round to the end of the house. Some of the leading men in the village are crying to God for mercy. And if you go there we will go to the peat stack over here, where you see those women crying to God on their knees.’
I went round to the end of the house and there they were, the men that old Peggy saw would become pillars in the church of her fathers. And today those men are pillars in the church, and five of them became ministers. Were you to go to them today and ask what it was that brought them to that village not one of them could tell you, but moved by the Holy Spirit they were there.
Among those crying to God for mercy there were two pipers, who were advertised to play at a concert and dance in a neighbouring parish. And the minister of that parish was there. He saw two young men on their knees in the field crying to God, and he recognized them as two pipers that were to have played at a dance in his parish. He turned to his wife and said: ‘Isn’t that wonderful? There are the two pipers who were advertised to play in the parish hall tonight. There they are crying to God for mercy. Come on, we’ll go to the dance, and we will tell them what has happened.’
So off he went, with his wife. Oh, this was a man of God. It was about fifteen miles. He went to the dance, and they were not at all pleased with his appearing. They knew that he wasn’t there to dance, for they knew the man. The minister went to the back door and was met by the son of a school master. ‘What are you wanting here, Mr. McKenna, and why didn’t you come in the front door and pay like everybody else?’ But as parish minister, he claimed the right and went in. They were dancing, and when there was a pause in the music, he stepped on to the floor. ‘Young men, young women, I have an interesting story to tell you. The Smith pipers aren’t with you, because they are crying to God for mercy in Barvas.’ ‘A stillness, the stillness of eternity,’ (I am quoting the words of the minister), ‘came over the dance.’ Then he said, ‘Young people, listen. I would like you to sing a psalm with me. I think we ought to sing Psalm 50 where God is depicted as a flame of fire.’ He led the singing himself, and they joined in.. They got into the second verse, and suddenly the power of God swept through the place, and a young man fell on the floor and began to cry to God for mercy. In five minutes the hall was empty, and the dancers were in the three coaches that had brought them, on their knees crying to God for mercy, and the young man who fell on his knees that night was later inducted as a minister of one of the largest parish churches in Scotland."
The meetings then centred on Ness at the northern end of the island, with Mr Campbell being assisted by other ministers. Hundreds of people came to the meetings, with many having to be turned away, or told to wait for the next meeting.
Duncan then visited four different centres where revival had broken out. After a short break in Edinburgh, he returned to Lewis and began a mission in Carloway, which was further south than where he had been previously. Here the Spirit of God was at work, but
not to the same extent. However, after intense prayer by the men of Barvas, whom he invited to come and help, the Spirit of Awakening came, and meetings continued until the early hours of the morning, with the same deep conviction of sin, even though there were ministers who were opposing the move of God. "The enemy is at work," wrote Duncan Campbell. "Pray that he may be defeated."
God answered their prayers, and people came, not only from all over the parish, but from every parish in Lewis and Harris, reported the missioner.
In March, 1950, the evangelist started the next mission at Galson, an area that had not been touched by the awakening. Within a few days, "the Spirit of God was mightily at work." He reported that this was the greatest move of the Spirit he had seen in Lewis. So great was the interest during the last week of the mission that it was necessary to hold an afternoon meeting as well as all the evening meetings. So great was the conviction of sin created by the Spirit in the area that strong men fainted while sitting at their looms, (making Harris Tweed.) Even with the afternoon meetings, the evening meetings were so crowded that people had to be turned away.
The next mission, in April, was at Arnol, further down the north coast. The mission, in the words of Duncan Campbell, "was started in the midst of the most bitter opposition. This opposition came from the ministers and leadership of the Free Church of Scotland, who were God-fearing men, but for some reason or other, they came to believe that I wasn’t sound in my doctrine because I preached the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. I proclaimed a Saviour who could deliver from sin. And they got it into their minds that I was teaching absolute perfection or sinless perfection, a thing that I never did, nor could I ever believe in. Of course, I believe in conditional perfection: "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). That is scriptural perfection! That is based on obedience. But the dear men somehow believed this of me. And, of course, not one of them ever listened to me; they listened to stories brought to them. Not only did they speak against me, but they arranged that there would be a special effort made to oppose me. So several ministers were brought from the mainland to this particular parish to conduct mission meetings opposing ‘Campbell and his revival.’
Well, they came, and they were so successful in their opposition that at first very few people from this particular community came near any of my meetings. It is true that the church was crowded. It is true that people were standing outside that couldn’t get in. But these were people who came from neighboring parishes. They were brought by coaches and by cars, but there were very few from this particular village.
So one night one of the elders came to me and said: ‘Mr. Campbell, there is only one thing that we can do. We must give ourselves to prayer. Prayer changes things.’ So I told him, ‘Well, you know I am very willing for that.’ I asked, ‘Where will we meet?’
‘There is a farmer,’ he said, ‘who is very willing to place his farmhouse at our disposal.’ It was winter, and the church was cold. There was no heating in it. The people believed a crowded church would provide its own heat. But we wanted a warmer spot, and the farmer was approached. Now the farmer wasn’t a Christian, nor was his wife, but they were God-fearing. So we gathered at his house. I would say there were about thirty of us including five ministers of the Church of Scotland. These men had burdens, longings to see God move in revival. So we prayed, but the going was hard. It came to between midnight and one o’clock in the morning when I turned again to this blacksmith whom I have already referred to. Oh, he was a prince in the parish. And I said to him, ‘John, I feel that God would have me to call upon you to pray.’
Up until then he had been silent. And that dear man began. He must have prayed for about half an hour. He paused for a second or so, and then looking up towards the heavens he cried, ‘God, do You know that Your honour is at stake? You promised to pour water on the thirsty and floods on the dry ground and, God, You are not doing it.’ Now, my dear people, could we pray like that? Ah, but here was a man who could. He then went on to say, ‘There are five ministers in this meeting, and I don’t know where one of them stands in Your presence, not even Mr. Campbell, but if I know anything at all about my own poor heart, I think I can say, and I think that You know, that I’m thirsty! I’m thirsty to see the devil defeated in this parish. I’m thirsty to see this community gripped as you gripped Barvas. I’m longing for revival, and God, You are not doing it! I am thirsty, and you promised to pour water on me.’ Then, after a pause, he cried, ‘God, I now take it upon myself to challenge You to fulfil Your covenant engagement !’ He then repeated what he had said before, even louder, ‘God, Your honour is at stake!’
Now it was nearing two o’clock in the morning, and after he had prayed, the house shook. It shook so much that dishes rattled and a jug on a sideboard fell onto the floor and broke, as wave after wave of divine power swept through the building A minister beside me said, "An earth tremor." And I said, "Yes." But my mind went back to Acts chapter four, when they prayed and the place was shaken.
When John Smith stopped praying at twenty minutes past two, I pronounced the benediction and stepped outside the house. I saw the whole community alive. Lights were going on in every house. Then I saw men carrying chairs, women carrying stools and coming up and asking, ‘Is there room for us in the church?’
That is how the Arnol awakening broke out. And, oh, what a sweeping work of God!
I don’t believe there was a single house in the village that wasn’t shaken spiritually by God. People were brought under deep conviction of sin, and wept and cried aloud for help. I went into another farmhouse. I was thirsty, I was tired, and I needed something to drink. So I went in to ask for a drink of milk, and I found nine women in the kitchen crying to God for mercy, nine of them!"
Once God broke through, He worked mightily, and the awakening spread. What was so amazing was that the island was swept with a snowstorm, yet the meetings were crowded out. The whole district was moved, and the opposition vanished. People were convicted and converted at work, so that shops had to be closed. The distress of people under conviction was so great that the elders had to stay helping people until the early hours of the morning. Within 48 hours the drinking house, usually crowded with the drinking men of the village, was closed. Fourteen young men, who had been drinking there, were gloriously converted. Those same men could be found three times a week, with others, down upon their knees before God, from 10 o'clock until after midnight, praying for their old associates and the spread of revival. It was in this village that within 48 hours nearly every young person between the ages of 12 and 20 had surrendered to Christ, and it was reckoned that every young man between the ages of 18 and 35 could be found in the prayer meetings. One of the converts in the village was Donald MacPhail, (Wee Donald,) who was to be a great help to Duncan after this time. When the people witnessed the mighty power of God in the village, they sang the 126th psalm: "When Zion’s bondage God turned back, as men that dreamed were we; then filled with laughter was our mouth, our tongue with melody."
"Now people, that’s an awakening. That is God at work; miracles and supernatural happenings beyond human explanation. And I am fully persuaded, that unless we see something like this happening, the average man will come back from our efforts, our conferences, our conventions and our crusades; will stagger back disappointed, disillusioned and despairing. But oh, if something happens that demonstrates God…."
In May 1950, Duncan went for his first mission in Harris, which is the southern part of the island, of which Lewis is the northern part. It is more hilly and mountainous than Lewis, making it more difficult to travel, but in spite of the fact that some communities had no roads or any means of transport, the meetings were crowded, and so deep was the interest that during his visit to a certain district, all work was stopped, and meetings were held during the day as well as at night time. Some people came by bus, where buses were operating, some by boat, but most came over the hills on foot as God drew them. Meetings were held in six different centres based on Tarbert, and whole communities were changed. Duncan wrote, "Our hearts are full of praise to God for what our eyes have seen and our ears have heard this past week. The Spirit of God is moving in a mighty way in our midst, and each day, men and women of all ages are coming to the Saviour…This blessed move in Harris clearly demonstrates that missions can be worked as effectively in Summer as in Winter, as seasons and seasonable work present no barrier when God is at work."
In June, he then went on to Leverburgh, which is further south, where he had to report that after a week it had been a hard week of fighting. This shows that spiritual battles have to be won at each new place, unless the forces of darkness have been defeated and driven back. Here, as before, opposition came, not just from the world, but also from the Free Church, but the missioners looked to the Lord for victory, and it soon came. The numbers grew until the hall became too small, and the power of God was working so strongly that the Friday meeting went on from eight o’clock until 1:30 in the morning.
After return visits to Arnol, Ness and Barvas, Duncan left the island on July 5th, looking back in gratitude to God for all he had witnessed of the mighty power of God during the preceding six months.
On October 31st, Duncan was back in Lewis, with meetings at Shader, Ness and Arnol. He gives a wonderful testimony: "The revival spirit and blessing is as deep as ever on this side of the island. Moreover, at Ness and Arnol, we witnessed a greater manifestation of God than at any time during the past winter." This was, indeed amazing. Over ten months after the awakening started, the power of God displayed was greater than it had been before. The believers there must have continued to pray with great faith.
The difference was seen when the missioner went to the Point area on the other side of the island on November 8th. Even though they had very good attendances at the meetings, souls were finding the Saviour every night, and Duncan addressed four meetings between Sunday and Monday morning, he was not satisfied, for he knew it was not the real thing. "The community," he wrote, "has not yet been stilled as in a real awakening." Today, most people would be more than satisfied if they experienced what Campbell reported, but he wasn’t, nor would the great revivalists of the past.
By the following week, however, the breakthrough was made, and Duncan praised the Lord, for the whole district was stirred. People came to the meetings in buses, vans and cars. "Men who never attended church services at all, and who were regarded as hopeless cases, have been gloriously saved," he wrote. "In one community, all the young men are saved or are in deep distress of soul." The mission there concluded with meetings continuing all through the night, and souls being converted at every meeting.
On November 23rd 1950, Duncan returned to Harris where he reported that God was mightily at work, and never, in his whole life, had he witnessed such crowds in the Highlands. People came from all over Harris. No church building was big enough, so overflow meetings had to be arranged. Conviction of sin and distress of soul was very evident, with one meeting going on until 3 o’clock in the morning.
This was Campbell’s third mission to Harris, where the power of God was very evident, with greater crowds than in Lewis, showing that the whole movement should not be referred to as the Lewis Awakening, but as the Hebrides Awakening, especially as another island was later involved.
Duncan returned to Barvas in December, and started his mission there in the midst of a snowstorm! He was able to report that interest and concern was as deep and widespread as in the previous winter, and the crowds were as great as ever, with the Holy Spirit bringing the same deep conviction. He was addressing two or three meetings every evening, plus a final house meeting to help the anxious. At the meetings, every bit of standing room was taken up, with the pulpit steps filled. It may be thought that everyone in the area would have been converted by this time, but he wrote that "men who were steeped in sin have been gloriously delivered." People were walking over snow covered roads, many of them a distance of three miles or more each way, walking back home in the early hours of the morning. One cannot but compare this with the situation today where people are put off by the slightest difficulty. Duncan praised God that a change had come over the attitude of the Free Church people, causing them to attend the meetings.
In January 1951, Duncan went to conduct a mission in Bragar, a village west of Arnol.
Again the crowds were so great that messages were sent out to stop the buses coming in, but even then the people came and stood outside the church buildings waiting for the meetings to end, so they could go in to the next meeting, (and remember this was in the middle of a northern Scottish winter!) The waiting people were rewarded by being allowed to come in first for the next meeting. Very old and very young men and women were all gloriously saved. Duncan questioned if any church had ever witnessed anything like it. Later, he found out that converts started holding meetings, and "the whole district was in the grip of the Spirit of God." It must be very obvious by now that here we are in a completely different dimension from everything we are used to. This is God "taking the field," and doing a miraculous work way beyond what we have ever experienced. But God is still exactly the same as He was then.
The missioner then went back to Ness, and even though meetings were held in the midst of snowstorms, crowds still attended, staying until midnight. On January 30th, "there was a mighty manifestation of the power of God…Wave after wave of Holy Spirit power swept over the meetings, and strong men were broken down and crying for mercy."
Duncan then went to Kinloch and Leurbost on the other side of the island, and within a week he was able to say that the breath of revival had come to that side of the island. The next week, he said was the most glorious week, "probably the best of the whole awakening. Nowhere has there been such a sense of the presence of God, or greater interest shown….People have been in such distress that they have cried out for mercy in the services, while others fainted or were struck down as in a trance." It is not surprising that he wrote back, "our hearts are full of praise for what our eyes have seen and our ears have heard this past week." The mission ended on March 18th with three services being held on the last two nights, continuing from 7 pm to 2 am. "Interest was greater than in any other part of the island, with 47 people seeking the Saviour in one meeting." (Remember that no appeals were ever made.)
In April, Duncan was back in Carloway, and even though he had seen the Lord working powerfully there a year previously, this time he reported that the going was hard. This shows that the enemy of our souls is always at work, seeking to hinder and destroy.
On August 10th, Campbell made his first visit to the island of Great Bernera, which now has a causeway to it, but was then reachable only by boat. There, the stream of religious life was very low, churches were empty and prayer meetings were practically nil. The mission was started, but the atmosphere was hard. In view of this, a wire was sent to the praying men of Barvas to come and assist in prayer, and bring with them Donald Smith, the 17-year-old boy to whom God had imparted an amazing ministry of prayer. Halfway through his message, the preacher stopped, and called out: "Donald, will you lead us in prayer?" Standing to his feet, he began to pour out his heart before God in agonizing intercession for the people of the island, and reminding God that He was the great "Covenant-keeping God." We will hear Donald’s own words. "That morning, at family worship, we had been reading in the book of Revelation. When I stood to pray, it seemed as if I were looking through an open door and gazing at heavenly realities, just like John in the Revelation. I saw these heavenly things, and declared them in my prayer. ‘I see the Lamb in the midst of the throne with the keys of death and hell at His side.’ I began to cry, then lifting my eyes to heaven, I cried out, ‘O God, there is power there, let it loose!’ When I said ‘Amen,’ and looked around me, I was amazed, for people were on their faces in the pews. Many were bent over the pews. Others had gone into trances or had fainted. The power of God was intense."
When the preacher went out of the church, the Spirit of God had swept in among the people on the road, as a wind. People gripped each other in fear. In agony of soul they trembled, many wept and some fell to the ground in great conviction of sin. Three men were found lying by the side of the road in such distress of soul that they could not even speak! Everywhere, people came under great conviction of sin. Fishermen out in their boats, men behind their looms, men at the pit bank, a merchant out with his van, school teachers examining their papers, were gripped by God; and by 10 o'clock the roads were full of people, streaming from every direction to the church.
After that, Duncan was able to report that the meetings were crowded and full of divine power. Conviction and distress of soul were deep, and the outbursts of praise among the converts was soul stirring. In spite of very stormy weather, the people still came out in huge numbers, and on many nights, refused to go home until the morning. Duncan wrote, "At 4 o’clock this morning we were assembled on the shore singing the songs of Zion as the boats carried them across the sound to the main island…This has been a week of glorious victory over hell and the devil."
In October 1951, Duncan began a mission in the parish of Uig, an area west of Great Bernera. There, "in common with most other parishes," Duncan wrote, "a spirit of indifference to the things of God prevailed, especially among the young, so that the church was supported mainly by the middle aged and old. However, there were many praying people there, and straightaway, it became evident that God was already at work, as bad roads, stormy weather and lack of transport did not prevent the people from gathering. On the second night, ‘God made bare His arm.’ I wish I could describe the scene, and impart something of the overwhelming sense of the subduing Spirit of God on the night that the windows of heaven opened. The parish minister, Rev. Angus MacFarlane, was in his own pulpit, and was leading in prayer, when suddenly a consciousness of God came over the congregation, and we were lifted out of the ordinary, to realize a spiritual impact that could not be explained from any human point of view.
The second meeting of this memorable night was held in a neighbouring village. All the possible lorries and vans were put into service to convey the people to the place of worship, yet many were forced to walk miles. But distance did not seem to matter, and somehow they knew that the meetings would continue. If they were not in time for the first, they would be sure of getting the second or the third. So they came across the moors and over the hills, young men and women, their torches flashing in the darkness, intent upon one thing, to get peace from a guilty conscience, and refuge from the storm in their hearts, in the shelter of the Rock of Ages."
The analogy was most apt, for the weather was so wild that Duncan said, "I do not remember ever conducting a mission under such conditions," (Uig is situated in one of the most exposed places in the whole of Britain.) "Yet in the midst of it all, God is mightily at work. It is most inspiring to see the people walking miles facing wind and rain, and then stay through three services from 7.30pm until 3 o’clock in the morning."
Later, he was able to report, "I find it difficult to put down on paper what our eyes have seen and our ears have heard this week. The Spirit of God has gripped the parish. Deep conviction of sin has laid hold upon the people, and many have found the Saviour. As the Spirit of God swept through the meeting, the cry of the unsaved, even of strong men, could be heard. Men who have never been near a meeting before, have suddenly been arrested by the Spirit of God, have had to give up work, and give themselves to seeking after God. The following week, he wrote; "Our meetings this week have been characterized by physical prostrations and swoonings; and the agony of godless men whose consciences were awakened, was terrible to see. Men have been found walking the roads at night in distress of soul. Social evils have been swept away as by a flood, and whole districts have been completely changed."
After the last meeting there, Duncan wrote, "Yesterday was a day that will never be forgotten in Uig. We began at noon, and continued until 3 o’clock this morning. In that time, I addressed six meetings." The obvious question arises in our minds: How could Duncan Campbell maintain such a work load? As well as sermon preparation time, he had to speak night after night 3, 4, 5, or 6 times, and for a period of five weeks. And these were not tame, lifeless readings, but real sermons preached from the heart with passion and urgency. Humanly speaking, such a task would be impossible. It was all due to being endued with power from on high, and living in the awareness of the presence of God.
In January 1952, Duncan started a mission in Stornoway, the main town in Lewis. At first, things were very difficult, but after calling in reinforcements, in the second week, God broke through, and "they witnessed a mighty manifestation of the power of God. This was due to the young Donald MacPhail from Arnol. As he was praying, God swept in in power, and in a few minutes, some people were lying prostrate on the floor. The meeting continued till one o’clock in the morning.
In February 1952, Duncan was back in Callanish, but "bitter opposition and misunderstanding had hindered the work." He asked for hard prayer, and by the second week was able to report that a spirit of revival had gripped the parish, and meetings were crowded, especially with unsaved young people. "On March 7th, "several young men from Arnol came to our assistance, and as ‘Wee Donald’ prayed, God came down in mighty power, and before his prayer ended, souls were rejoicing in deliverance. This meeting will stand out as one of the great meetings of the revival. "
At Shawbost, Campbell reported, "I was bitterly attacked by elements in the Free Church, and this caused a measure of unrest among the converts, but we prayed through, and the mission closed on a grand note of victory, with men and women seeking the Saviour right up to the end. The crowds seen at the closing meeting exceeded anything we have seen in Lewis. People who could not get in, sat in the buses outside, while many had to return home."
Berneray is a small island off the coast of North Uist. It is now connected to North Uist by a causeway, but at that time, it was accessible only by boat. There were many on the island on their faces before God, crying out for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. "One morning in April 1952," wrote Duncan Campbell, "an elder of the Church of Scotland was greatly concerned about the state of the church on the island, how the Lord’s Day was not honoured and the Lord’s house was disregarded. He was concerned about the parish, particularly about the young people growing up in a state of indifference to God and to the church. While waiting upon God, this good man was enabled to pray the prayer of faith, and lay hold upon the promise, ‘I will be as the dew to Israel.’ This word from God came with such conviction and power, that he was assured that the Holy Spirit was going to sweep the island. Furthermore, as he prayed, he was convinced that I was the person that God would use to bring revival and awakening to the island. Later, his wife told me that on three occasions she went to the door of the barn where he was praying and she heard him pray, ‘God, I do not know where he is, but you know, and you send him.’ About ten o’clock that evening he was possessed of the conviction that God heard his cry and that I would be on the island on the following day.
While this man was praying, I was addressing the Bangor Convention. The Bangor Convention is perhaps one of the largest conventions in Britain. I was sitting in the pulpit beside the chairman of the convention and the other speaker when I was suddenly gripped by the conviction that I had to leave the convention, and leave at once, and go to this island. I turned to the chairman and told him my convictions. "Oh," he said, "you cannot leave the convention. You are down to give the closing address." Oh, but I couldn't give the closing address with this conviction! So, to make a long story short, it was agreed that I should leave the convention. I left the following morning by plane to the city of Glasgow, and from Glasgow by plane to the town of Stornoway, and then by car through Lewis and Harris to Leverburgh, where a ferry boat met me and took me to the island. I had never been on the island, so when I arrived, I met a young lad and said to him, ‘Would you direct me to the nearest minister?’ ‘We have no minister on the island,’ he said, ‘right now both churches are vacant.’ ‘Would you then direct me to the nearest elder? ‘I asked. ‘The nearest elder lives in that house on the hill,’ he replied. So I said to the lad, ‘Do you mind going up to the elder and telling him that Mr. Campbell has come to the island?’ And if he asks, `What Campbell?' tell him the Campbell that was on the Island of Lewis.’
So that young lad went up, and after a few minutes came back and said, ‘Hector McKennon was expecting you to arrive today! And you are to stay with his brother. And he asked me to tell you that he has initiated a meeting at the church at 9 o’clock tonight and he expects you to address it!’ Here was a man who meant business with God, and who had the faith and the boldness to ask God to work.
We went to the church building. Quite a considerable congregation gathered, about 80. The service was a very ordinary service. Indeed, at the end, I wondered after all if I was led to the island. But there were men there nearer to God than I was. My dear people, we've got to be honest! The elder that I already referred to came to me and said, ‘I hope you are not disappointed that revival has not come to the church tonight. But God is hovering over us, and He will break through any minute!’ Here was a man who was hearing from God! ‘The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him.’ The prayers offered by him and the other elders breathed a confidence in the sure promise of God. Again and again reference was made to the words of Psalm 50 verse 3: ‘Our God will surely come.’
They did not have to wait long for the fulfillment of this word from God. The next evening, just as the congregation was leaving the church building, and moving down towards the main road, (the building was on a hillock with the main road about 300 yards below,) suddenly, the elder stood, took off his hat, and said ‘Stand still, Mr Campbell, God has come! See what is happening.’ I looked towards the congregation, and I saw them falling on their knees among the heather, as the Holy Spirit fell upon the people in Pentecostal power. In a few minutes, the awareness of the presence of the Most High became so wonderful and so subduing that one could only say with Jacob of old, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place.’ There, under the open heavens and by the road side, the voice of prayer was mingled with the groans of the penitent, and that meeting that began at 11 o’clock that night continued on the hillside till 4 o’clock in the morning.
Soon the whole island was in the grip of a mighty movement of the Spirit, bringing deep conviction and a hunger for God. I question if there was one single house on the island that wasn’t visited that night. An awareness of the awe inspiring presence of God came over the whole island, and the people gave themselves to seeking the way of life. Meetings were held during the day and through the night, in church buildings, in people’s homes and in the open air. I was helped by two Church of Scotland ministers, Murdo McLeod of Tarbert and Angus McKillop of Lochs, who left their own parishes and threw their full weight into the work."
Duncan was able to report, "We are in the midst of a blessed awakening here. Humanly speaking, this is the most unfortunate time of the year for meetings, as the people are busy on the land, but today, work on the land has a secondary place, and all who can move are at the meetings. One of the elders assured me last night that every person on the island who could be out was in the church building. I am dealing with anxious souls every night. Last night, some people in distress were in a house until 4 o’clock this morning. The work was as deep and the results as enduring as in any other area touched by the awakening."
At the end of May 1952, he wrote, "Two and a half years have now passed, and there has been practically no backsliding, only four of the hundreds, (maybe thousands), who professed. For this we praise God."
In late October 1952, Duncan went back to Leverburgh in Harris, and reported that "God was in the midst. In spite of severe weather, making it difficult for the outlying places, night after night they came. It was an inspiration to watch their torches flashing as they came over the hills. This is the greatest move of the Spirit we have witnessed in Harris. Some terrible characters have been saved."
In January 1953, he visited many districts in Lewis and Harris. All the meetings were well attended, and souls were seeking the Saviour. He then went to Gravir and Lochs on the eastern side of the island, where there was much opposition, but after much prayer, the breakthrough came, and there was a real seeking after God. Duncan preached in two parishes each evening. At the second one, even though the meeting didn’t start till 9.30, (try doing that today!), the building was so crowded that people had to take chairs and forms to sit on, and in one meeting, 27 people were seeking the Saviour.
In March 1953, Duncan went to two further villages in the Uig area, where he says it "was a week of fighting but also of victory. On Friday evening, we had a great manifestation of the power of God….I had to stop preaching until the cry of the people who came under the power of God, became more subdued. Since then, many have found the Saviour. This surely is an answer to prayer, as I have been much the subject of bitter attacks by the enemy through the local press; and this fresh manifestation will, I believe, silence this opposition."
In May 1953, after visiting places in Lewis, the missioner returned to Berneray Island, where the ground had been well prepared by the converts from his previous visit. Again, every person who could move was at the meetings on the 13th when Duncan addressed five meetings between noon and 11 pm. "How we praise God for being in the midst of an awakening again. The atmosphere is as tense as ever. Seeing the people coming over the hills and along the roads was a sight to be remembered; and to listen to the singing of Psalm 122 from the boats leaving the shore was soul inspiring." Even after so many meetings, he "had a powerful meeting down by the shore before the boats left to take the Harris people home, followed by another to help those in distress of soul."
Then in August 1953, after visiting Uig, Bernera, Barvas and Arnol, and being greatly encouraged to find all the converts growing in grace, in spite of preachers from other churches causing confusion, Duncan then went back to Gravir on the other side of the island for his last mission. Here he witnessed a gracious move of the Spirit, similar to what he had seen in other places: crowded meetings, deep conviction of sin, souls seeking the Saviour, and meetings continuing till midnight every night. This, together with his previous reports in 1953, show that the awakening definitely continued up to August 1953, and some would say far longer.
Mention must also be made of the mission to Lemreway in 1969. Lemreway is the most southerly habitation in Lewis, and, although Duncan wanted to go there in the 1950s, for some reason, he did not go. When Donald MacAuley, one of the converts of the awakening, became the Church of Scotland minister in Lemreway, Duncan was invited to go. Many people were praying, full of expectation that the Lord would work in power. After some meetings, Duncan felt that the church was near to revival, and soon, the Spirit came down, and the holy presence of the Lord was felt in the area. It seemed to be like a circle round the village, a canopy over the area. Outside of this area, everything seemed so ordinary, so spiritually dead and lifeless.
Services were held every night at 6 pm, and nobody wanted to go home. They would have one meeting, go to the manse for a cup of tea and then go back for another meeting lasting another one and a half hours. After that, still the people did not want to go home, but stayed for more preaching and singing.
People were drawn to the meetings by the Holy Spirit. Everybody in the village was affected, but it did not last long, nor did it spread. It seems that the people did not pray for the Holy Spirit to do a deep work, and for it to spread to other places. This is a reminder that revivals and awakenings can be held back and limited.
In the next Encourager, we will sum everything up by looking at the characteristics, the phenomena and the results of the awakening, as well as the opposition to it.