By: Kirstina Bolton
Revival is a loaded word. By definition, it means to bring something back to life. When we hear the word “revival” in Christian communities, it can come with many different connotations. For some, it is a movement of individuals committing or recommitting their lives to God. For others, it is an outpouring of healing or it represents miracles. Others think it is a hoax and a non-theological approach to Christianity.
Whether a “revival” is accepted by all or not, people have prayed for students’ lives to be completely committed to God since the beginning of Azusa Pacific University. Because of people like this, a vein of prayer runs through the spirit of “revival.” Today, there are places on and around campus that reflect the meaning of revival by actively seeking to see students’ lives transformed for God’s purpose through the power of prayer.
“To revive something means something had to have ‘vived’ in the first place,” said Rick MacDonald, Azusa Pacific alumnus.
Rick and his wife, Janet, attended Azusa Pacific in 1970 when it was Azusa Pacific College. Janet graduated in 1974. They married and eventually worked in ministry at FourSquare Church in Azusa. During this time, Rick met with a pastor who decided to leave Azusa.
“He said something to me, which I allowed to get in my heart. He said, ‘You’re too good for Azusa,’” Rick said. “It really allowed me to affect how I saw the city and ministry.”
The two began to seek ministry in other places, but eventually settled back in Azusa where they have established themselves in the community. In response, they have truly seen a change in the city through their prayers.
“Azusa was called the armpit of the San Gabriel Valley,” Janet said. “No one would stay in Azusa after they graduated but what was once the armpit of San Gabriel valley is now the gem.”
In March of 2005, the couple opened the Azusa House of Prayer. It is located in the back of a small dance studio at 605 N. Azusa Avenue. When the dance classes are over, the prayer group shuffles in and prays over different topics throughout the week. The Azusa House of Prayer has been to many Ministry and Service fairs on campus, but hardly any APU students attend these prayer groups.
“For five years, we’ve just been praying and waiting for God to bring His young people,” Rick said.
Another prayer group, who met on Friday nights in another storefront a block away, suddenly needed to relocate in November to pray due to the store’s property issues.
“When they ended up with no place to meet on Friday nights, they came rushing down to our place and had no idea there was a House of Prayer,” Janet said. “We had no idea they were praying right up the street from us.”
This prayer group consisted largely of APU students who have been praying on and off campus for a spiritual revival.
Bob McCorkle, senior coordinator of marketing and publishing for Mexico Outreach, had started a small prayer group and Bible study at APU. He has always had a burden for freedom in prayer on campus. After graduating from APU in 1986, McCorkle left to be a missionary in Costa Rica. He returned to APU with his wife to work in the Mexico Outreach office in 1995.
“We could see the blessing of God at APU, but we had a burden for freedom to walk and pray and not be embarrassed to pray for anyone on campus,” McCorkle said.
McCorkle left APU with his family in 2000 to focus on planting a church, but returned in 2007.
“For me, it was a concern that our office [Mexico Outreach] was a little too distant from the students and we were having a hard time getting students to get connected with our office,” McCorkle said.
Feeling the disconnection, he and his family started a prayer group and Bible study for students in the fall of 2008. A group of two students soon grew to fifteen over the course of a semester. Even more remarkable is the group’s dynamics.
“This group started growing, but they also started staying longer and longer. I couldn’t believe that a college student would want to pray for five hours,” McCorkle said.
The small prayer group grew rapidly and developed a greater desire to pray.
“I watched the students, on their own initiative, say ‘we want Biola to have a prayer movement.’ They ended up meeting with students from Biola,” McCorkle said. “Biola came to pray with APU students, and later APU students went to pray at Biola. Again, these are things I’ve never seen before or heard of.”
Bre Williams, who is now an APU graduate, was part of this prayer group and Bible study during her undergraduate years. Her vision to see prayer become a movement toward Christ motivated her and one other student to start a prayer group before Kaleo chapel.
“My friend and I prayed every Wednesday night for a year before Kaleo,” Williams said. “We started out as two. There were weeks where we had four, and weeks where we had over 50.”
The group’s passion for prayer and their encouragement for other students to pray was just the beginning to what they saw as the beginning of a revival.
Today, there are prayer groups who meet all around APU. From D groups to student-led prayer groups off campus, these are just glimpses of what is happening on APU’s campus and in Azusa.
A group of nearly 15 students from International House of Prayer, a mission base in Kansas City focusing specifically on God’s power through prayer, stayed in Azusa and prayed over the city and APU from Nov. 5-10.
“We brought four buses filled with 280 students and we have been fasting and praying for California,” said Telma Loux, an International House of Prayer student.
The groups split to meet with other groups of prayer in cities like San Diego, Laguna Hills, Malibu and Pasadena before going to the Luke18 Project Fight! Conference and Student Call in Los Angeles from Nov. 11-13. These conferences focused on fasting and praying for a radical movement within young adults in order to advance the Kingdom of God.
“Since we’ve been here, we’ve been working with the Azusa House of Prayer and we led worship there and just prayed there for APU students,” Madison Douglas said, another International House of Prayer student.
Some of their prayers have been focused on the healing of Azusa residents and APU students.
“We’ve been praying on APU’s campus and around the whole city because we have been feeling that Lord is digging back the walls of revival and healing over Azusa,” Loux said.
Like every movement, particularly revival, the student response at APU will vary.
“I think you’ll get a little bit of everything,” senior nursing major Emily Brooks said.
Brooks meets with other students to pray over the campus.
“I think there will be people here who will hate the idea and those who will out rightly talk about it,” Brooks said. “I think there will be a lot of fear because sometimes the word ‘revival’ comes with a lot of negative connotations and I understand that, but it’s about the heart.”
To many students, faculty, and staff who have been praying for a change to come on APU, there is a sense of what should and should not be allowed.
“We’re not here to cause a ruckus, and we’re not here to go against APU because I’m grateful for APU,” Williams said. “I’m grateful for chapel, I’m grateful that we have people in leadership that contend for us and who truly seek after us, but that’s not to say that there can’t be more. That’s not to say that God doesn’t want to move in different ways.”
So what starts a revival?
“I think revival first of all begins with people who know Christ, but live a compromised life,” Rick MacDonald said.
Williams also agrees with Rick, stating, “It’s just so easy for us to get caught up and say ‘Well, I go to chapel three times a week.’”
McCorkle, who meets with others at the Azusa House of Prayer, says it is at least a prayer movement, where he is seeing students pray like he has never seen before.
It is obvious that revival is largely built on the groundwork of prayer. To contend that this is nothing new would eliminate all the prayers for the opposite.
“I really believe the Lord has shown me that what is coming will mark the history of APU. People will look back at that like a historical event and it will be remembered as something that Jesus did,” McCorkle said.