You might remember the Sunday School lesson from the Old Testament about a boy named Samuel (I Samuel 3:1-13). God interrupted the young lad’s sleep three times in one night before Samuel was made to realize that God wanted to reveal something astounding to him.
Major Jesse Collins had a similar experience in one of their previous appointments as corps officers in Minnesota. It is an iRony that he has shared countless times to impress upon listeners the importance of giving God the chance to reveal His will for us.
In 1990, Lieutenants Jesse & Kelly Collins were sent to a corps in the Twin Cities area—a corps that had already suffered a schism plummeting the average Sunday morning attendance from 85 to just 13. They knew going in that it would be tough.
“We were broken officers,” Major Jesse says of those first months. “We did everything we knew how to bring people back into the corps, but nothing worked.”
The young couple reached out to community center families as well as families who had received assistance through the corps social ministries office. Not even faithful visitation worked.
“After a couple of months, one Saturday night as I slept, God interrupted my sleep with a clear direction to get up and pray for all the people,” Major Jesse begins to relate. “So I asked God if He meant the nine others that would likely join his family the next morning at church.”
He dutifully prayed for the people who were still coming to the corps, and then he went back to bed. Today, he admits that at the time he was a little bit annoyed.
“I rolled over and went back to sleep. When this happened a second time—and it was now the wee hours of Sunday, a Sunday I would need to preach for—I was getting a bit more irritated.”
Collins “explained” to God that he had to have his sleep, and muttered some short prayer for the nine he expected in church that morning.
“That is when I went back to sleep. Well, I guess He wasn’t done yet. Can you believe God woke me again?”
Now, he reasoned, this is getting frustrating. He rolled over trying to go back to sleep and that is when he heard an all but audible voice say, “Get up and pray for ALL the people!”
“This time I did exactly as I was told and prayed for all of the people, whoever that was,” he says. “But I confess I did it with still a bit of an attitude.”
He was able to sleep the rest of the night without further interruption from Heaven.
“The next morning, we went to Sunday School as usual,” he continues. “There was nothing new. We had four adults in that class, four in the children’s class, and three in the young adult class.”
He adds that he thought nothing of the prayer of the night before. It was all but forgotten. After all, that happened in the middle of the night, and this morning they were busy with the preparations for the worship service.
“When we came out of the Sunday School class, there were more than 30 people milling about in the foyer, apparently looking for where they should go,” he says, still in amazement after all these years.
“When I began to ask why they came one family said they were driving by and decided to stop, while another family said they lived across the street and felt like they needed to ‘check us out’ this morning!”
Every family, moved by the Holy Spirit, had a reason for showing up that morning.
“As I talked to each one, I began to cry openly,” he says. “They had no idea why I was so moved. However, I did.”
God had answered this young couple’s fervent prayer for church growth in their corps. “God really knew what we needed, when we needed it, and He delivered in a big way!”
Over 40 people worshipped that morning, and the corps growth continues.
“Our Heavenly Father still answers prayer and inspires us to this day!”
—Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor in Chief, USA National Publications