East African Revival–Looking for Sources

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The years 1901-1910 marked intense years of spiritual awakening that has been labeled a “Global Revival.” This revival sparked across the globe in Wales, Korea, India, America and East Africa. On Sept 1, in a post introducing you, the reader, to the Korean revival, Steve asked about the details of the East African Revival. Up till that time, I was clueless. I was, like many a Westerner, oblivious to the rich history of global Christianity. Even with the current focus on the Global South, see Philip Jenkins’ works The Next Christendom and The New Faces of Christianity among others, the history of Global Christianity can be easily overlooked. The problem with the history is that it was messy, full of foreign imperialism and dependency-laden national churches. Can we have an unbiased history of Global Christianity? Only time will tell.

Nonetheless, there is a story to be told. I am not going to tell that story now. Only a tidbit. I have a good African friend, a Luya from Kenya, who has a passion for his rich heritage. I leave it to him to write the story and publish it for you. He knows it better. Pray that God will allow him to follow through.

Unlike the western conception of Africa, there was a deep passion for Jesus and strong followers of Christ early in the twentieth century. For some reason, the number of Christians in Kenya alone skyrocketed from little over 10,000 to over 25% of the population in a short period of time, basically corresponding with the time period of the Welsh Revival and other Global Awakenings, though a little afterwards (1920’s and after). My friend tells me that the legacy of those awakened leaders persists in the African Church today. (See here for an article from Christianity Today.) Those early believers sent African missionaries to what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They also aided in the evangelization of southern Sudan and Ethiopia. Apparantly, the revival started in Rwanda, spread to Uganda, Kenya and beyond. But so much more information is needed.

Christianity in East Africa is deeper than what credit it is given. The addage goes–“The African Church is a mile wide, but only an inch deep.” Perhaps there is some truth to that, but the gospel is owned by the descendants of this revival so that there is great hope for the African Continent and beyond.

I only ask: Who else knows of this?
(Here’s an article from The Way Christian Ministries Website.)

If you have any resources to recommend, please respond.

If you have studied this somewhere, please share.

We need to know this history so that we may be mutually edified!! So that our misunderstandings can be corrected, so that we can learn to see our African brothers and sisters in Christ as equals.

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45 Comments

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  1. My husband and I are both very familiar with the East African Revival. We were both “revived” through two Ugandan evangelists, Festo Kivengere and William Nagenda who came to the U.S. and to Seattle, WA specifically in 1963. The story of the revival in E. Africa has been written about by H.H. Osborn from England. He has several books on it. This revival is still very much alive because Jesus Christ and the cross is the center, fellowship is key to ongoing revival. Our lives were forever changed by Jesus using these brothers and sisters from E Africa to show us the simple way of the cross. We recently attended a fellowship conference in the U.K. with several East Africans joining us – from Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania. Revival should continue, the only thing that stops it is unconfessed sin.

  2. Betty,

    Thank you so much for sharing. Praise God for what he is doing in Africa! I hope to learn more and more of the history!

  3. Hi there,

    I am studying the East African Revival at the moment (just in my spare time). There are a number of books by Joseph E. Church (Quest for the Highest, William Nagenda: a lover of Jesus, Jesus satisfies), the biography of Festo Kivengere by Anne Coomes is very helpful (she also has a bibliography at the end of the book), there are a few other sources but they are hard to get. But there are a few websites that have articles about William Nagenda, Festo Kivengere etc, some have even their sermons, either in text or as audio files.
    I will hopefully come up with something written on it, but that will take a few months, I guess. But praise the Lord for what he has done and is still doing in East Africa!!

  4. Try and find PENNY RELPH “An African Apostle – The Story Of David Ndaruhutse”

    • i would like to get a copy of “An African Apostle by Penny Relph” too.how can i get it.

  5. I have several book on East African Revival – We lived and worked in Africa for many years…..

    “Ambushed by Love” by Dorothy Smoker include deeply personal accounts of Kenyans involved in The East African Revival, Many at the cost of their lives….About period of Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya and hatred for Christians who “stood” for Christ. Delightfully written regarding Obedience via Life. Africans asked Dorothy Smoker to write this history of E A Revival – Dorothy Smoker sold her home in USA in order to raise funds to print and publish this book. That’s obedient theology.

    “Revolutionary Love” a booklet by Festo Kivengere tells his own personal story of rebirth via East African Revival and the follow through of himself and his wife as they had to leave Uganda because they were God’s.

    One other book is “Gentle Wind of God” about th East African Revival. In this book they share testimony of Dorothy Smoker and her husband becoming “Born Again” in East African Revival – Even though they were already missionaries in Tanganyika….They saw Christ in the Africans and repented themselves.

    May God bless your search and oneness with His Family in Africa – Norma Denmark

  6. All of the following books are currently available on Amazon:

    “Ambushed by Love” by Dorothy Smoker – “Revolutionary Love” by Festo Kivengere and “A Gentle Wind of God – The Influence of East Africa Revival” by Richard K McMaster and Donald Jacobs
    The average daily working African cannot afford to purchase these expensive books. This is known from experience. Another route need to be found.

    God has spoken to and changed my own life through His Work in the East African Revival….In the latter pages of “Ambushed by Love” current day testimonies are shared of God still at work among His Family in East Africa T O D A Y.

    Yet as you say so M A N Y Africans have never heard this story. We have a 50 year old Zambian friend in London, England who says he has never heard of the East African Revival. They know of Billy Graham and Dwight L Moody – But little of God at work among His People in Africa….. God has NOT failed to be involved in Africa – It just has not been published in a purchasable form. My heart longs for “God at Work in Africa” to be shared in hearable ways. – Perhaps he will use you…..Norma D

  7. The following books are currently available on Amazon:

    “Amnbushed by Love” – Dorothy Smoker
    “Revolutionary Love”- Festo Kivengers (Small Bklt)
    “A Gentle Wind of God – Influence of East Africa Revival” by Richard McMaster and Donald Jacob

    As you say – Many African Christians know of Billy Graham and Dwight L Moody – But little of God at Work among their own people. The average working African cannot afford the above books – Norma D

  8. Norma,

    Wow, Thanks so much. I haven’t check my blog in months, due to increased personal responsibilities. But I will definitely check some of those things out. Thank you so much for the references!

  9. It is amazing how God works. I am a Kenyan and I started this week researching on the East African revival. I still know some old people back home who are alive and were involved in the revival movement. there lives is a living example of what God can do in people’s lives. I am doing a research on this movement and I am beginning to hear God speak to me. We need another revival in Africa. Rain down on us O God of rain and snow.

    • Wayne D. Lawton June 7, 2009 — 13:50

      David, May God bless you and yes, your prayer is right on – revival is something that needs to happen again and again – the word re-vival implies this.

      Yesu asifiwe sana !

      Wayne D. Lawton
      Elizabethtown, PA
      Lawtonwd@gmail.com

  10. Wayne D. Lawton November 28, 2008 — 00:07

    I was saved at age 14 but knew little about how to walk as a Christian. The Lord began to reveal Himself to me through the book “The Calvary Road” by Roy Hession. This book is a compilation of teachings that came through the East Africa Revival. Later I attended meetings held by Roy & Revel Hession in the USA. Since those early days God has blest my life through many African’s and missionaries who were in East Africa and some Christians in America who were touched by the testimonies of person who had experienced more of Jesus in the East Africa Revival.
    I served on the committee which helped get the book “A Gentle Wind of God” written and published. That book tells about the influence of the East Africa Revival in America – but we were limited in funds and time to include all of the stories which might have been told.
    Jesus is still revealing Himself to me daily. As one brother from Kenya said to me “repentance is like breathing” – constantly turning to God and seeing the atonement Jesus provides for every day for every situation. He is truly a wonderful Savior!
    Someday I will see Him face to face.

    • Peter N. Munachewa June 21, 2011 — 08:20

      Dear Wayne.
      Praise be to Jesus our Redeemer. My name is Peter Ngari Munachewa. I am a sinner redeemed by the blood of Jesus and I have the great hope of inheriting eternal life. I fellowship with the East Africa Revival brethren. But most of all, I endeavour to fellowship with Jesus daily. It would be very encouraging if you were to visit Kenya. The brethren meet at St. Stephen’s Church, Jogoo Road in Nairobi, every 2nd sunday of every month. Probably you could share some of these encouraging experiences with us. Otherwise may the favour (grace) of God and the love of God and the fellowship of His Spirit be with you always. Jesus is merciful to us all who believe in Him. Thanks

      • Dear Peter, Just tonight I saw the letter you had posted to me in June of 2011 – one year ago. Thank you for responding to my testimony. I was in Kenya for 4 days in 2005 – the visit was wonderful but too short. I had the privilege of meeting with Ndugu John Gatu and other brethren. In 2006 my daughter, Ruth and her husband, Dr. Paul Stewart moved to Kenya and he taught at Daystar University. They attended the revival fellowship one
        Sunday at St. Stephen’s church – and my son-in-law said the singing was
        so wonderful. He wished there would be some way of recording it. My daughter introduced herself and her husband and their five children – and then she sat down – but a sister near the front stood up and spoke to my daughter saying “but are you saved?”. Then my daughter shared her testimony and everyone burst into singing “Tukutendereza Yesu”. I will leave my e-mail address and hope to hear from you via e-mail: Lawtonwd@gmail.com God bless you
        “Napenda mwokozi Yesu sana sana” “Nasema kiswahili kidogo, kidogo”
        Wayne

  11. As a second generation child of the east african revival, I commend you for admitting to being oblivious about the rich history of Global Christianity. The adage about Christianity in Africa being a mile wide and an inch deep could not be further from the truth… SERIOUSLY!

    I am persuaded that the global communion of believers has much to learn from the passion and evangelistic efforts – evident to this day – of a church that has continued to stoke the flames of the incredible East African Revival.

  12. Wayne D. Lawton June 7, 2009 — 13:47

    Thank you Paulo for your response – I just noticed it today. If you care to be in touch here is my email address:

    Lawtonwd@gmail.com

  13. I am so thrilled that so many people are interested about this great event that both happened and continues to live on through the lives of thousands of Africans.

    Paulo, please forgive me if I offended you with quoting what many indeed say about Africa. The more I study the history of Christianity in Africa, the more I see the falsity of that statement. Thank you for holding me accountable.

    Wayne,

    I am honored that you have shared! When I have more time to invest in this topic, and I hope to soon, I will definitely check out the books you recommend and I will contact you soon. Thank you very much!

  14. I am an a Kenyan pastor and the Lord have been impressing on me to seek an understanding of t he East African revival and thank God for the material I have found on your site.

    Please keep me posted on any further findings.

  15. Just wanted everyone to know that CLC Publications has Many great Hession books as well as Ambused by Love by Dorothy Smoker. http://WWW.clcpublications.com. CLC Ministries Int. also have a cash and carry warehouse in Kenya to service Africa with affordable books. CLC USA has a program for taking donations of used Christian books to be sent to places where the people can’t afford to buy them at western prices. You can read about it at http://www.clcusa.org.

  16. Joel Ombati Nyamweya July 14, 2009 — 11:52

    Thanks for the research you are doing about the East African Revival Fellowship in which I belong since December 17th 1988 while I was a young boy. I am currently in leadership of the fellowship and I am able to get alot of Material from a few of the Revival brethren in Kenya who have a rich history. If I can get financing I can get in touch with them and get a long history and progress of the revival fellowship.
    However I want to note that the Revival fellowship we are talking about rejected the differences in Denominations and took keen interest to repentence and always seeing yourself as sinful than others.
    I am a Kenyan man aged 32 years and a member of the Seventhy Day adventist church (a leader) and would like to tell more of the influence of Revival fellowship to the SDA church. This information I can easily gather by using a participatory approach.

    Do not hestate to involve me in your research.

    Regards

  17. Brothers! I am honored by your continued love for Jesus in light of this revival. I just finished reading “A Gentle Wind of God” and have a stack of books to read. I would love your feedback and participation!!!

    whandy@sebts.edu

  18. Samuel Waweru March 31, 2010 — 06:31

    I was born to some of the early converts in the movement and is very interested in interacting with believers who like myself believe that this Revival maybe the hope for true obedience to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    • Samuel,

      Its an honor to interact with you. If I may ask, can you share some stories you may know? That would be a blessing to us all!

      Also, I have written a couple of more posts on this topic. I would love any feedback you may be able to provide!

  19. Praise God. It is encouraging to read how commited brothers and sisters in christ before us fearlessly spread the gospel of repentance in a practical way. ‘The gentle wind of God’ changed and continues to change many lives today. The challenge we have is how to keep this spiritual wind blowing, not only in east africa but to the whole world that is slowly drifting from God. let’s all who know the light join hands to keep the wind blowing by emulating our mentors.
    I Pray that you succeed in your research.

    • Sammy,

      Praise God for faithful men who went before us! Thank you for your prayers!

      I have, since the original post, read much more on the subject, especially about Festo Kivengere. Festo is one of my heros!

      May God Bless you!

      -Wes

  20. These posts are very exciting to me.

    I’m preparing a presentation to a Centurions Regional Gathering (ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministry in the US to raise up Christian apologists) called “African Explosion.”

    The posts of my Christian brothers and sisters here are invaluable.

    Praise be to God!

  21. I worked in Uganda from 1963 – 1968 and had close contact with some of the revival brethren. One of them worked at the school at which I taught and he was one of the most consistent Christians I have ever met. On our first meeting he was building a house and I commented favourably on the construction. His immediate reply, “I never do anything without asking Jesus to help me”. God willing my wife and I will be returning to Uganda in February as I have been asked to give some help with the setting up of a Christian Technical/Craft Training Centre. We go expecting to learn much from our Ugandan brothers and sisters.
    As I am now a Mzee I knew personally some of the leaders of the revival. May the Lord bless us with continuing revival.

    Roy Godber

    • Roy,

      Thank you so much for your reply. Praise God for His continued work in African’s and non-Africans through this revival!

      Blessings to your ministry!

      With love and respect,

      -Wes

  22. HI guys,
    I came upon this website whilst searching the internet for online sermons of the east African Revival Fellowship. I saw Bettys comment at the top, and although she didn’t leave her surname, I recognised her by her comments! I also know Wayne Lawton – and we all know each other through the east African Revival. Anyway, what I want to say is that you can hear online sermons of Roy Hession at http://www.sermonindex.net , then go to “audio sermons” and choose Roy Hession. At the moment, a few friends of mine are putting sermons online (of people like John Collinson) from the holiday conferences run by Roy Hession.
    Andy

  23. Hello amazing people, this is great I’m doing an assignment on the east african revival and was wondering if anyone has any source for stories, especially miracles and signs and wonders that happened in the revival?

    • Ian,

      See some of my other posts on this topic, resources will be listed in the notes at the bottom. Click on the menu at the top under Revival, then click East Africa. This should show you all my posts on this subject.

      -Wes

  24. It was 65 years ago when Roy Hession set up a conference in Matlock (England) and invited some of the brethren (including Lawrence Barham, Bill Butler, Peter Guilebaud – I don’t think that Joe Church could make it that first time) from the East African Revival. One of those who came along out of interest was John Collinson. Some years later he wrote a short passage on brokenness (which can be found in Roy’s Book “When I Saw Him), which I think is most helpful.

    • Andy,

      Thank you so much for sharing this story and the resource!

      -Wes

      • After many years absence my wife and I returned to Uganda in February to help with the start-up of a Christian Vocational School and do some preaching. What a thrill it was to visit a number of churches in the Bugwere tribe and witness their love and joy in the Lord. We certainly saw much evidence of the spirit which characterised the revival. Time was spent with our friend Tom Houston and he recently told of visiting with two nonagenarians. One of them was involved in the violence connected with the May Mau movement in the 50s. A group of them went to the home of an evangelist associated with Festo Kivengere and the revival. They intended to kill the evangelist but this dear man of God prayed and the Mau Mau said that as he prayed such a warmth came over him. He became a believer and at the age of 90 he is still a fervent follower of the Lord. This is just one example from many of the fruits of the revival.

      • Wayne DeFrance Lawton October 12, 2012 — 11:03

        Wes, It just occurred to me that I have a Rwandan friend: Thaddee Ntihinyuzwa in Strasbourg FRANCE who told me that he wrote his doctoral dissertation on the East Africa Revival but it is in French – and even though my middle name is DeFrance – I don’t know French. I have hoped that someday it would be translated into English so I could read it. I think Thaddee would be interested in your site – so I will introduce him to it – and hope we can hear more from him.

        • Wayne, my brother, thank you for keeping up with this post and the dear African brothers who share their stories here. I would love to interact with our brother who has researched the revival.

  25. Rev. Dr. Solomon Nkesiga: Kampala, Uganda May 29, 2012 — 05:54

    My name is Solomon Nkesiga and chronologically I should be a 3rd generation of the East African Revival. But my parents, Israel and Barbara Basabose were among the early Revival personalities having been saved in 1941 (father) 1939 (mother) They both lived in Kabale (kigezi) the second home of the East African Revival after gahini in Rwanda. I too came to faith in Jesus Christ and offered my life to him as my personal saviour and Lord. Dates: April 13,1968, TI had challenges of consistence of faith in the earlier years because of being young. I did not give testimonies and felowship regularly and slowly sin had crept back into my life. However, the spirit of God was with me in spite of my failures. In 1979 while a member of the scripture Union executive and i had improved a lot on my bible reading and this revived my love and joy in Christ which I had missed for some years. So in 1979 I was revived and since then I have not looked back. Challenges come but I am hidden in Christ. I stand firm ont of my own but because of Christ in me. he is my righteousness. Now I know that this message of the revival is not just for the East Africans of the old times. it is for all who seek to know Christ and desire to serve him in a changing world which needs Christ who is the same yesterday today and forever. I am now a preacher, teacher and researcher on the impact of East African Revival awith a view to find the remedy to current liberalism in the christin faith expressions. Tumutendereza Yesu!

    • Wayne DeFrance Lawton October 12, 2012 — 10:36

      Thank you, Solomon, for this testimony. Just this past Sunday we enjoyed having Bishop William Rukirande (retired) and his wife, Winnie Kebirungi Rukirande, from Kabale, Uganda speak in our church – and stay in our home. They had come for the quarterly meeting of the Revival Fellowship which meets in Lancaster, Pennsylvania – and they shared their testimonies there also. I appreciated your statement that “this message of the revival is not just for the East Africans of the old times, it is for all who seek to know Christ and desire to serve him in a changing world which needs Christ who is the same, yesterday, today and forever”. May the Lord bless you as you witness His love for yourself and share it with those around you. Tukutendereza Yesu ! (Praise Jesus !) He is worthy of our praise !!!

  26. I notice elsewhere on your website you mention one of H.H. Osbourn’s books (Pioneers of the East African Revival). Another of Burt’s books is:
    Revival God’s Spotlight – The significance of Revivals and why they cease, (1996), Highland Books, Godalming, Surrey, UK.

    Glad to see you have a link to Don Jacob’s blog on this website as well.

    Andy

  27. Humphreys Geoffrey Egessah October 8, 2012 — 07:05

    Am impressed with the information about E.A.R.F and how those early brethren s who received this salvation by grace maintained it and passed the same mantle to those who followed later some of us got it. May almighty God richly reward them. Humphrey s Geoffrey Egessah is my name, from Naivasha in the region of Rift Valley – Central Rift Fellowship to be precise. I got saved in the year 2003, Sept, 9th. when the Lord spoke to me in the Book of Jer. Chapter 40: vs 4. I repented my sins and the Lord forgave me. I walk in light through regular repentance as am not pure but a sinner. I encourage others who understand this fellowship to keep on sharing some good stuff so that we continue appreciating the good of our Father. Tukutendereza.

    • Wayne DeFrance Lawton October 12, 2012 — 10:26

      Dear Humphreys, Your testimony has been a blessing to hear. I praise God that you repented of your sins and experienced the new birth in September of 2003. I was saved at the age of 14 in my home church. An older minister said to me then “Son, confess your sins”. My thought was “there is not time – we will be here all night if I confess all of my sins”. But I decided to obey this command and as I was seeing Jesus dying on the cross for my sins, I confessed one sin – and to my surprise the Holy Spirit came in and saved me and gave me peace. The load of guilt was lifted. Now, how do I continue
      -that was a problem. I expected that I wouldn’t sin again – but I did. Too proud to quickly confess that sin and not understanding the ways of the Holy Spirit I wasted time in guilt and saw myself as a backslider. Later, at another meeting I went forward and repented and experienced the same grace. But when I sinned again – I became discouraged – thinking that I should never sin again. It was several years later that I met persons who had been touched by the revival in East Africa – and their message was simply ‘daily repentance and daily faith – looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith’. They not only taught this they lived this. William Nagenda and Festo Kivengere from Uganda spent time in our home. And people who had been touched by the message of the revival in East Africa became mentors to me. Many brethren – both men and women – came from East Africa as visitors in our home. Their testimony and example of walking in the light daily – repenting of sins of the spirit helped me to discover Jesus in a fresh and living way. I rejoice to hear you say “I walk in light through regular repentance as am not pure but a sinner”. This is a testimony of true sanctification and I thank you for sharing it. My wife and I also sing “Tukutendereza Yesu” – the revival song of East Africa.

    • Praise the lord my brother! Thank you so much for sharing your testimony and testifying of God’s glorious grace through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  28. otampican Patrick March 26, 2013 — 10:57

    My Dear Praise the Lord Jesus! I got saved when I was 9years .I fellowship with chosen Evangelical Revival Church (C. E. R. ) I am a Ugandan and Acholi by tribe now 25 years .This revival was led by Yusto Otunnu from 1947to 1998.Yusto’s real christian vacation begun after hearing a sermon by a muganda medical doctor an evangelist,Dr Elia Lubulwa, on september,29, 1947.Lubulwa was one of first converts of the East African Revival movement in 1940s.the revival is being led Rev. Archbishop Onespuro Ludolo with over 20milion belivers across the country
    I would have given detailed history and testimonies of the revival (CER), “Balokole” saved ones but due to financial constrain I will not be able to.therefore for more information this is my email address
    otampican@gmail.com
    I really appreciate the struggle and pray for God’s blessing upon you
    thanks I love to share with you more

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