Revival in Australia, Part One
By Jason Harris
When I was in Bible college, I lived in a suburb of Wollongong nestled on the heights leading up to Mount Kembla. Every time I walked out the front door, there she was, that mountain peak just begging me to climb her. So one day I did. Well, almost. I didn’t really have time to do it just as a hike so I decided to combine it with my running routine. It didn’t take me long to find the small country lane that led up it’s slopes. On the mornings when I’d run, I could make it two-thirds of the way up the mountain in fifteen minutes, but then I’d have to turn around and head home in order to keep my routine to a half an hour. My goal was to get to where I could run all the way to the top and back in a half hour.
Kembla is a quiet mountain. There’s not much that happens up there on the South side of the mountain these days. There are a few homes close to the top, and if you go past those, you’ll come to some old shacks that have fallen to the decay of time. I’m told if you cross over to the back of the mountain, you can visit the town that used to be a thriving mining village. I’ve spoken to a man who used to work in the mines on Mt. Kembla. He told me of the “pit ponies” that would carry the carts in and out of the mines. Evidently Mt. Kembla was one of the last mines to switch over to modern mining techniques. The older miners who just didn’t want to learn the new equipment would be sent there to work using all the older mining methods.
Of course you’re probably wondering what in the world this has to do with revival in Australia. Well, I’ve been doing some reading lately on how the Lord has worked in Australia in the past. I would never have imagined it, but it seems Mt. Kembla was the scene of one of the revivals that God has sent here in Australia. In 1902 to 1903, Ebenezer Vickery, a Methodist from Sydney, financed and organised an evangelistic campaign in rural NSW. It is estimated that 25,000 people were converted during this campaign. The most profound results were seen in the coal mining villages of the Illawarra region with over 2,500 professing salvation in that area alone. And I’m told there were 131 professions of faith made in the little mining village on the side of Mt. Kembla. One person describes the results of the revival: “At Mt Kembla, the Workers’ Club, which was a drinking club, lost many of its members.” (Spirit of a Nation, 63) Pastor D. O’Donnell described four evidences that the conversions were genuine:
First, payment of debts. Tradesmen report the settlement of accounts they had long regarded as bad. Second, a pure language… It is said that in the Mount Keira pit an oath has scarcely been heard since the Mission. Third, a fair days work. The proprietor of one of the mines told me the biggest day’s output of coal they ever had, followed the Mission. Fourth, attendance at church. All the churches report greatly increased congregations and increase in membership. (Spirit, 64)
I would have never imagined as I jogged up that mountainside—praying often for God to work in our nation—that God had already done a reviving work in that very place one hundred years earlier.
When we think about revival in Australia, it seems there’s something inside that tells us it just can’t happen. At least not here. But it has happened and it has happened here! I’d like to do several posts on this topic. There are many revivals in Australian history and I think we would benefit from learning more about them. Perhaps the Lord will work in our hearts to pray that He will do it again. Yes Lord, do it again. Please. Do it again.