Evan Roberts was a coal miner, tall, blue-eyed, young and thin. His dark hair curled over his forehead and ears. He harbored a deep burden for souls, and he prayed earnestly for revival. At age 25, having just begun studying for the ministry, he asked his pastor for permission to hold some evening meetings. Only a few people came at first, but within days village shops were closing early for the services. People left work to secure seats at church. The building was packed and roadways clogged with would-be attenders. Services often lasted until 4:30 a.m. Sins were confessed, sinners converted, homes restored.
In neighboring towns Roberts saw similar results. All across Wales theaters closed, jails emptied, churches filled, and soccer matches were canceled to avoid conflicting with the revival. Welsh miners were so converted that their pit ponies had to be retrained to work without the prodding of curse words.
On March 29, 1905 Evan Roberts opened a series of meetings at Shaw Street Chapel in Liverpool—out of Wales into England, out of the country into the city. Thousands thronged around the church, and people poured in from all parts of England, Scotland, Ireland, the Continent, and America. Multitudes were converted or found new joy in Christ. Often Roberts didn’t even preach. The very sight of him sent rivers of emotion flowing through the crowds. When he did speak, his message was quiet and simple: “obedience to Jesus, complete consecration to his service, receiving the Holy Spirit, and allowing ourselves to be ruled by him.”
The Liverpool meetings left Roberts exhausted, needing weeks to recover. On his next preaching tour, a whirlwind of revival again swirled around him; but yet again, the young man returned home drained and exhausted. Roberts spoke four times more, then he retired to a friend’s home for a week’s recovery. He stayed 17 years, and he never preached again. He spent his remaining 45 years in secluded ministry and prayer, here and there, with friends. He died in 1951.
His public ministry had lasted only months, but it had shaken Wales and England to the foundations.
You are wrong to think that these people are drunk. After all, it is only nine o’clock in the morning. But this is what God had the prophet Joel say, “When the last days come, I will give my Spirit to everyone. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will have dreams. (Acts 2:15-17)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). March 27.