Angus Wheeler is one man who says his life has been forever changed by the Spirit's fresh fire. Wheeler, 49, heard about the meetings in their second week and decided to travel from the nearby community of Virgin Arm-Carters Cove to Cottlesville to check it out for himself. On Feb. 9, Wheeler went to the altar to accept Christ.
"That night, I knew the Holy Spirit made it very clear to me that I couldn't leave without becoming a Christian," Wheeler says. "The feeling started like a fire in my belly and just pushed its way up. Bessey didn't even have to say much, maybe five or 10 words. He just gently said, 'Here. I'll walk with you to the altar.' I brought a big load of sin and left it at the cross, and that's where it will stay."
When Wheeler was a teenager, he asked Jesus into his heart but says he had not followed Him since. His big regret is that it took nearly 30 years for him to "come to his senses," he says. He continues to attend the revival meetings and says he also experienced a miraculous healing from tobacco addiction.
"I had been a very heavy smoker for many years, a pack and a half a day," Wheeler says. "I had told God that when the time came, I knew I would be delivered from them—and I was delivered instantly. I have not had even a single craving."
Everything in Wheeler's life has changed, he says. His passion for the Word of God is insatiable, and he plans to witness to everyone he encounters.
"I don't know if you know the song 'Trust and Obey,' but that's what I keep hearing in my head," Wheeler says. "And that's what I plan to keep doing."
Preparing the Way
Langdon said the revival was birthed out of weeks of preparation from the church's core members, who met weekdays for extended periods of prayer and fasting.
"We bathed this in a couple of weeks of prayer beforehand," Langdon says. "In fact, before they even knew evangelist Bessey was coming, word went out to the elders that revival was coming. In their prayer time, they felt like the word went forth from the Spirit of God, so we were really looking forward to coming together. That was a big part of this."
Bessey believes those weeks of prayer laid the groundwork for what God was about to do.
"I came and preached the Word, and God's Spirit began moving people," Bessey says. "They started coming from all around the community, some of them from hours away. People began getting saved, healed, filled with the Spirit, filled with joy and encouraged—and the crowds kept coming."
Bessey retired five years ago after serving as full-time pastor of various churches for 33 years. Since then, he has been traveling as an evangelist, visiting churches throughout Eastern Canada, Peru and Africa. He said his heart has been aching for a revival like the one Cottlesville is experiencing now.
"The Lord impressed upon me when I started this ministry work, moved upon my heart and said, 'You are going to be scheduled somewhere for a week, but it is going to become a lot longer.' Still, I didn't know where or when," Bessey says. "There are places I've been that I thought could be, where maybe we went into a second week. I felt, God is going to break wide open somewhere. I just don't know where it's going to be. Then the Lord confirmed this is the place."
Bessey says his heart is to see the Spirit of God descend as in revival movements of years ago. He was in Pensacola, Florida, during the Brownsville Revival in the mid-1990s.
"Now this is so refreshing, a lot of lives being transformed," Bessey says. "Everybody who comes in feels that sense of the Lord's presence."
Discipling New Converts
For Langdon, the entire experience is nothing short of a miracle. Salem Pentecostal Church is his first pastorate. Prior to taking the pulpit three years ago, he worked various jobs and volunteered in church ministries. His congregation numbers about 50, up nine members since he took the role of senior pastor.
"I'm in a small community where the population is dropping, and it is challenging," Langdon says. "We have actually been growing."
A large percentage of Newfoundland and Labrador's population claims to be Christian, but whether the people live out a vibrant faith is another story, Bessey says. Although Cottlesville is considered part of the Bible Belt of the Canadian province, there have been dry spells in experiencing the Holy Spirit, he adds.
Area churches have been like-minded and supportive of Salem Pentecostal's services. Langdon says he senses no competition or envy among local congregations. Rather, members of various churches are praying for the services, attending and furthering the work of the Holy Spirit.
"There seems to be a pretty good sense of coming together of a lot of the local pastors," Langdon says. "There are six Pentecostal churches within 25 minutes of each other here, plus many other denominations. I have been seeing people from all different places, and they've been very supportive."
Langdon says it will take more than his church to continue the transformation of lives in the New World Island community once the tangible wave of the Spirit lifts.
"The big thing for new converts is discipleship," Langdon says. "Struggles are real, and everybody needs someone to lift their arms up. You still have to deal with the flesh. Meetings like these teach people how to get into the presence of God, but for us as a church and for moving forward, we want to encourage local churches in the area to promote this unity and go forward and stay in prayer and worship and continue to preach so lives can truly be transformed.
"There's actually a different church about 25 minutes from here that has four young teen men, just out of school, who came and gave their lives to Christ here, then they went back to their church," Langdon says. "So we are then seeing this ripple effect flowing over."
Bessey sees "a lot of fires being started with the pastors and people here," he says.
The evangelist was scheduled to hold meetings in Peru in April but postponed the trip to remain in Cottlesville.
"If the Lord directs me to leave, I'll leave," Bessey says. "But the things happening here are deep enough that I believe it will be going on for some time, in some way, in some nature."
Langdon observes the commitment it takes to allow the Spirit room for revival for an extended period.
"It's hard work to hold services four times a week," Langdon says. "It's not easy work, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. This is my heart. Should the Lord tarry, we're in for another big move of God."
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