“Revive Us, O Lord”

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by Colonel Bill. D. Luttrell –

Perched on the western shore of Prince of Wales Island, at the base of matchless mountains of verdant forests and fed by pristine lakes and a river, lies the picturesque village of Klawock, Alaska. Accessible by small plane or ferry, this corner of God’s creation is a virtual heavenly garden spot on earth.

Prominent in this village of 792 is the Salvation Army corps. Opened in 1906 by William Benson, the Army for many years was the only church in the village, and it provided a great resource for the spiritual development of the Tlingit and Haida families. Ultimately the village population proved too small to support a Salvation Army corps, and it was closed in 1981. There remained a “spark of hope,” however, among the Salvationists that someday the Army would return! In 1997, the “spark of hope” burst into a flame of promise as the Army appointed Captain Lonnie Upshaw, a young woman officer, to re-open the work in Klawock.

In March 1999, the first Alaska Congress since the corps closed brought fresh waves of enthusiastic, singing, expectant Salvationists to swell the hearts of the inhabitants of the village with a prayer, “Revive us again, O Lord.” Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian native Salvationists joined with other delegates and people from the village to share in days of encouragement, blessings, revival, and fellowship.

In the book Rivers of Revival, Neil T. Anderson and Elmer L. Towns state, “We can’t set anybody free. Jesus sets us free. Neither can we lend anybody to Christ. Jesus said, ‘No one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.’ (John 6:44) We can’t orchestrate our own growth in Christ without Christ, but we will play a critical part in God’s redemptive plan. God has committed himself to work through the Church, and nothing will interfere with that plan more than our own self-sufficiency.”

It was therefore very uplifting to see “self-sufficiency” set aside and the freedom of the Holy Spirit at work in the individual lives of people who knelt in prayer–prayers of recommitment, as men and women vowed to God renewed willingness for him to direct their lives; prayers of confession, as one man exemplified in seeking forgiveness for sin and petitioning the Holy Spirit for power to live a God-honoring life. He has been successful in business, politics, and community involvement, but he had allowed his relationship to Christ Jesus and his corps involvement to fall away. “Revive me, O Lord” was his plea, and again God did not ignore his prayer.

In a call for service, more than 30 individuals responded with a willingness to do more in providing leadership in their corps ministry.

Revival moved from individual to individual as self gave way to God’s will and power.

Marches, open-airs, group meetings, dinners, and public meetings all provided opportunities for singing (the Alaskans love to sing old-time Army choruses), testifying (there is no waiting for “who will be next”) and praying at the altar.

Native culture and heritage are an important part of an Alaskan Congress. The corps sergeant-majors have been a significant aspect of the history of the spiritual development of the Salvationists. Names of great leaders like CSM Tommy Jackson, Field Captain William Benson, Field Adjutant Charles Newton, Captain Chester Worthington, CSM Pete Johnson, and Bandmaster Walter Williams are some of the saints whose memory continues to bring courage and inspiration to the modern-day warriors of Salvation.

Irene Peratrovich, Rachel James, Charlene Wolfe, Frank and Joanna Woods, and Rudy Smith are descendants of the early day pioneers of the Army in Klawock. Charlene commented with regard to the Congress, “The Army allows us to enjoy our cultural traditions and share them in meaningful ways. The Congress meetings are like old times,” stated Frank Wood. The corps officer shared, “The Congress has brought revival to the community.”

And so, today, the “flame” of Salvation burns brighter in hearts of men, women and children who shared in the Congress experience. The result of revival provides new opportunity of evangelism and service as delegates return to their own villages. And Klawock–it continues to bask in the glory of God’s presence in their midst.

We must join our Alaskan Salvationists in their petition–“Revive us, O Lord!”

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