As we observe the 50th anniversary of the first crusades in Australia, Cliff Barrows sat down with us recently and shared his reflections on his experience there.
BGEA: Describe the spiritual climate in Australia during that time.
Cliff Barrows: Spiritually, it was a very needy area. That’s what concerned the believers. They began to pray for this and to put Operation Andrew into effect, as they invited friends and neighbors.
It is also interesting to know that prisoners settled Australia. Outlaws were sent there. But, God worked through the generations. Much of the Christian leadership in Australia that had been raised up over these last fifty years were people who made their decision to follow Christ during those 1959 crusades.
BGEA: Are there any particular conversion stories that come to mind?
Cliff Barrows: There was this one man named Ron Baker. By occupation, he was a bus driver. Many buses were chartered for the crusades, and he was driving one of them. He was a very bitter, angry, abusive man.
He and his wife had just moved into a new home. The builder of their house was a Christian. He invited them, but Ron didn’t want to go. He would sit in the lot in the bus and wait for the meeting to be over. His wife actually went to a meeting one night and came forward to accept Christ.
Being the abusive man that he was, tried to harm her because of her newfound faith. She began to pour her heart out to the Lord in prayer for him.
Meanwhile, the builder kept insisting that Ron come to a meeting. He finally came on the last night, and sat in the last row of the stands. Billy stated during the invitation, “There might be someone here tonight, sitting on the back row with no intention of coming to Christ. God is speaking to your heart.”
Ron got up and came forward, marvelously met by the Spirit of the lord. Closely following his conversion, He grew a desire to learn to read and write. He went to school and got his high school diploma. Then he went to college, and later became a powerful preacher. He became one of the most effective evangelists in that region of Australia.
BGEA: Can you tell us a little about your personal experience?
Cliff Barrows: We had the privilege of praying for people who were really burdened. We prayed together as a team — often. Many times, we prayed through the night and through half the night.
My own walk with the lord was greatly strengthened. I was very lonesome, because I had to leave my family for several months. When I traveled, I communicated with my family through the Dictaphone. I would talk to each family member and describe our experience for that day. Then, I would read scripture to them.
This kept my heart warm to the family at home and theirs to me. I gained a new appreciation of home and the responsibility of keeping in touch with the family.
God worked in the hearts of the people of Australia and in my life, at the same time.