The Reedley Awakening in 1971

Here is an article from New Wine Magazine, first published in November of 1971 and it doesn't need much commentary.  The Reedley Revival went on for about 16 weeks during the Spring and Summer of 1971

New Wine Magazine - November 1971 

Reedley Awakened By Revival 


Time has allowed us to look backward to events that happened before the awakening began in Reedley, California. 


Within the Full Gospel Tabernacle congregation, prayer groups were organized not by the Pastor or the Church Board, but by earnest people within the congregation who felt desperately that God must touch us, especially our young people or the church would die. A prayer group met on Saturday evening, another on Tuesday, another on Thursday and many of these had been in progress for two years, others for four years. The Saturday prayer meeting had been meeting much longer. 
The young people, under the guidance of Joe Peacock and his wife, Lynda, had begun cottage prayer meetings with the youth. One of the prayer captains was Melody Johnson, who would express her desires to Joe and Lynda in such a way as, "Let's have a prayer meeting party."

The tragic drug problems that involved families of our church and families of our community gave me deep concern. Prayer alone could not lift my burden. 
I was impressed to conduct a special youth rally. Unless youth could hear what was a real answer to their problems, we would surely collapse as a church as far as fulfilling our purpose in our community. 

With the help of friends and businessmen of the city, we leased the auditorium in Dinuba and engaged the youthful band called the Solid Rocks, a Youth for Christ group from Fresno. Together with local groups and Teen Challenge of Fresno, we launched our first rally. Over 250 attended, paying to get in. The impact of the witness of Teen Challenge was effective. A second rally was held the next month and over forty came forward making decisions for Christ. From these rallies we opened a coffee house called the Carpenter's Shop in Reedley. A Youth Employment Center and a Teen Camp was conducted through the summer months. In September, a weekly schedule was directed by Joe and Lynda Peacock. Faithfully, the doors were kept open and many found Christ. The town of Reedley came to accept the ministry of the "Youth Rescue Mission." 

In January of 1971, we were asked to promote a Gospel Rock Festival in the foothills for the Sugar Pine Camp out of Fresno. Coming to help us at this time was Pastor Jim Slentz. Together, we sought for a man to help in this one-day rally who would take not only the responsibility of master of ceremonies but who would be led of God in bringing young people to Christ. The date was set for Saturday before Easter. 

We called Youth With a Mission offices in Burbank and Winkie Pratney suggested to us a Brother Tony Salerno. Brother Salerno agreed to come to us if he could bring a group of young people called the Agape Force to do a special invasion for that Easter week. Brother Pratney and Brother Salerno with some of their young people, came to visit us prior to this meeting, and they felt led to stay in our town for the week's invasion. Now, that invasion is spiritual history. 

About twenty young people came. By the end of the week 150 were dealt with for salvation. Of these, many stepped out for Christ counting the total cost. Among these youths were leading athletes. 

Many of the Agape Force had to return to school. The final number left behind to pick up the heavy load of ministry was about seven. Others would come in and join on the weekends. Brother Salerno was able to return sometimes three days during the week, making countless long drives from the LA area to Reedley, sleepless nights, as he had other obligations of ministry he had to keep. He'd return to rally forces, give directions under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The revival kept cresting higher and higher week after week. 

There is no way to calculate just how many were dealt with in the prayer rooms, but sometimes as many as 500 tracts a week were used as a means of spreading the Word. 

Youth groups came in from the mountain towns, coastal areas and even from the Los Angeles area. Many of these found Christ. Night after night the youth mission room was packed. Many times the doors were locked after it was filled to capacity then second services were held. 

Invitations came from churches in the area for youths, from the Carpenter's Shop to give their testimonies. The Mennonite Brethren Church of Reedley, The Colony Covenant Church near Kingsburg, the American Baptist Church, Southern Baptist Church, First Mennonite, and the Spanish Mennonite Church are some that the youth ministered to. Civic clubs, such as the Kiwanis of Reedley and Kingsburg, the Full Gospel Businessmen of Fresno, Christian Businessmen of Kingsburg and the Assemblies of God Men's Fellowship of Kingsburg. At the latter is where Barry McGuire, former Broadway singer and actor accepted Christ. 


The impact on the campuses in the Reedley area was reported by the teachers. Bible carrying students, formerly apathetic, now alive in Christ, were studying. Bible clubs were formed at Grant Junior High School, Reedley High School, Dinuba High School and Parlier High School. Teachers report of students lives so drastically changed that whole class rooms were feeling the impact of the revival. Plans by outside groups to make trouble in two high schools were revealed; one, the plan for bombings and the other was a threat to cause trouble as to disrupt school completely. Trouble subsided on these campuses and school finished without difficulty. Many have expressed this was possible because of the spiritual awakening among the youth of Reedley. 


The revival sweeping the area did not  keep back attacks from the enemy, Satan himself. In the second week, financially it looked as if not enough money would come in to keep the doors open. In prayer, the Agape Force, the Pastors and evangelists claimed victory in Jesus' name. By the weekend, over $900.00 had come in to meet the needs.  Threats came from a neighboring town. Young people armed with a gun were coming in to break up the meetings. Before they arrived, plans were intercepted by the local police and it was stopped. Fire bombings were threatened on the day of the big youth rally scheduled for a weekend outside the Carpenter's Shop. The bombings did not take place. One of the young people on the original Agape team was totally brainwashed by an anti-government group. Youth were gathered together with adult friends to battle demon forces. At 5:00 A.M. the young man was delivered from mental possession of Satan. 


June 14th opened our Consecration Camp which was held in the Full Gospel Tabernacle of Reedley. Our teachers were: Winkie Pratney, Tony Salerno and Dr. Phil Opperman. The daily classes averaged about fifty with the evening classes swelling to perhaps over a hundred or more. What a beautiful sight to see youth scattered over the building each with their Bibles, notebooks and textbooks eagerly drinking in the Word of God. The messages were heart-searching and God was bringing them to a place of walking holy before Him. From junior high through college and some young professional people joining in, the Word of God was honored and the Holy Spirit flowed through the camp. Dr. Opperman's assignment was to teach about the Holy Spirit with the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit being the main theme. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday the youth were carefully instructed. On Thursday, Dr. Opperman gathered them in the prayer room of the Full Gospel Tabernacle, which was in the basement, but is now our "Upper Room." The young people waited on the Lord. From one of the youth who was there, he described the meeting as such, "It was silent, then there was a gentle sobbing from one, then another, then suddenly almost at once like a great breath, all began speaking in other languages . . . like on the day of the first Pentecost when like a mighty rushing wind the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit." So it happened that night. 
No record was kept of how many received, but it is believed that perhaps over fifty received the Holy Spirit that evening. One of the young people expressed himself, "Wow, now I can pray to God and the devil can't hear me." 


Friday, the last night of camp, the young people at the climax of the service were called forward. The very presence of God rested heavily upon the evening service. The youth were called to stand where the hands of the ministers could be laid upon them as each life was dedicated to His service. Some were to leave for full time service for the summer, others were to stay at home, support and press the home front forward for Christ. 
The Spirit of God, through His gifts, was made manifest confirming His Word that had been planted in the hearts of the youth. The congregation itself was moved deeply by the presence of the Lord. 
The entire body of youth then moved to the Chapel where a communion service was held. Two large loaves of bread and one large common cup was used. The story of the first communion was told, the bread was broken and passed from one to the other, then the cup was passed. 
Through the gift of prophecy, God spoke again to the entire body. God Himself, through His Word and the wonderful Holy Spirit, touched, anointed and commissioned the youth to go into all the world preaching the Gospel. First at home, then our beloved land and then the whole world. 


Parents, whose homes were battle grounds, now express how the love of God, through the lives of these youth, have brought not only harmony in the home, but the communication gap has been bridged. The trend of our times is children to hate parents and rebel against any adult authority. What a wonderful answer Christ becomes to these nation-destroying problems. 


Sunday afternoon, June 20, 1971, around two hundred people gathered at the Kings River near Reedley to watch a baptismal service. Fifty-three candidates for water baptism gathered for instruction prior to the main service of the afternoon. What a beautiful sight to see the faces of so many youths beaming with happiness. Just a few weeks before many were trapped in drugs, some hopelessly entwined in rebellion against everything and everyone. Others were haunted with restlessness, being driven endlessly with a search to find the answers to problems in their lives and problems about them. Now, they were at peace with themselves, with the peace of God reigning within. 
Barry McGuire, former Broadway performer and recording artist, sang at the opening of the afternoon service. He began with such meaningful words, "You know, this is Father's Day," and he looked up to the blue sky overhead, then looked over to the quietly flowing waters of the river, "And this," he said, "Is the Kings River, how fitting." 

Barry then sang: 
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus 
Look full in His wonderful face 
And the things of the world 
Will go strangely dim 
In the light of His glory and grace." 

Many hearts were touched and tears streamed down the cheeks of many. This burly, large young man, fully bearded with a full shock of hair to his shoulders, once trapped in the quagmire of sin just a few weeks ago, now was totally free of the past and clean from sin by "His precious blood," and singing of the beautiful Savior. 
After sharing with them the Word of God, Pastor Slentz, my associate minister, and I waded into a very cold Kings River and called for our first candidate. Each giving their testimony of praise for his salvation; fifty-three were baptized. 
The crowd dispersed and almost all had gone home when a young lady, Vicki, as we know her, came dashing across the park and stood breathlessly before me and tears in her eyes said, "I'm too late." "It took me all this time to talk my folks into letting me be baptized." I said, "Surely, it is not too late." We walked into the water and baptized this precious girl and this was the fifty-fourth. 


The Holy Spirit began to speak to many about making restitution. Several youths went to the local Police and apologized for pushing and using drugs. Athletes, Doug and Morris Buller and John Blanchard, confessed publicly, before their coaches in a Kiwanis meeting to drinking and using marijuana during the season they were on the school's athletic teams. They asked these men and the people of the town to forgive them and told how Christ had come into their lives. 
Other young people went to businesses in town and asked forgiveness for taking clothes, shoes and records. The people of the town were deeply moved at the courage and conviction of these youths whose lives had been totally changed. 


The Reedley Youth Ranch conducted a Junior camp at Huntington Lake. (The Reedley Youth Ranch is an outreach for youth launched as a preventive program). About twenty of the teens from the Carpenter Shop, came to counsel. Eighty-four were in camp and quite a large number of these junior children were not Christians. By Wednesday all had accepted Christ but one and many received the infilling of the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Lord moved continually on the mountain top. Campers from North Shore joined in the evening services which were conducted by the McCRARY FIVE and several of the guests accepted Christ. 
This is not the end of the AWAKENING, it is only the beginning. 

Rev. Mel Harrel is the pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Reedley, California. As a special note of interest, a diary was kept up to the third week. At this writing, we are now in the twelfth week. Any correspondence should be addressed to the Agape Force, PO Box 10137, Fresno, California 93745.