The Travail that Precedes Spiritual Awakening

October 02, 2017

In 1927, my Grandad went to be the pastor of First Baptist Church in Lavaca, Arkansas. In that day, Lavaca was a small farming community outside Ft. Smith with just a few hundred people in the entire town.

Grandad and his wife, Sue, and two kids (one was my dad) were coming from South Arkansas and had to wait a week to let the Arkansas River subside so the ferry could cross. The 1927 flood was the most devastating in Arkansas history, destroying entire towns. In some places, the water stood 30 feet deep for months.

The Mississippi, in certain junctures, was over 60 miles wide, sending water back into Arkansas rivers, along with the torrential rain. The White River flowed backward because of the rush of water from the Mississippi. Hundreds died in its path, but the greatest devastation was in Arkansas.


Every year, when the crops were laid by, the church planned a two-week revival. In fact, they would meet until God came. There is no doubt that the tragedy of the flood lay deeply in the people’s minds as they planned for the annual meeting, in August, 1927, with their new pastor, A.P. Elliff.

A.P. was glad to be asked to lead the meeting in his new church of less than 100 people. He reconfigured the little church so more people could fit in the white frame building. He took out the window casings so they could get better ventilation in the August heat.


The meeting was going well with a few here and there coming to Christ. But my dad heard my Grandad and Grandmother in the parlor of their little parsonage, praying every night. ""The revival hasn't broken,"" he heard Grandad say. ""We must pray more.""

A few nights later, God gave my Grandad a verse from Isaiah, that he specifically felt was for the moment.

""When Zion travails, sons and daughters will be born unto her."" (Isaiah 66:8)

He went before the small congregation and asked them to come an hour early each night to labor in prayer ... and they did. As the prayer increased, so did the crowds. Flatbed wagons were brought in and placed outside the windows for seating. The building was packed as news of God's movement spread across the region. Hundreds came and many were saved.

It was estimated that nearly 1725 people attended the baptism. There were 142 cars carrying 994 people, 58 wagons with 480 people, 3 trucks with 75 people, 6 buggies with 12 people, 10 people came on horseback, and 50 on foot. (My grandad meticulously recorded the details so all the glory would go to God.)

At the end of the meeting, my Grandad wrote in his diary: ""108 people baptized in 68 minutes in Vash Gash creek"" as God brought spiritual awakening to an entire community ... when the people of Zion travailed.


There are many components that go into such a season of spiritual harvest. The bold proclamation of the gospel, people inviting others to come into a gospel gathering (this is still one of God's methods, by the way.)  And, most importantly, the Divine, gracious working of our saving God.

But no such movement ever occurs, it seems, without the travail of the church. Such spiritual labor is the birth pangs of awakening.

What would happen, in your city, if every church had such an outpouring? In Central Arkansas where I serve, it would mean over 65,000 people coming to Christ within a month. We long for such movement, but will we pay the price in preparation, proclamation, and travailing prayer?

1 Response

Neil Bute
Neil Bute

May 22, 2019

Revival is for Believers but are we committed to it? Our Churches, communities, government, and nation is desperate for a sip of revival. Like a man in the desert, we fear we will perish without it.

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