God’s Surprises summarises key events in 20 countries. It’s a brief summary of information in my books Journey into Mission (most detail) and Journey into Ministry and Mission (condensed autobiography).
CONTENTS OF GOD’S SURPRISES – Chapters: 1 Australia, 2 PNG, 3 Canada:Toronto, 4 USA: Pensacola, 5 Brazil, 6 Ghana, 7 Kenya, 8 China, 9 Nepal, 10 India, 11 Sri Lanka, 12 Myanmar/Burma, 13 Malaysia, 14 Thailand, 15 Philippines, 16 Solomon Islands, 17 Vanuatu, 18 Fiji, 19 Germany, 20 Israel
“Can I take some bread home?” asked a tattooed young man at our communion service in the slums of Nairobi in Kenya, East Africa. God’s Spirit had prompted me to buy a few loaves of bread, bottles of drink and plastic glasses for the congregation.
We shared real drink and two loaves of bread together among 30 people in their corrugated iron shed where I was the guest preacher.
“It’s your bread,” I answered. “You decide.” He quickly shoved a handful of bread into his pocket. Then most of the others did the same. Two weeks later, Frank, the young pastor, emailed me: “I’ve visited the slum homes of those people and they are still eating that bread. It’s still fresh.” Apparently God multiplied it.
Frank and his wife Linda then offered free bread and drink each Saturday for hungry, skinny slum people, usually catering for about 50 people. Sometimes many more turned up but they always had plenty. Apparently God kept multiplying it as needed.
A young pastor in Ghana in West Africa invited me to hold meetings there. So I arrived with three others from Brisbane during our college break in July, forgetting it was monsoon time in Ghana. We flew into a deluge of rain on the Monday. Our hosts planned night meetings in the market from Tuesday, with morning teaching in a local church.
“Can we hold the night rallies in the church?” I suggested.
“Oh, no,” they said. “Only church people go there. Meetings in the market attract the crowds.”
“What about the rain?” I asked.
“God sent you, so he’ll do something,” they responded, full of faith.
We drove for over an hour in pouring rain from Accra, the capital, to the town of Suhum in the hills for our first meeting on Tuesday night. The heavy rain had flooded the power station there so the whole town was in darkness. We prayed earnestly, asking God to take over.
Within 15 minutes the rain stopped, the town lit up with power, and we began. Those excited Africans sang and danced for over two hours, attracting hundreds to the service. All that week we had clear skies and large crowds. Church teams prayed for hundreds of people. Many were saved. Many were healed. One man testified, “I came to this meeting blind, but while you were singing I found I could see.”
Heavy monsoon rains began again the day after our meetings ended.
A friend of mine worked with the United Nations in Nepal. He loved to help and support pastors and leaders there. We visited him many times and I spoke at pastors and leaders meetings in Kathmandu, in West Nepal and in East Nepal. Some of those pastors walked for two or three days across the high ranges just to attend.
Their churches are saturated in prayer. I prayed in their “Power House”, the upstairs prayer rooms of their church in Kathmandu. Those small upper rooms, open 24 hours a day, had many people going there to fast and pray, sometimes for many days.
We saw God’s Spirit move beautifully and powerfully in those meetings. Many were filled with the Spirit and healed. I heard a young man from one of their church bands praying eloquently in beautiful English – but he cannot speak English. They pray for one another with strong faith, expecting God to save, heal, deliver and anoint them.
The dedication of those Christians impressed me. Most of them have been imprisoned for their faith many times. One young pastor conducted a Christian wedding which infuriated relatives so they complained to the police and he spent a month in prison for disturbing the peace. Our host had been severely beaten while in prison. Two young evangelists were shot to death when we were there. They had returned from Bible College in India and were accused of spying. God gives those Christians amazing peace and joy amid the persecution, just as in the Book of The Acts.
Our team visited Grace Bible College in New Delhi founded by Dr Paul Pilai. Paul had stayed in our home in Brisbane when he visited Australia. He was converted after a young Christian girl prayed for his healing while he was very ill in hospital and he recovered miraculously.
He told us how his students and teams started new churches in villages and towns. They often faced angry opposition. One fanatical group burned their meeting tent and attacked them, hitting them with clubs, trying to kill them. They broke Paul’s arm and burned the tent. Suddenly some handsome Indian men surrounded Paul’s team and miraculously moved them away to a safe place nearby. The team could see their burning tent in the distance. Those angels told Paul that God would send him back there. A few years later they were invited back and started a church there in a home.
Grace Bible College, the largest in India with around 600 students, trains people to evangelize and plant churches, especially among unreached peoples. Their graduates often face persecution and some have been martyrs. What a humbling privilege it was to pray with the staff there and speak to the crowded hall full of such committed students.
I taught on revival at a seminary in Manilla in the sweltering heat of the Philippines. An assignment I gave my M.Th. students was to report on revival and miracles. One pastor, who was also a police inspector, reported that a church he visited sent groups of young people to sing and speak at hospitals and nursing homes.
One of those teams held monthly meetings in a mental hospital. The staff said that their patients may not understand much, but those patients did enjoy the singing. Over 40 came to the first meeting. The team offered to pray for anyone who would like prayer. They prayed personally for 26 people. The next month when the team returned, all those 26 had been discharged and sent home.
I visited China with a student from college. His parents worked there. The woman pastor-evangelist of a house church invited us to her church in a high-rise unit. The young man who met us at the gate could speak English.
He feared that the security guard might ask awkward questions, but as we walked in around 7pm, the guard had his back to us, talking to someone else. When we left after midnight, the guard was gone, probably sleeping.
Around 30 people sat on the floor and sang softly in worship. We spoke and then found that no one would leave until we had prayed for them personally. That took a while! They were happy to slip away one-by-one, just as they had come. Most were new Christians who believed because a Christian prayed for their healing. They believed in prayer and miracles just as in the Book of The Acts. Their simple, strong faith and humility moved and challenged me deeply.
We visited Elcho Island in the north where revival broke out and spread through Aboriginal communities all across northern Australia. We invited a team from Elcho Island for a Pentecost weekend in Brisbane. Two dozen came! They told us about the revival and prayed for people after each meeting that weekend, just sitting on the carpeted platform floor, aboriginal style.
That revival began after aborigines on Elcho Island prayed desperately for revival amid increasing crime, drink and drugs. The night their pastor, Djiniyini Gondarra (photo), returned from a holiday they met for Bible Study and prayer in his home. God’s Spirit fell on them as they united for the closing prayer. That prayer and ministry went all night. People were filled with the Spirit, discovered many spiritual gifts, and saw healings and reconciliations. Everywhere their teams went they saw God moving on the people in local revivals.
South Pacific Islands
Many revival movements have swept the South Pacific islands. I saw some. God’s Spirit fell on the Law School of the University of the South Pacific just after Easter 2002. The Law School is in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu. Many law students were saved and transformed at their open-air rally.
Those committed students went on missions to other South Pacific nations and to Australia. Now they are lawyers and leaders. A president of their Christian Fellowship became a Member of Parliament in Fiji.
Some of those teams came with me to Pentecost Island in Vanuatu. God has been moving there in unusual ways for a hundred years. Vanuatu people first evangelized the island, one becoming a martyr. A wife of the highest ranking chief returned to life after she died and told them that she had seen God and they should leave their heathen ways and become Christians. Many revival teams have served God there in local revivals. Large numbers repent, are filled with the Spirit, and receive many spiritual gifts including revelations, words of knowledge about hidden magic or sins, and deliverance and healings.
God poured out his Spirit on children and youth in the Western Solomon Islands from Easter 2003. They loved to sing and pray daily in the church after school. God gave them visions, revelations, words of knowledge about hidden sins and bad relationships and they received many other spiritual gifts such as healings and speaking and singing what God revealed.
God revealed to a young boy the name of a man who stole a chain saw from the timber mill. A church member had been wrongly accused of that crime and sacked. He was reinstated after the man who stole it was confronted and confessed.
A mother asked me what it meant when her young boy had a vision of Jesus with one foot in heaven and one foot on the earth. I immediately remembered Matthew 28:18 – All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
We saw God touch around 1,000 youths at a National Christian Youth Convention in 2006. One night at the convention they responded, running to the front of the open-air meeting. For half-an-hour their worship team sang “He is Lord” while we prayed for them. They fell like dominoes. Many testified to healings, visions and revelations. One young man returned to his village that night and found his mother ill, so laid hands on her and prayed for her. She was healed. His brother then asked for prayer and he too was healed. The young man had never done that before. A whole group from the Kariki Islands, further west, saw revival begin in their islands on their return. God moved powerfully in every meeting they held and in their personal prayers.
I discovered that we Westerners are often too busy to pray, too worldly to listen to God, too proud to repent, and too unbelieving to see revival. We Christians – called by the name of Christ – need to take God’s promise seriously:
If my people who are called by name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
You can do that right now – at your computer or with your phone. You could take time right now to pray and seek God, to pray and obey.
Summaries of Revivals
from these two books by Geoff Waugh:
Flashpoints of Revival
Pentecost to the Reformation
Significant impacts of the Spirit of God have continued through history. These Spirit movements were often ignored, minimized or denigrated for many reasons:
1. Some historians wrote for predominantly secular purposes, so ignored significant Spirit movements. Josephus referred only briefly to Jesus and his troublesome sect.
2. Many historians wrote from the perspective of the established church, which often opposed and suppressed revival movements.
3. Strong impacts of the Spirit constantly initiated new movements which criticised and threatened the established order, so these movements were opposed, their writings destroyed and many leaders martyred.
4. Authentic revival movements were often regarded as heretical, and their leaders killed, as happened with Jesus, the leaders in the early church, and throughout history.
5. Some Spirit movements became cults with heretical teachings, and so brought disrepute on the whole movement and suspicion concerning charismata, especially prophecies, so they were opposed and suppressed.
6. Personal and historical accounts of impacts of the Spirit have been systematically destroyed during subsequent historical periods, often burned as heretical.
7. Excessive enthusiasm or fanaticism in revival movements have brought these genuine Spirit movements into disrepute and so generated more opposition.
8. Leaders and adherents of revivals have often been occupied with other pressing priorities such as ensuring their own survival rather than recording their history.
However, records have survived, mostly after the invention of the printing press. Revivals demonstrate biblical patterns of authentic Spirit movements. Evangelical revivals provide evidence of these charismatic encounters that became the empowering force in revival.
Charismatic impacts in Spirit movements are normal in many revivals among masses of people. Throughout history many people led reform and revival movements that powerfully affected the church and the community.
Before Constantine the church spread rapidly in spite of, and even because of, persecution. The witness of the martyrs influenced many people. After Constantine the Holy Spirit continued his work in the church and the world, often causing strong opposition as in the New Testament. He did not take a break during the Middle Ages!
Irenaeus (d 195), a student of the Apostle John’s disciple Polycarp, led a considerable spiritual awakening in Lyons in southern Gaul where in addition to his Episcopal responsibilities he learned the local language and his preaching was accompanied by gifts of the Spirit, exorcisms and reports of some raised from the dead.
The Montanists, or the New Prophecy movement, flourished in Asia Minor from the second half of the second century into the fifth century. This movement included a revival of prophecies and of acknowledged prophets including women, a challenge for Christians to forsake worldly attitudes with stricter living standards in Christian communities, and a strong belief in the second coming of Christ with the ideal society soon to be established in the New Jerusalem. Montanus spoke in tongues and began prophesying at his baptism, and taught that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were still available. The lawyer-theologian Tertullian (c 150-223) became the most famous convert to Montanism when he joined that movement early in the third century. The movement came into disrepute because of excesses, particularly in prophecy, but it became a strong challenge to the lax state of the church at that time.
Gregory the Wonderworker (c 213-270), converted through contact with Origen (c 185-254), became bishop of his native Pontus and appears to have led a strong movement of conversion till most of his diocese was Christian.
The church fathers founded monastic orders devoted to serving of God and people, often in protest to laxity and nominal Christianity in the church. Many of these leaders led strong spiritual movements including various miracles, healings and exorcisms, although caution is needed in distinguishing between fact and subsequent fiction.
Augustine of Hippo in North Africa (354-430), strongly influenced the church and society through his writings. His earlier writings indicated a cessation of the charismata in his time, a position which strongly influenced western theology, even though his later writing acknowledged that miracles occurred in relation to the sacraments, prayer of the relics of the saints, and his work The City of God included a chapter entitled “Concerning Miracles Which Were Wrought in Order that the World Might Believe in Christ and Which Cease Not to Be Wrought Now That the World Does Believe.”
Patrick (389-c 461) told of the conversions of thousands of the Irish, initiating active Celtic missionary activity including subsequent evangelism by Columba (521-597) in Scotland and Columban and others in France, Switzerland and northern Italy. By 600 Augustine of Canterbury and his missionaries saw thousands accept Christianity in England and it was reported that they imitated the powers of the apostles in the signs which they displayed.
In the twelfth century Peter Waldo and the Waldensians began reform and revival movements which challenged the church and impacted society. Francis of Assisi in the thirteenth century called people to forsake all and follow Jesus. Many did. They influenced others in society. John Wycliffe and his itinerant preachers, the Lollards, made a powerful impact on England in the fourteenth century. They aroused strong opposition leading to many becoming martyrs.
In the fifteenth century John Hus in Bohemia and Savonarola in Italy led strong reform movements which brought revival but led to their martyrdoms. Hus was known for his unblemished purity of life and uncompromising stand for truth in a decadent society. Savonarola fasted, prayed and preached with prophetic fire which confronted evils of his time, filled the churches, and brought honesty into much of civic and business life.
Gutenburg’s printing press invented in 1456 made the Scriptures widely available. This helped spark the sixteenth century Reformation with leaders such as Huldrych Zwingli in Switzerland initially calling for freedom of conscience though later denying this for others, Martin Luther in Germany proclaiming justification by faith alone based on the supreme authority of scripture, and John Calvin in Geneva emphasizing the awesome sovereignty and grace of God. Radical reformers, such as Felix Manz the first Anabaptist martyr, were killed by some of the reformers in those days of heated religious conflict. John Knox fearlessly called Scotland to repentance amid the intense political and religious fervour of the times.
Since then many revivals won thousands of people to faith in Jesus Christ and made a powerful impact on society. It still happens.
Revival historian Edwin Orr described the major evangelical awakenings as:
the First Great Awakening of 1727-1745,
the Second Awakening of 1790-1830 (The Eager Feet, fired with missionary commitment),
the Third Awakening of 1858-60 (The Fervent Prayer, spread through countless prayer groups) and
the Worldwide Awakening from 1900 (The Flaming Tongue, spreading the word around the globe).
Since then we have also seen similar Great Awakenings worldwide including
the Healing Evangelism Revivals from 1948, including charismatic renewal and revival, and
the Blessing Revivals from the 1990s, into
the Transforming Revivals of the 21st century.