Early 20th Century Revivals 1936

June 24 – Gahini, Rwanda – East African Revival

Joe and Decie Church

Joe and Decie Church

Africa has seen many powerful revivals, such as the Belgian Congo outpouring with C.T. Studd in 1914. “The whole place was charged as if with an electric current. Men were falling, jumping, laughing, crying, singing, confessing and some shaking terribly,” he reported. “As I led in prayer the Spirit came down in mighty power sweeping the congregation. My whole body trembled with the power. We saw a marvellous sight, people literally filled and drunk with the Spirit” (World Evangelism Crusade 1954, 12–15).

Accounts like that are typical of the continuing moves of God’s Spirit in Africa. Early this century an estimated 10 percent of the population was Christian. The Christian population has reached 45–50 percent of Africa south of the Sahara. The number of African Christians is estimated to be 400 million, half the population. Much of that growth came through widespread revivals such as the East African revival in 1936 and the incredible mushrooming of independent churches.

Evangelical Anglican missionaries of the Church Missionary Society, working in the east-central African countries of Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda, emphasized the Keswick teaching of new birth, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and living in victory. This teaching undergirded the East African revival, which continued for 50 years after its beginning in the 1930’s.

The Rwanda mission, founded in 1920, experienced local revivals in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. Increasingly, people prayed. By 1936, thousands were praying. Then powerful revival broke out at the mission station at Ghini in Rwanda on Wednesday, June 24, 1936.

It seemed as though the Holy Spirit with His unseen hand gathered together the hospital staff, men from the nearby village, and others in a room with the hospital. They prayed and sang, and some were smitten down under a tremendous conviction of sin. Revival swept into the girl’s school, and similar manifestations came from five different centers across the mission. Everywhere the mysterious power of the Holy Spirit was at work (Duewel 1995, 300).

The revival spread to the theological college where 50 students caught the fire. During the mid-year holiday period, 70 evangelists traveled in revival teams of two or three into the villages. The African Rwanda Mission had 20,000 converts by 1942 in 700 village congregations with 1,400 trained workers, including five ordained priests.

The famous East African revival, which began in Rwanda in June 1936, rapidly spread to the adjacent countries of Burundi, Uganda, and the Congo, then further around. The Holy Spirit moved upon mission schools and spread to churches and whole communities, producing deep repentance and changed lives. Anglican Archdeacon Arthur Pitt-Pitts wrote in September 1936:

I have been to all the stations where this Revival is going on, and they all have the same story to tell. The fire was alight in all of them before the middle of June, but during the last week in June, it burst into a wild flame which, like the African grass fire before the wind, cannot be put out (Osborn 1991,21).

That East African revival continued for 40 to 50 years and helped to establish a new zeal for enthusiastic holiness in African Christianity. It confronted demonic strongholds and began to prepare churches to cope with the horrors of massacres and warfare of later years.

© Geoff Waugh. Used by permission.