Revival group holds 70-year reunion

By Anna Flagg

Participants in the 1940s Youth for Christ Revival are still as passionate about sharing the gospel today as they were 70 years ago, and they are praying for God to start a new revival with today’s generation.

The revivalists gathered Sunday, for what might have been their last time, for a service in George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

The men and women who became friends and preachers in their 20s came together as 80- and 90-year-old men and women to celebrate not only what God did in the past, but what he is doing presently and will do in the future.

In honor of what the group is trying to accomplish, Waco Mayor Jim Bush proclaimed Nov. 6 Youth Revival Day.

In 1945, before school began, students prayed together at a retreat for a spiritual revival on Baylor’s campus. These prayers were answered and an the movement happened across Baylor’s campus. Through several student leaders adamant about sharing Christ, several hundred students were gathered and marched from downtown Waco to campus with a sign that read “Youth for Revival.”

Soon the student leaders were getting requests to lead revivals elsewhere. The movement swept the South in the 1940s and 1950s and Wood estimates that thousands of young people accepted Christ.

John Wood, chairman of the youth revival reunion committee, was a product of the youth revival. While in high school, he shared his testimony at a revival in Fort Worth.

“I began to realize I would never be happy or fulfilled doing anything other than sharing my faith,” Wood said.

When he came to Baylor in 1949, Wood became part of the second wave of revivals and traveled all over the South preaching the Gospel both during school and after he graduated. A lot of the traveling took place in the summer.

“What’s happening today and what’s happening then, all of those things are part of the same ball of wax,” Wood said.

Much like Wood, Ann Dudley, a 1954 Baylor graduate, took part in the revivals after the men from Baylor preached in her town of Port Arthur when she was in high school. From then on, she knew she wanted to go to Baylor and become involved in the revivals. Now, at 80 years old and after a career in the mission field, Dudley said she has been given a new mission assignment.

Dudley lives off campus and is known by students as Momma Anne in the ministries she is involved in. Some of her ministries include Missionary Kids Club and Prayer Partners for Japan.

“All these years later, to be involved with students again is something I dreamed about when I was still in high school,” Dudley said. “They are a real positive aspect of my life and I feel quite honored. I know this is exactly where I am supposed to be.”

One of the ministries Dudley helps with is Vertical Ministries, a non-denominational, student-led ministry that seeks to pursue an authentic relationship with Christ.

Vertical brings the college community together one night a week to worship together.

Dudley has been a bridge between Vertical and the 1940s revivals.

When 2010 Baylor graduate Carter Hopkins brought up the idea about Vertical in the summer of 2009 to a fellow senior at the time Bo Weathersbee, he was excited to create more community at Baylor.

When Weathersbee sat in Chapel freshman year and heard men speak about the revivals, he said he was both inspired and motivated that college students could do something huge.

“My wheels started to spin on how I could do something like that, and throughout college, this idea of doing something big was always in the back of my mind,” Weathersbee said. “I was pumped when Carter started talking to me about Vertical.”

Vertical used the saying “I’d rather have Jesus” just like the words used on the youth revival’s banners from the 1940s.

Now in its third year, Vertical is just one of the many ministries on Baylor’s campus that helps keep the spark going.

“It is amazing being part of something that has been going on at Baylor’s campus for over 70 years,” Weathersbee said. “The work that Vertical has done is just a small piece of a much bigger story that has been going on since the 1940s and how we have gotten a chance to play a part in that story.”