Mission History: Ruanda and Revival
The Ruanda revival is renowned in missionary history. In this excerpt from Mighty Through God: The Life of Edith Moules, Norman recounts this mighty work of the Spirit how it impacted a grieving WEC missionary.
Even before Percy’s death, however, and much more so afterwards, Edith was conscious of something about the spiritual life at Shyira which was new to her. It was particularly noticeable in a quality of fellowship she had not seen before. All barriers were down between missionaries and Africans. The keen Christian African would come in and out of the missionaries’ houses, and sit and chat, with the obvious freedom of the family. This, she was told, had only come about since the revival. Previously there had been attempts to break through these barriers by invitations to tea and so on, but it did not work. Heart fusion came through the Holy Ghost. When He had come, the normal and necessary differences in ways of living, the missionaries eating different food and living in different types of home and so on, just didn’t count. The love of God in all hearts simply overflowed all such things, as the rocks on a river bed disappear when the waters rise.
The fellowship between one and another was the outcome of a new level of fellowship with God. It was to be seen at the station meetings, whether it was the early morning inner circle fellowship hour meeting in the small prayer hut, the informal meetings in the sitting room of a missionary’s home, or the larger meetings in the building used as a church. It was, as Jesus said, like a well of water springing up in the hearts of the people. There were practically no beginnings and endings. As soon as folk gathered, the stream of witness would begin. It was a company of people giving up-to-date news of what God was saying to them or doing in them. Often it would be praise for cleansing in the Blood, because the Spirit had given conviction on some point which many might call small; but these brethren, white and black, had learned to call no sin small which nailed the Saviour to the Cross. It might be jealousy against a brother, or the desire for the things of this world creeping in, or just coldness, criticism, or impure thoughts. With the conviction, there had been the repentance and cleansing in the precious Blood, and then the joy in the fellowship meeting of testifying to the brethren of what Jesus had done. Then from all the company would rise the song of praise for the precious Blood, “Glory, glory Hallelujah, Glory, glory to the Lamb.” And there was that sense of being in a company of brethren with no barriers between, all fellow-sinners magnifying the Lamb that was slain, with no pretences to their own righteousness, and touching rock bottom, not by vague theories, but by the application of the grace of God to the everyday life. This was revival indeed. It was in the air, in the songs of praises, in the love of the brethren, in the joy-filled faces, and the transformed lives. In this freedom of the Spirit any would give what God had given them. Some would ask the brethren to look at this or that passage of Scripture, and pass on some practical word which had come to them; others would pray; and the flow of fellowship was so continuous that when perhaps an hour and a half or two hours had gone by, it would just be necessary for some missionary or African leader to close the meeting.
She heard, as she enquired, of such floods of blessing, sometimes in deep heart-searching and tears, sometimes in unspeakable joy, that meetings had been known to go on day and night. Tens of thousands of souls had been saved. The Eastertide Conference at one station would gather 15,000. Another station had 400 out-churches, mainly the fruit of the testimony of the balokeli (saved ones) going and telling others. Excesses had sometimes endangered the work, but on this sure foundation of an open walking in the light with one another, a humble searching of God’s Word for the answer to all problems, and a readiness to give or receive the checks of the Spirit through the members of the body, the work had been kept on an even keel.
This new thing that God has been doing in Ruanda has already had such worldwide repercussions in the Church of Christ that it is worth an attempt to explain in further detail what it is that has brought to so many, including a number in the W.E.C., a new life in Christ: for what God began in Ruanda has now spread to the older Churches in Uganda, where thousands, including many of the clergy, have been revived. The blessing has reached on into Kenya and Tanganyika, and like seeds carried by the wind, is found springing up in all corners of the world. In 1948, for instance, at a revival conference of one hundred and fifty ministers in Los Angeles, a couple of Mennonite missionaries from Tanganyika gave a simple testimony of how their dry bones had come alive through a visit to Ruanda; the effect was such that the next two nights were spent by these ministers on their knees until a late hour, first in repentance, then in praise and faith, and some fifty of them met the following week to tell how the revival God had started in their own hearts had spread to their churches. To Britain, Switzerland, South Africa, and God Himself alone knows what other countries, these seeds of revival have been carried and are bearing this same fruit.
Revival came to this band of missionaries and Africans in Ruanda about fifteen years ago, and has been continuing and spreading ever since. It is no new truth. It has not centred round some special person. In fact, one of its chief characteristics has been the humbling of man and the exalting of Christ. It simply consists of individuals, then twos and threes, then groups, and larger groups, opening themselves continually to the light of God, and at any cost to themselves, walking in that light. Just as simple as that. At any moment, any hour of the day, if a motion of the heart, a thought, a word, a deed is seen in that blinding light to be less than the highest, it is squarely recognized as such, not slurred over, not excused as some infirmity or natural weakness, but faced, acknowledged, and confessed outright as sin. Sin, in other words, takes on new meanings. It is the least thing that comes short of the glory of God, short of His perfection; nor is there any quibbling about what is merely temptation, and what is sin. Any motions in the heart of hardness towards a brother, critical thoughts, resentment, self-pity, unbelief, impurity, fear, worry, those minor attitudes of hypocrisy by which we cover up our true actions and make out we are better than we are, these and many other such things are nailed to the counter in their true colours. Such simple and continual acts of repentance for sin they often call “brokenness” or “bending the stiff neck,” for on each occasion it means that self-will or self-esteem or self-seeking in some form is recognized in its true colours as claiming mastery of the heart, and is confessed and forsaken
as an evil thing.
But conviction and confession are meaningless unless they take place at Calvary. Christ bore our sins. He was broken for us. His head was bowed in giving up the ghost for us. And Calvary means cleansing: “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” It is there we break, and bend our necks, broken at the sight of what our sins have done to Him, broken by His brokenness, and from there we come away forgiven and cleansed. It is not merely conviction and confession, but conviction, confession and cleansing. The glory is in the Blood.
And where the Blood is applied, the Spirit abides. Jesus lives in the cleansed heart. He is both the light and the life. He is revival. Conviction, confession, cleansing is followed by cups running over with joy and victory.
But a brother in Christ cannot live to himself. He is part of a brotherhood, a body. He has a horizontal relationship, as well as a vertical. The channel of the Spirit is blocked if praise and testimony from the heart goes upwards to the Redeemer, but not outward also to the fellow-redeemed. The fellowship must be with the body as with the Head. And it is just here that the blinds are so often kept down. Christians fight shy of sharing the Lord’s personal dealings with each other. They will talk of the Lord’s work, of the Lord Himself, of the teachings of the Word, but much more rarely of the direct transactions of the Spirit with their own hearts. And there is one chief reason for this: it is humbling to do so, humbling for us, though glorifying to Him. To tell how the Lord has given us a new precious cleansing in the Blood, and deliverance of soul from an attack of pride, jealousy, resentment, self-indulgence or what not, is to belittle oneself; though it magnifies His grace. Exactly. I say I have no interest except in magnifying His righteousness, imputed and imparted to me. But the truth is, that I still want to maintain a great deal of my own righteousness in the eyes of my brethren. I still have personal pride. I just don’t want my brethren to know that there is no good thing in me, no more today than there was the day I was born again. I still am capable of responding to every form of sin; it is only Jesus in me who keeps me, only He who has purified my heart and keeps it pure, only His own flowing Blood keeps me clean.
And the Spirit bears witness when my lips confess Christ’s Name; bears witness to me and to all who hear me. Something happens when confession is made before men, but true confession is always costly. It means a great deal when for the first time, the sinner confesses that pride, and shameful living, and all the rest are gone in the Blood; and it means much when I confess, to God’s glory, not the cleansing of my sins of twenty-five years ago, but conviction, repentance, cleansing of something which touched my life today. A great joy and release wells up in the soul, as before our brethren, I give the Lamb the glory. I am the sinner, He is the Saviour. And the same with my brethren–barriers are down, love and joy flow, glory to the Saviour, a sense of reality, not of Christian theory, but of a life touching bottom, a sense of deep fellowship as fellow-sinners and fellow-redeemed: and light and conviction spread from one to another, as a new sight of sin in one life causes another to see the same thing in himself. For our grave danger is blindness. We just don’t see our sin as sin: but the testimony of our brethren, as they describe the Lord’s revelations to them in their own lives, very often unveils to ourselves the hidden things in ours. That is revival. And that is how it leaps like a spark from one to another. A dead spot revealed, cleansed and replaced by the love of Jesus, that is revival; and that same thing shared with others is revival transmitted. That is exactly what Edith had to see. It was not the darkness or stubbornness or sulkiness of some leper girl that hindered revival. It was her own unjudged impatience or hard word. When she saw that, broke, repented, was cleansed, and then shared the incident with others, revival, like fire, began to run along the ground.
No, it is no new thing. There is no new Gospel. There is only one light, one life–Jesus. But the grave danger of us well-taught people is that we live by set doctrine which very easily dulls the keen edge of our daily walk. We have been saved by grace. There is always forgiveness with Him. We are crucified with Him and He lives in us. But just because of these precious truths, so real to us, we tend to slur over the immediate impact of an inner, even momentary, response to sin. Just because we keep such sins to ourselves and know there is the Blood, we just in a general way count on it; or worse still, we leave things clinging to ourselves unchallenged, a hardness to a brother, unbelief in a situation, worry, depression, impatience, rush and restlessness, strain or fear. We are the Lord’s, we rejoice in being His, and we hardly notice that these things have a foothold in us. But if a life of daily fellowship in the light is lived with a fellow-Christian, husband and wife together, or family circle, or larger group, then these things cannot be easily slurred over. Am I in the light now? Thus comes the question. What is God saying to me today? What is His special word to me that I can share in fellowship with my brethren?
Challenge comes into it also, vitally so. Conviction, confession, cleansing, cups running over, challenge. Fellowship in the light will also mean, in humility and brokenness, holding each other up to the highest; a readiness both to accept all light through our brethren (for we are all so terribly ignorant about our real selves and how the self-life in us may be hindering Christ being seen in us), and a readiness to take the costly way of telling others faithfully where we see they come short. If there is a true brokenness, this will be eagerly welcomed that we may be more Christ-like ourselves, and help our brethren to be the same. Honesty with ourselves will make us honest with one another, though it always has to be remembered that the faithful word is never sealed by the Spirit, unless it is also the gracious word, that is to say, unless it has first been through the crucible of the cross and purged of a judging or retaliatory motive.
The revival really started in Edith’s own heart by the simple challenge of an African. “On the morning of the day Percy died,” she wrote later, “I suddenly remembered about James 5:14 and thought, ‘Oh! I haven’t called for the elders of the church and had Percy anointed. Is God whipping me for this?’ That is how the Devil tries to get us tied up with legalism in a weak moment. I was physically weak. I had been nursing him night and day for a month. Well, we called for the elders, and four Africans came, with Harold and Isobel Adeney and Hilda Langston. We stood round the bed and anointed Percy in the Name of the Lord. Then one by one they prayed around the bed, and when it came to my turn I prayed, as if my life depended upon it, that God would raise him up. I had believed that God was going to do so until that morning, when there had been a warning inside that He was going to take him, and I was facing up to that. My heart was honestly saying, ‘Your will be done, Lord,’ and I said it in my prayer. But immediately afterwards one of these revived African brethren, who knew how to hear God’s voice, said, ‘I have something to say to Mrs. Moules.’ He then began to tell a story of a white woman who lost someone she loved very much and was crying. A little child said to her, ‘But don’t you love Jesus?’ ‘Yes, I do,’ was her answer. ‘Well, then, why do you cry?’ As he said that, something smote me. How dare he talk to me like that? Doesn’t he know what I am going through? Doesn’t he understand that I am a missionary? Doesn’t he understand that I do love the Lord, and that it is just the human side of me that’s grieving? Oh, that thing hurt. Then as I stood there, as clearly as if I heard it, God’s voice spoke to me and said, ‘You be careful about that spirit of yours. He’s only trying to be loyal to me.’ God allowed that African to say the thing which hurt me, and it did hurt me, to show me a truth that has since been mighty in me. It was the thing which we don’t like calling resentment. I didn’t like the African saying that to me, because it wasn’t true. I wasn’t really trying to fight against God, it was just the human side of me which was grieving. But when I saw that it was resentment, it went like a flash, and I looked across at him and said, ‘It is just the human side of me that is grieving; God can do as He likes with His own,’ and he understood.”
It was just that simple incident which opened Edith’s eyes to what she and Percy had been seeking, and there began forthwith, so she wrote, “a fellowship with African brothers that I have rarely known with white people, except with a few since revival has come. It is because we haven’t learned how to get on the cross and like it. It is holy ground. One doesn’t say these things lightly, but it is not a crisis that happens just once when you see it. The power is in the process. If we try to get away from that, we are going to stop dead again in our spiritual advance, and revival will stop flowing through us.”
–Edith Moules: Mighty Through God