24th Sept 2006, 8 a.m. Shillong, India
Following is my correspondence with Jonathan Lindvall in the US regarding the revival.
Hi Reuben. I got the following encouraging note from Barkos Warjri.
His final comments about a glowing cross seem really questionable to me.
I don't want to put limits on God, but also am concerned about superstitions. It seems contrary to what I would expect God to do, but then, I'm not God. What do you think?
(Copy from Barkos Warjri written to another Christian couple/friend)
I would like to share with you some of the events and our thoughts which we are trying to document. Events of the last fortnight have gripped our attention. You may have not read of them in the news but they have been God's answer to the prayers of believers in Meghalaya, the NE Indian state we come from. You may have heard of the Welsh revival of 1904. The same spirit spread to the Khasi and Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya in 1906. My grandfather was born in that year and had some stories to tell me of the faith of our ancestors. The Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Mission had sent missionaries to these hills early in the 19th Century. They won the first convert about the year 1846 and then set up the Presbyterian Church, which grew to become the largest denomination among the Khasi-Jaintia tribe. This church had been praying for another revival and in the centenary celebrations to commemorate that event, in a village called Mairang (where the revival broke out in 1906), in the month of March this year, there were fervent prayers accompanied, I believe, with a strong hope among some, that God would indeed do something new. Soon after, the revival fervor picked up in some villages. It did not move to the urban areas for several, months. When I had occasion to visit Shillong, for a week, in August, I heard some inspiring stories about what God was doing. There were some miraculous incidents which took place, and which encouraged many to a renewal of their faith. On the 3rd August I heard of interesting developments in a church in Shillong, the capital city of Meghalaya. Daily evangelistic meetings had begun in the church from the 10th July. From the 13th July there was a preacher from the Mizo tribe (from the state of Mizoram). He could not speak English so his messages were translated into Khasi. (The Lingua Franca among the different peoples of NE India is mainly English among the educated or Hindi). The enthusiasm was such that the preacher was asked to continue for another week, which he did, having no scheduled program then. From then on the daily services continued. I visited the Laban Presbyterian Church on 5th August 2006, and saw there a completely different service from what I had been used to in the Prebyterian environment. I was struck by the contrasts between the lack of a proper scheduled program and the evident order. There was no confusion. The first thing I noticed on entering the evening service was that some people were standing while some were sitting as they were singing. It was evident that there was no rule to sit or stand or clap or raise hands, yet all was in order. ‘Let us all rise’ and ‘Kindly be seated’ were conspicuous by their absence. Another thing was very evident, there was an unusually large number of children and youth for an evening service. They were the ones who were most active in the singing as well as the prayers. The singing continued for an hour after which testimonies were shared followed by a sermon. Half the congregation responded to the altar call. During the closing prayer I heard something that I had never heard before, an instant sound, which I thought was rain, so even yet sharp and intense. I looked up and realized that all the people in the front of the church had simultaneously broken out in prayer, and two weeks later I remembered a verse of the ‘voice of many waters’ (Rev.14.2 & 19.6). It felt like there was a spontaneous laying siege of heaven. (I was not really surprised when I read a description, a few days ago, in similar terms of
event in a church during the Korean Revival of 1907). It was uplifting, and this, in an orthodox Presbyterian church! The praying and singing went on for another hour after the benediction, very few choosing to leave at that point. Through this extra hour the children were delightfully active in group prayers and singing, walking around in an open space in front, where several pews had been removed to make an open space.
Beginning 1st September, however God seems to have poured out his spirit without any holding back. It looks like he has overturned the barrel and it hit the church like a dam which had broken. Children are prophesying, young people are seeing visions. School administrators were shocked to see children break out in prayers, songs, or falling down unconscious. This happened in school after school, often during the morning assembly, or even during classes. Children were also taking their Bibles to school at no one’s bidding. At one school, a catholic school, a teacher (I know him well and spoke to him a few days ago), while taking a class noticed that there were a few small slips of neatly cut paper with the hand-written words ‘Jesus Loves You.’ He asked who had done it and a boy stood up. He stated that he wanted to do it and that he wanted to pass on similar messages, which he had with him, to as many as he could. He could not say why he did it beyond the urge that he had, to do so. The teacher was taken aback for a few moments; the boy comes from a Marwari family, who are strict Jains and would not have heard the gospel in any substantially coherent form.
The demons also seem to have come out full force and the battles are raging. In school after school, and church after church stories of spiritual struggles abound. In one school, a girl who was undergoing such a test recovered only after her mother, a pagan, most reluctantly agreed to burn the amulet her witch doctor had given her just a few days ago. The burning was followed by frightful screams and wails by that mother. I heard this from a pastor friend who prayed for the girl.
Interestingly, the streets are peaceful. No drunkards, no fights, just young people singing even rather late at night. The midweek meetings in the churches are full -- no place to sit. In fact all churches are now having packed daily evening meetings. A friend whom I spoke to yesterday said that they could not find even a place to sit though he and his family had reached the church 15 minutes before the afternoon service, last Sunday (10th September).
Last evening I spoke to a girl who had just returned to Bangalore from Shillong, and she told of the reconciliation in her family. Such was their joy that she took two days off from college in the last weekend and flew to Shillong to join her parents and siblings. For the first time they were praying as a family. There are countless such stories of repentance, reconciliation (a divorced couple close to our family got back together last week), forgiveness and renewal. There are also the miraculous. One thing I could no longer be skeptical about, was the unexplained illumination of the wooden cross in the church I grew up and where my parents still live. It happened on 5th September early in the morning at about 0045hrs when the church was full with people singing. It sounds strange, but events had picked up in this church throughout the previous day that it was not possible to stop the unscheduled singing and praying which started on the morning of the 4th September from about an hour before noon. My nephew heard a young boy shout 'Jesus, Jesus, look Jesus,' and he and his friends, who were sitting near the main door of the church building ignored the shout, thinking it was one of many people seeing visions. When an excitement picked up later, he looked up and was shocked to see the cross above the pulpit shining and showing what appeared to be the form of a man on it. Stunned, he called his mother (my sister) who rushed immediately to the church and who called me, dazed and shocked at 0150 hours. (I usually switch off my mobile phone at night but that night I knew I had to keep it open). I could not get another wink after that. I was excited by the virtual running commentary I got after every half an hour. I wanted desperately to see what would happen at daylight. If the illumination was caused by an effect of the lights it would be normal in the morning. Instead it became clearer as the sun rose and remains so even till today. It is a wooden cross, covered in sun mica and hollow behind. The bulbs behind it light up the background and silhouette the cross starkly against the wall. Today even as I write, it is not merely that background which is bright. The wooden body itself remains bright with the x-ray-like image still present. The view is seen only from the central door of the church and not from the sides or near it. From any other direction it looks as normal as on any other day. It became, I am afraid a sort of idol for some time until the church leadership came out clearly on the matter. Even then it has not stopped countless people streaming in to see it, especially non-Christians. There are also several testimonies of people who have been touched by simply entering the church building and who know that it is God who has done something to them. I would be able to send you photographs if you would like so. The events have opened my eyes to the immensity of God. He just seems to have burst out of the box. When God does His work it simply floors us. He is beyond what we ever comprehended, and.…. beyond the boxes we tend to put Him in.
My wife and I felt inclined to share our joy and, at times our moments of sheer stunned silence with you.
God bless you, and once again.
The cross phenomenon is rather complex for me too. Of course, like you I cannot doubt or limit the hands of God in working out signs and wonder beyond our comprehension. Last night when I shared my doubts about the image on the cross with Ridor he smiled rather convincingly enough and taking out his cell phone where he had taken some picture of the cross showed it to me. To tell you the truth, I had personally visited this chapel to see that cross during daytime and to me it didn't appeared spectacular or moving enough. I was skeptic. But last night when Ridor showed me the pictures on his cell phone the image in the middle of the cross was quite visible. It has a white shape of a figure hanging on the cross sometimes looking like a dove. That day although I was unmoved by the sight of the cross, I could still thank God for the crowd that had throng the building, singing, repenting and praying both inside the hall and outside on the compound. Large number of Hindus and other Non-Christian too came every day to witness this. And as their customary manner would have them they would enter the hall without their shoes. So you'd see a strewn of shoes lying outside at the entrance of the hall. All these sights however did moved me. I left that place thinking of Paul's comment, "whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice" (Philp 1: 18 ESV). But my landlady's granddaughter, a teenager who lives next door went there the first time and shared with me what happened there. She said that as she was standing in the queue to touch the cross (sadly, how quickly people resorts to idol worship), she actually saw a vision of Jesus, not on the cross though, but on the wall of the building. The face wasn't visible because it was glowing brilliantly and she could see the image upto the lower portion of the chest. That night she stayed in that hall praying with her friends until 1 a.m. after midnight.
However, we are told that the image on the cross is apparently fading away now. The questions posed to skeptics like me is why wasn't the image there before revival hit our land and why is it disappearing now ???
More of Jesus!
Copyright 2006 Reuben Pradhan