Mid-Twentieth Century Revivals
1970 August 23—Solomon Islands and the Pacific – Muri Thompson
Muri Thompson, a Maori evangelist from New Zealand, visited the Solomon Islands in July and August 1970 where the church had already experienced significant renewal and was praying for revival. Many of these Christians were former warriors and cannibals gradually won to Christ in spite of initial hostility and the martyrdom of early missionaries and indigenous evangelists.
Beginning at Honiara, the capital, Muri Thompson spent two months visiting churches and centers on the islands. The national leaders and missionaries experienced deep conviction and repentance, publicly acknowledging their wrong attitudes. It was very humbling. A new unity and harmony transformed their relationships, and little things that destroyed that unity were openly confessed with forgiveness sought and given.
Then in the last two weeks of these meetings, the Holy Spirit moved even more powerfully with more deep repentance and weeping, sometimes even before the visiting team arrived. That happened on Sunday morning, August 23, 1970, on the island of Malaita; the whole congregation was deeply moved, and many were crying even before the team arrived from their berth in the ship, the Evangel, which carried the mission team of 40 people.
That Sunday morning, Muri Thompson preached powerfully. Then he said, “If anyone wants to come forward…” and immediately the whole congregation of 600 surged forward across the dirt floor under the thatched-leaf roof. Most of the people, including the pastors, cried with loud sobs of repentance, which soon gave way to outbursts of joy. Many saw visions of God, of Jesus on the cross or on His throne, of angels, or of bright light. Some spoke in tongues. Some were healed. Most came into a new experience of God with a deep awareness of the need for humility and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.
The following Thursday, August 27, at another village on Malaita, the team found a people well prepared through many weeks of repentance, unity, and a growing longing to be filled with the Spirit. After preaching, Muri Thompson asked for a time of silent prayer, and the 2,000 people bowed in prayer. Then he heard a growing sound. At first he thought it was audible prayer from the congregation, but then he realized it came from above them, like wind getting louder. He said:
I looked up through an opening in the leaf roof to the heavens from where the sound seemed to be coming. It grew to be roar—then it came to me: surely this is the Holy Spirit coming like a mighty rushing wind. I called the people to realize that God the Holy Spirit was about to descend upon them (Griffiths 1977, 175).
Three praying leaders in a nearby prayer house heard the silence and then the roaring sound. They came outside and heard it coming from immediately above the church. In the church people broke into wailing, praying, and strong crying. Conviction of sin increased, followed by deliverance and great joy. Weeping turned to joyful singing. Everywhere, people were talking about what the Lord had done to them. Many received healing and deliverance from bondage to evil spirits. Marriages were restored and young rebels transformed.
Everywhere people prayed together every day. They had a new hunger for God’s Word. People responded quickly to the Spirit and wanted to be transparently honest and open with God and one another.
Normal lectures in the South Seas Evangelical Church Bible School were repeatedly abandoned as the Spirit took over the whole school with times of confession, prayer, and praise.
Teams from these areas visited other islands, and the revival spread. Eventually, pastors from the Solomon Islands visited other Pacific countries and saw similar moves of God there.
During September 1973, pastors from the Solomon Islands visited Enga Baptist churches in the highlands of New Guinea. They conducted meetings throughout the area, including sessions with village pastors. Revival broke out in many villages on Sunday, September 16, 1973, when the pastors returned to their churches. Hundreds of people, deeply convicted of sin, repented and were reconciled to God and one another with great joy. Pastors in one area held a retreat from Monday to Wednesday in a forest that previously had been sacred for animistic spirit worship. Others joined the pastors there. Healings included a lame man enabled to walk, a deaf mute who spoke and heard, and a mentally deranged girl restored to sanity.
Normal work stopped as people by the thousands hurried to special meetings. Prayer groups met daily, morning and evening. Most villages established special places for prayer, such as groves near the village where people could go and pray at any time. In the following months thousands of Christians were restored and hundreds converted. The church grew in size and maturity.
This was followed by tough times in the 1980’s, when tribal conflict, destruction, and bloodshed erupted. Revival often precedes hard times and equips God’s people to endure, or even to suffer for Him.
Pastors from the Solomon Islands also spoke on revival at a pastors’ and leaders’ conference at Goroka in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Diyos Wapnok, from the Baptist Mission area at Telefolmin, attended the conference. He heard God call his name three times in the night there and realized that the Lord was drawing his attention to some special challenge. Later, on Thursday afternoon, March 10, 1977, at Duranmin in the rugged Western Highlands where Diyos was the principal of the Sepik Baptist Bible College, he spoke to about 50 people, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and with great joy.
The students experienced a light brighter than day filling the room. Many simultaneously felt convicted of unconfessed sin and cried out for mercy and forgiveness. All became aware of the majesty, authority, and glory of God. Revival had come to Duranmin and the Sepik district. This glimpse of God’s greatness gave a new dimension to the students’ preaching. The movement spread beyond the churches to villages throughout the Sepik area. During the next three years over 3,000 new believers were baptized.
In the Sepik lowlands of northern Papua New Guinea, a fresh visitation of God burst on the South Seas Evangelical Churches on Easter 1984, sparked by Solomon Island pastors. It featured repentance, confession, weeping, and great joy. Stolen goods were returned or replaced, and wrongs made right.
Australian missionary, Ray Overend, reported:
I was preaching to an Easter convention at a place called Walahuta during the recent Sepik revival in Papua New Guinea. The words the Lord gave us were from Isaiah 6…. After the last word of the message the whole church rose to its feet and clapped loudly—something completely new to me! I knew they were not applauding me. They were acknowledging to God in praise the truth of his Word. … Then I sat down in the only spare little space in the overcrowded church and the whole congregation began to sing—one song after another….
Many faces were lifted to heaven and many hands raised in humble adoration. The faces looked like the faces of angels. They were radiating light and joy. And then I noticed something. Right beside me was a man who had heard the Word and now he just watched those radiant faces lost in praise. Then he hung his head and began to sob like a child. He was ministered to. Demons were cast out. And he received the Lord Jesus right into his heart. Then he too began to clap in gentle joy.
But who was he? A pastor came over to tell me that he had been until this moment the leader of the Tambaran cult in the Walahuta area—that satanic cult of which the whole village lived in mortal fear—and traditionally the whole of the Sepik feared that cult (Overend 1986, 9–10).
The man who was second-in-charge of the Tambaran cult in that area was also converted that day while he was listening to the worship from a distance as God’s love and power overcame him.
Revival began to move through the area, until eventually it impacted the main mission station at Brugam. Ray Overend wrote:
I will never forget June 14th, 1984. Revival had broken out in many churches around but Brugam itself, with many station staff and many Bible College and Secondary School students, was untouched. For a whole week from 8th June a well known preacher from New Zealand (Fred Creighton) had brought studies on “Life in Christ by the power of His Spirit”. There was much very thorough teaching. On Tuesday afternoon in prayer I had a real peace that the Lord would break through in Brugam. Then early on Thursday night, the 14th, Judah Akesi, the Church Superintendent, invited some of us to his office for prayer. During that prayer time God gave him a vision. In the vision he saw many people bowed down in the front of the church building in the midst of a big light falling down from above just like rain.
So after the ministry of the Word that night Judah invited those who wanted to bring their whole heart and mind and life under the authority of Christ to come forward so that hands might be laid on them for prayer.
About 200 people surged forward. Many fell flat on their faces on the ground sobbing aloud. Some were shaking— as spiritual battles raged within. There was quite some noise….
The spiritual battles and cries of contrition continued for a long time. Then one after another in a space of about three minutes everybody rose to their feet, singing spontaneously as they rose. They were free. The battle was won. Satan was bound. They had made Christ their King! Their faces looked to heaven as they sang. They were like the faces of angels. The singing was like the singing of heaven. Deafening, but sweet and reverent” (Overend 1986, 36–37).
The whole curriculum and approach at the Bible School for the area changed. Instead of having traditional classes and courses, teachers worked with the school all day—from prayer times early in the morning, through Bible teaching followed by discussion and sharing times during the day, to evening worship and ministry. The school became a community, seeking the Lord together.
Churches that have maintained a strong biblical witness continue to stay vital and strong in evangelism and ministry, filled with the Spirit’s power. Christians learn to witness and minister in spiritual gifts, praying, and responding to the leading of the Spirit.
Many received spiritual gifts they never had before. One such gift was the “gift of knowledge” whereby the Lord would show Christians exactly where fetishes of sanguma men were hidden. Now in Papua New Guinea sanguma men (who subject themselves to indescribable ritual to be in fellowship with Satan) are able to kill by black magic…. In fact the power of sanguma in the East Sepik province has been broken (Overend 1986, 23–24).
In 1986 a senior pastor from Manus Island came to the Sepik to attend a one-year pastors’ course. He was filled with the Spirit. When he went with a team of students on outreach, they prayed for an injured child who couldn’t walk. Later in the morning he saw her walking around the town. The revival had restored New Testament ministries to the church, which amazed that pastor because he had never seen that before the revival.
The impact of the Solomon Islands revival continues to be felt across the Pacific. More recently, teams from the Solomons have visited Australia just to pray for that nation. They believe that God has shown them a mighty revival is on the way there also.
© Geoff Waugh. Used by permission.