St Thomas High School in Gelvandale, Port Elizabeth has been transformed by a move of God over the past two months during which hundreds of learners have committed their lives to Jesus Christ and a number of miracles have been reported.
The revival began at a school assembly on Monday, March 5 when about 500 learners put up their hands when former St Thomas learner, Shannon-Leigh Barry, 25, asked for a response from anybody who wanted to know the Jesus that she had been speaking about. Shannon-Leigh was leading the assembly at the invitation of her father, Mark Barry, a teacher at the leading Northern Areas school which has more than 1 000 learners.
Since the March 5 assembly, several hundred more learners had turned to Jesus, and there were regular manifestations of spiritual gifts such as healings, prophecy and speaking in tongues at the ongoing revival meetings at the school during breaks and after school, said Shannon-Leigh in an interview yesterday.
She said that God had been working radically in her life over the past three years. At a Jesus Culture conference in Johannesburg, just days before she addressed the school assembly, she had yielded to a call by God to be totally obedient to His promptings. She went to the conference with the Word Of Faith Christian Centre worship team, of which she is a member.
“That conference sparked everything. I now understand that the gifts of the Spirit are free and are there to be imparted, and that a whole generation is only going to change once all these things are activated and we become mobilised,” she said.
At the time that her father invited her to speak at the St Thomas assembly, the morale at the school was low following extensive negative media reports featuring the involvement of a learner from the school in a cellphone sex video.
“I had spoken at an assembly at the school before,” said Shannon-Leigh. “But this time I had an expectancy and I believed that God had called me to speak purpose and destiny and life into the school.”
She said that after she had shared her testimony she told the assembled learners and teachers that for the first time she felt brave enough to make an altar call.
“I asked them: ‘Would you like to know this Jesus who I speak about, because He is the one who turned my situation around? ‘
“I just saw all these hands go up and you can hear me over the mike saying WOW!”
Shannon-Leigh said that after she prayed a prayer of salvation with around 500 learners she heard God say to her: “Now show them what purpose and destiny is — prophesy!”
She said she protested to God that she felt that she was “just a baby” and “not mature enough”.
“But God said: ‘Just Go. Speak. I am with you’ “
And so she obeyed. In one of four prophetic encounters, she called out a Grade 9 boy, saying:” Morne, would you please stand.” She said people around the boy called out that his name was Muneer. But God told her to carry on speaking. Later she learnt that the boy’s original name — the name which was on his birth certificate — was Morne. When he was in Grade 4 he had converted to Islam and his name became Muneer. Her words had impacted him because it showed that God knew him by name. Since then the boy had testified that Christ has now changed his life.
After the assembly she met with three St Thomas teachers, deputy principal Tommy Faltuin, Warren Campodonico and her father, Mark Barry, who lead United In Christ (UIC), an interdenominational Christian movement, at the school. They were amazed and encouraged by what had happened and invited her to continue working with the children at UIC meetings outside of class times. She said she believed that the revival was a dream come true for Campodonico who had faithfully headed up UIC at St Thomas for more than a decade.
She said she was still holding a number of meetings at the school every week and that the salvations, and signs and wonders were continuing. They had also invited parents and youth pastors from various churches to join the children at a Christian rally at the school on the last day of the previous term. Many learners were now speaking and singing in tongues, and a number were prophesying and learning spiritual dancing. She said that the low morale that had weighed down the staff and learners had “completely lifted”.
Even a Muslim teacher, an aunt of hers, said she had to support what was happening at the school because she had seen pupils changing for the better right in front of her eyes.
Shannon-Leigh described several healing testimonies from the revival. At the initial assembly, a young Christian girl came forward and asked her to pray for her unbelieving brother who had cancer. The next day the brother went for medical tests and was amazed to learn that all trace of the cancer was gone, she said.
In another healing account she told of a boy who asked her to pray for his sister who had HIV. They prayed together, and now, six weeks later, test results show that the sister is free of HIV. The day after she heard she was healed of HIV she got news that she had a job and was now working in Cape Town.
Shannon-Leigh also said she had prayed for a boy who had an eczema rash over much of his body. After four days his skin was clear, to the amazement of classmates who used to tease him about his appearance. She said the boy was now full of hope.
As Shannon-Leigh has found more and more of her time taken up by her newfound “revivalist” ministry, she has recently resigned from her counter job at a car hire company. Through a pastor who heard her testimony at the Jesus Culture conference she is being flown to Cape Town to minister to a school there. Next week she will be ministering at two youth conferences in Nelson Mandela Bay.
Regarding her continuing involvement at St Thomas, she said she wanted to raise 40 leaders among the children at the school. “My vision is not to take kids out of their existing churches but to develop them as leaders who will make an impact in their churches. I want to grow them and establish them in God so that by the time they reach matric they will be ready to impact universities, the youth environment and their families.”
She said: “The teachers in the UIC play a big role in imparting to the kids knowledge of the Word and discipleship. I also honour Pastor Denver Marks from Word of Faith Centre and Pastor Shaun Baron from the Schauder Baptist Church who have toiled the soil of St Thomas High and worked extensively at the High school previously, as well as teams from different churches who come and do schools ministry. “
She said that in her ministry at St Thomas she was fully accountable to her church.
“I am just an ordinary girl doing extraordinary things because of Christ Jesus in me. I give Him all the Glory. When you love someone you do anything to please them and make them happy. This is why I do what I do because of the love I have for Christ. That makes it so easy to show the love of God because He first loved us. “