Remarkably, the first known spark of the work of God that became the Welsh Revival took place in Scranton, Pennsylvania. A Welsh pastor with a thriving church was thrilling his audiences with his oratory and intellect, when suddenly he became broken before God and saw that he was not a true prophet of the New Testament type. As he was filled with remorse over this true state he came into a glorious experience of the fullness of the Spirit. At once his preaching changed - eloquence had been replaced by passion. He became burdened for his beloved Wales and resigned from his church in Scranton to return to his homeland.
To the consternation of the religious people in Wales who knew him before he left for America, the young minister returned filled with a strange sense of urgency. No longer did he preach for effect, to stir the congregation to great emotional heights - he preached for results - the salvation of souls and the awakening of the Lords people. "It was," as one observer said, "indeed a strange thing to see Welsh Preaching - festivals converted into what approximated very nearly to Holiness Conventions when he was there! All believed in the sincerity of the preacher; most failed to explain him; many became definitely hostile." This began in 1879.
Even though this young preacher was being maligned and persecuted, he stayed on course, and soon began deeply affecting the other young ministers of his own denomination. The passion for the presence of God in these young men bound them into a holy fellowship that was to last for years to come. In the providence of God, early in 1903 these men found themselves occupying pulpits near each other so that their fellowship could continue. Their intensified desperation to have all that God had for them soon turned into a consciousness of the presence of God in their midst. These pastors began to note that after a period of agonizing intercession, the following day there would be unusual power for the preaching of the word. Glorious experiences beget more faith. Soon this little group of young ministers was convinced that something glorious was going to happen in their midst.
Dr. F.B. Meyer had been used in a wonderful way to minister to fellow preachers in South Wales, so they wrote to him and invited him to come and minister to them concerning the deep things of God. He replied that there would be a "Keswick Convention" at the beautiful Welsh spa of Llandridod Wells that year and invited them to attend, which they did. God moved on these young men mightily and they all came into an even deeper knowledge of the holy things of God. Looking back, many considered this convention to be another step up the mountain to the great transfiguration that was coming. There were other steps too. Those who have been a part of great awakenings or revivals could all look back and see a remarkable, carefully planned course that they had unknowingly followed.
In August, 1904, a second convention at Llandridod Wells took place. Dr. F. B. Meyer and Dr. A.T. Pierson ministered. Again the power and glory of God was in attendance. The Welsh saints were so overcome with the glory of God that they sang over and over the great chorus: "CROWN HIM LORD OF ALL"! Meanwhile in Cardinganshire, in a tiny village named Ney Quay, the Lord had been quietly preparing other instruments for the coming awakening.
The Rev. Joseph Jenkins had been deeply concerned about the lack of anointing in his own preaching, which compelled him to desperately seek a deeper life in Christ. Andrew Murray's book, 'With Christ in the School of Prayer' came into his possession and moved him greatly at this time. He became increasingly burdened by the indifference among the Christians around him and the apathy of the young people in his own church. He exhorted them earnestly to obey the Spirit. This was in the early part of the year 1904.
In a Sunday morning prayer meeting for young people, Pastor Jenkins asked for testimonies of spiritual experiences. Several tried to speak on other subjects but the pastor stopped them. At last a young girl named Florrie Evans, who had been gloriously converted just a few days before, stood and with a trembling voice said: "I LOVE JESUS CHRIST - WITH ALL MY HEART"! With these simple words the sparks that God had planted in so many hearts burst into flame and the great Welsh Revival began.
The fire quickly spread to Blaenanerch, New Castle-Emlyn, Capel Drindod, and Twrgwin. Streams spread abroad like lava from a great volcano - soon multiplied thousands were aflame with the Holy Spirit's testimony of the glorious Son of God. As the blessing in New Quay was quickly noised abroad, doors began to open on every hand. Led by their pastor, this group of young people, most of who were between sixteen and eighteen years of age, conducted meetings throughout the south of the country. The fire continued to increase. Conventions and conferences sprang up all over Wales, emphasizing holiness of heart and life in the Spirit. The Lord mightily used such men as W.S. Jones, E. Keri Evans, Jake Thickens, Seth and Frank Joshua, John Pugh, and R.B. Jones.
In August 1904, in the city of Cardiff, the famous evangelist R.A. Torrey held a service that resulted in many salvations. From every direction the Lord seemed to be bringing more fuel for the flames. In November of the same year, in Rhos, North Wales, the churches invited the esteemed preacher, R.B. Jones to conduct a campaign. He had entered into the spirit-filled life the previous year and his entire ministry changed. He burned with a new message and news about him had been spreading throughout Britain. In god's proper timing, this flaming evangelist was added to the growing fire in Wales.
In Rhos the professing Christians were broken before God and began to remove the hindrances in their lives. They committed themselves to the full surrender to Christ and the reception of the Spirit in His fullness. The floodgates of heaven opened and the Spirit was poured out in torrents. The numbers grew until the churches overflowed nightly. Four weeks after Jones left Rhos, a Wrexham paper reported that "the whole district is in the grip of an extraordinary spiritual force which shows no sign of relaxing its hold."
Already the meetings were being carried on by the people themselves, sometimes with pastors present and sometimes without them. The meetings would start in the mornings and continue through the evenings. Then they began to spill over into the streets, into the homes, the trains, the factories and the mines. Soon great processions of awakened Christians and new converts were marching through the towns singing hymns and rejoicing in the Savior. By this time there were approximately 40,000 believers who had become utterly desperate for God to pour out His Spirit in Wales. Most of these saint were yet unknown to each other and were scattered throughout the land, but the Spirit was beginning to link them together in order to release one of the great demonstrations of the mighty power of God in answer to their prayers.
At this time the overall spiritual condition of Wales was as dark as it had ever been, and it seemed to be getting darker by the day. Bars flourished. Football (soccer), cock-fighting, prize fighting, gambling and prostitution seemed to have completely captured the soul of the working class. Murder, rape and other violent crimes were increasing dramatically and the authorities were close to losing what control they had. The dark tunnels of the Welsh coal mines seemed a fitting symbol of what was happening to the country. But God was preparing a young, half-educated miner to be the outstanding voice to his generation. When he emerged from the mines to preach the gospel, Wales began to emerge from the dark pits of her sin. Soon this young miner, Evan Roberts, and his tiny country of Wales, would cause the whole world to pause and take notice of the wonderful works of God.
Evan Roberts was born on June 8, 1878, in a workingman's cottage called "Island House." It was a modest home with eight small rooms. For decades to come the neighbors would continually marvel at the pilgrims who would travel across continents to look at his little house and pray for the heavens to be opened again as they were for Evan. Evan began work in the mines when he was just nine years old. His father, Henry, broke his leg in the pit, so his son had to help him in his job.
After a few months, Evan himself took up the work of a door-boy whose duty was to look after the doors around the pit. He was paid seventy-five cents a week. Later he learned the trade of a blacksmith which he did in connection with the mine. But Evan felt a burning passion to preach. Few who had other ambitions ever left the mines, even those who wanted to be preachers. Many have dreams but very few have turned their dreams into reality. Evan's pastor and friends encouraged him even though his lack of education made his prospects look very dim. But Evan persevered and, at twenty-six years of age, he entered the preparatory school at Newcastle Emlyn to prepare himself for the Trevecca college entrance examination.
Evan had determined to do all that he could and to trust God to do the rest. Evan would never finish school, but many schools would one day devote their attention to studying Evan and the extraordinary move of God that he helped to lead. The Lord did not need Evan's knowledge - He only needed a willing vessel. For a period of time Evan had been seeking and finding a more intimate relationship with the Lord. William Davies, a deacon at the Moriah Chapel, had counseled young Evan never to miss the prayer meetings in case the Holy Spirit would come and he would be missing. So Evan faithfully attended the Monday evening meeting at Moriah, Tuesday at Pisgah, Wednesday at Moriah, and Thursday and Friday at other prayer meetings and bible classes. For thirteen years he did this and faithfully prayed for a might visitation of the Holy Spirit.
In the spring of 1904, Evan found himself in what he later referred to as a Mount of Transfiguration experience. The Lord revealed Himself in such an amazing and overwhelming manner that Evan was filled with divine awe. After this he would go through periods of uncontrollable trembling that brought concern to his family. For weeks God visited Evan each night. When his family pressed him to tell about the experiences he would only say it was something indescribable. When the time drew near for him to enter Grammar School at New Castle Emlyn, he was afraid to go because he was afraid that he would miss these encounters with the Lord.
At this time a convention was being held at Blaenanerch a few miles from his school. An evangelist named Seth Joshua was leading the meetings. On Thursday morning, September 29, 1904, Evan Roberts and nineteen other young people, including his friend Sydney Evans, attended the meeting. On the way to the meeting the Lord moved on the small company and they began to sing: "It is coming, it is coming - the power of the Holy Ghost - I receive it - I receive it - the power of the Holy Ghost."
During the seven o'clock meeting Evan was deeply moved and he broke down completely at the close of the service. Then when Seth Joshua used the words "BEND US, OH LORD," Evan entered such travail that he hard nothing more. He later testified that the Spirit of God whispered to him: "This is what you need." "Bend me, Oh Lord," he cried. But the fire did not fall. At the 9 o'clock meeting the spirit of intercession was moving on the congregation in great power. Evan was bursting to pray. Then the Spirit of God told him to do so publicly. With tears streaming down his face Evan just began to cry: "BEND ME! BEND ME! BEND ME! BEND US". Then the Holy Spirit came upon him with a mighty baptism that filled Evan with Calvary's love and a love for Calvary. That night the message of the cross was so branded upon Evan's heart that there would be no other theme of the great revival he would soon help lead.
From that night on Evan Roberts could focus on one thought - the salvation of souls. Historians would refer to that night as "Blaenanerch's great meeting." One midnight shortly after this, Evan's roommate and closest friend, Sydney Evans, came into the room to find Evan's face shining with a holy light. Astonished, he asked what had happened. Evan replied that he had just seen in a vision the whole of Wales being lifted up to heaven.
He then prophesied: "We are going to see the mightiest revival that Wales has ever known - and the Holy Spirit is coming just now. We must get ready. We must have a little band and go all over the country preaching." Suddenly he stopped and with piercing eyes he cried: "DO YOU BELIEVE THAT GOD CAN GIVE US 100,000 SOULS, NOW?" The presence of the Lord so gripped Sydney that he could not help but believe. Later, while sitting in a chapel, Evan saw in a vision some of his old companions and many other young people as a voice spoke to him saying: 'GO TO THESE PEOPLE". He said, "Lord, if it is Thy will, I will go". Then the whole chapel became filled with light so dazzling that he could only faintly see the minister in the pulpit. He was deeply disturbed and wanted to make sure that this vision was of the Lord. He consulted with his tutor who encouraged him to go.
On October 31 Evan returned to his home by train having little knowledge of the great work of preparation that the Holy Spirit had already accomplished before him. His mother met him at the door and exclaimed in great surprise, "Where have you been? Why are you not at school? Are you ill!" "No", he replied. "Then why have you come back home?" "Oh Mother, the Spirit has sent me back here to work among our own young people at the chapel at Moriah."
Then turning to Dan, his younger brother, he said, "You shall see that there will be a great change at Loughor in less than a fortnight. We are going to have the greatest revival that Wales has ever seen". Evan then went straight to his pastor and asked permission to hold services for young people. On that night, after the adult prayer meeting, he asked the young people to stay behind as he wanted to speak to them. Sixteen adults and only one little girl stayed. After the initial blast of disappointment, Evan began to explain in a quiet voice his reason for coming home. He said that he was simply obeying the Holy spirit, and here at Moriah large numbers of young people were going to be saved. And above all, a mighty revival was coming to Wales! This is how the most important meetings in the history of Wales began. There was a cold spirit and unbelief was so think it seemed to hang in the air. The results were so disappointing that Evan could not help but be tempted to think that his visions were some strange delusion. It was a test much like that which the children of Israel endured after leaving Egypt.
They were promised a land flowing with milk and honey and the first place to which they were taken did not even have water. When they finally came to a well, the water was bitter! Would the young preacher believe the visions or the voices that were now telling him that he had been duped by illusions of grandeur? It is at this point that many stray from the course that leads to the fulfillment of their callings. Would Evan? No. He determined that he would rather be the greatest fool in Wales than miss a possible opportunity to see revival in Wales - Evan chose to stand by the vision just as he had prophesied. Within two weeks Loughor was changed and the first of 100,000 young people began steaming to the Lord. Because Evan did not despise the day of small beginnings he was used to start one of the greatest moves of God of all time.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon