An American missionary and his Guatemalan wife have been praying daily in a little used chapel for the past 14 years for a revival of Christianity in Wales.
Through a series of extraordinary visions and confirmations, Dick and Gladys Funnell became convinced that God was going to revisit the principality in great power, as He had done in the past. And their role was simply to pray.
After seeking truth in the popular counterculture of the late 60s, Dick was radically converted during the Jesus Movement in 1973 at a large Christian commune in northern California.
He met his wife during his time as relief worker for the devastating earthquake that claimed the lives of nearly 35 000 people in Guatemala in 1976.
And what began as a practical expression of God’s love morphed into a group of mission-minded churches reaching out into other Latin American nations. The couple eventually moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, where they continued to reach out to the large Hispanic population there.
Then, 20 years ago, they made their first visit to Wales to work on a small farm acquired by an ex-colleague in Felinwynt.
Dick was overcome by grief and sorrow at seeing the numerous chapels dotting the countryside – unused and lifeless – many of which were relics of the great Welsh Revival of 1904.
“My heart was broken at how the glorious fruit of revival only a hundred years earlier had gradually been supplanted by tradition and structure, leaving the chapels sterile and dying,” he said.
On passing a place where ancient hedgerows crossed, he recalled: “The Lord began to impress on me the need for the church, in general, to return to the old boundary markers, to get back to the basic simplicity of the Gospel.”
Jeremiah picked up on this theme when he wrote: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’” –Jer 6.16)
And: “My people have forgotten me…they burn incense to worthless idols, which made them stumble in their ways and in the ancient paths. They made them walk in bypaths and on roads not built up.” — Jer 18.15
Dick was particularly drawn to Capel Cilfowyr, a 500-seater stone chapel in Pembrokeshire now only hosting a monthly service for a congregation of 15, and when the sun broke through the clouds to shine on the building like a spotlight, he wept as he felt God saying he was going to bring revival to Wales once again. He was then given a vision of this being repeated throughout the hills and valleys of the principality.
“The light of God’s glory was once again bursting upon the sleeping villages and farms, bringing the knowledge and fear of the Lord, and I could see it spilling over into England, the rest of the UK and even into the stone-cold heart of Europe itself.”
On his return to the area three years later, he had a wonderful experience of God’s amazing love, yearning that those around him should share it, but he wept once more as he realised they did not even acknowledge His existence.
How was this possible when God had moved so powerfully among them just a few generations earlier? But he sensed God had a love for them far exceeding his own and asked if there was something he could do to help. The Lord pointed him to the chapel he had shown him on his last visit, saying: “I want you to go and pray there every day, and I will bring revival again to this land.”
He discovered, to his surprise, that they were already improving the road to the chapel – even widening it as if to make space for parked cars. And a magnificent rainbow formed out of a mostly clear blue sky as if to confirm his calling to pray for a glorious future there.
They were given a key to the chapel and, through an aunt’s legacy, were able to afford to move there from the United States, which they duly did in May 2005.
“It became clear that our part was just to be there and pray, and be obedient to his leading. Exactly how and when these things were to take place was not our concern – the Lord would make everything come to pass in his time.” (Ecclesiastes 3.11)
“Our primary calling and focus is spending time in prayer every day in Cilfowyr, a Welsh Baptist chapel about two miles from our home originally founded in a farmhouse in the 1680s.
“The charge we received from the Lord is to stand in the gap for this small nation and pray for another outpouring of his Spirit. Besides our times of prayer and intercession, we also focus much on praise and worship, both of us being musicians. And friends come and join us from time to time. In fact, we’ve had the privilege of praying here with people from over 40 nations.
“Our chapel’s monthly meeting enables us to visit other congregations in the area where we regularly fellowship, befriend and encourage. There is a rising anticipation of this coming move of God, and we are glad to play a small part in the Wales awakening!”
As the 1904 revival had a direct bearing on the Azusa Street, Los Angeles, and Sunderland, England, outpourings which marked the beginnings of the modern Pentecostal Movement, along with proving a great inspiration to missions around the world, so any future revival here is expected to produce a similar channel of blessing for other nations.