COTTLESVILLE, NL – With reported healings and overflowing crowds of church-goers, locals say a religious revival is underway in the small outport of Cottlesville and beyond.
It is the third consecutive year travelling evangelist Velmer Bessey has journeyed from Corner Brook to Cottlesville’s Salem Pentecostal Church. What was supposed to be one week of service has expanded to a five-week-long effort with increasing attendance, passion and belief.
Pastor Cory Langdon says the church’s average service of 50 church-goers has now extended to over 200 people on some nights, with some services going as late at 1:30 a.m. He says the excitement and coming together of communities sparked by Bessey’s work is something he’s never seen before.
“This has been something else,” Langdon said. “It’s absolutely amazing, that’s the best word to use.
“Every week it’s been getting deeper and we’re seeing different and intense things happen. There’s a real powerful sense of God’s presence.”
Vehicles have piled in and backed up the town roads with people travelling from across the Notre Dame Bay area and as far as Gander and Mount Pearl to join in with the small New World Island community. Langdon says so far 13 people have walked to the altar and been saved, eight baptisms have occurred and at least four healings were recorded by people who suffered anxiety, depression and physical ailments.
A prayer fulfilled
Bessey retired as pastor from his church in Corner Brook five years ago and has since been working as a travelling evangelist. In those years he has travelled across Newfoundland and Labrador, west to Alberta, and globally to Peru and Africa.
With recent events unfolding in Cottlesville, Bessey says God has answered a prayer that’s been stirring in his heart for some time.
“There’s been a deep sense of desire of being in place for an extended period other than the week I was scheduled,” Bessey said. “I felt that’s what the Lord was speaking to me, and everywhere I went I keep thinking, ‘Is this going to be the place?’”
While Bessey has extended his one-week schedule on an evangelist mission before, this is the first time it has gone longer than a second week.
As his work began in Cottlesville in January, both Bessey and Langdon say they felt a major breakthrough was on the way.
“Within the first week there were people getting saved and healed,” said Bessey. “No night do we have the same crowd – almost every service there’s new people coming in.”
Angus Wheeler of Virgin Arm heard about Bessey’s services through word of mouth. He came down to the Salem Pentecostal Church during Bessey’s second week and has not missed a service since.
On Feb. 9, Wheeler says he was overcome with a need to walk to the altar and profess his faith.
“I felt this heavy conviction throughout the day and before that,” Wheeler recalled. “On that night I had only one option. There was no way I could get up and walk out of the church that night without going to the altar and being saved.”
In the weeks since, Wheeler says the change in his life has been astounding.
“I smoked for 21 years. I never thought I would be able to sit in truck without a smoke and my cup of coffee, but now there’s not even a craving,” Wheeler said. “It’s been a drastic change for me. God delivered me from the lifestyle I was used to and put it far away from me.”
‘We’ll keep going’
For now the services will be taken week by week and there is no definitive date set for when Bessey will travel on from the area. He says it’s been an exhausting few weeks, but to see the changes happening amongst people in the community has been rewarding and encouraging.
“It’s wonderful seeing people’s lives transformed,” he said. “As long as people keep coming and God keeps giving us strength, we’ll keep going.”
Through shared videos on social media, news of the happenings in Cottlesville has extended across the island. Langdon says he has heard word from people in Halifax and on the mainland wanting to know more.
With the rising strife seen around the world and the province’s own economic uncertainties, Langdon says the services have had a powerful and uplifting effect on community members. He sees the events of the past few weeks at his church as a true revival.
“People are hungry for God, that’s what we’re seeing,” Langdon said. “And as a pastor and born-again Christian I got to give God all the glory.”