THE YEARS OF OUR PILGRIMAGE AT MEAFORD
As stated previously we had been invited by the church at Meaford to spend three months in the summer of 1940 doing mission work in Ontario. I left late in May for this work, my wife and children to follow when school was out. To those who are old enough they will remember that it was in this period that Hitler overran France in 19 days. Holland lay prostrate and Belgium was entirely under the dictator's heel. The English army had lost all their equipment at Dunkirk. The mightiest war machine of all time stood poised at the English Channel. So dark were those days that I wondered if my wife and children would be able to make the trip from Saskatchewan to Ontario. If France fell in 19 days could Hitler not sweep an impotent British army in less time? With the English navy at his disposal as well as the French could he not soon fall upon the American continent and what then? These were some of the thoughts that filled my mind in those days. However, I was sure that God ruled in the kingdoms of men, and I prayed that there were enough righteous people that God would preserve us even as He said He would do with Sodom and Gomorrah if he could have found a few righteous people there.
When later the British air fleet was able, with the help of a few Canadians, to sweep the German air force from the sky I did not believe that there was any doubt about the eventual outcome of the war. God had decided to give us one more opportunity to serve Him. I never had any doubt of the eventual outcome of the war from the time of that air battle. Only the hand of God could have wrought such a decisive victory.
In due time school was out and my wife and family accompanied my brother Cecil and his family to Thessalon, Ontario. There were ten of them in a Model A Ford. I went from Meaford up there to meet them. I was never happier to see them. Perhaps I was unduly pessimistic at that time about world conditions. I seek neither to justify nor to condemn, I am merely writing of FORTY YEARS A CANADIAN PREACHER.
I bought a new Dodge the spring of 1940 and took delivery at Windsor, Ontario. That car cost me $969.00. They had allowed me $500.00 for my old Chevy. I was afraid of a debt of $469.00. I laid awake at nights wondering if I had done the right thing. However, God who supplies our need saw fit that each payment was made on time. I kept that car all during the war. I drove it more than 100,000 miles on one motor. I sold it for $589.00. I bought the next car for about $1,600.00. Then the next car I bought was about $2,500.00. These are Canadian prices and are somewhat higher than comparable American prices.
How times do change! Two years ago, when I moved to Moose Jaw, I bought a house for $10,500.00 and I did not lose any sleep over the transaction whatever.
When we first went to Meaford, we held a meeting there. There were three baptized. Brother and Sister Allison Parker, now of the Weyburn congregation, along with Sister Hallie MacKay rendered obedience to the gospel. Brother Parker served for a time as an elder of the Airport Congre gation. Before I finish writing this book I shall say in the Moose Jaw building the words that will join Brother and Sister Parker's oldest son to a fine Christian girl that lives near Moose Jaw. The leaven of Christianity never ceases to work if we but let it.
After I had been at Meaford for about six weeks they asked me to stay for a full year. Owing to war conditions I felt that it would be a wise thing to do. The stay was prolonged to just over four years.
In the last chapter we mentioned the beginning of the Gospel Herald. I told how I was first an associate editor and then editor. After moving to Meaford, Brother Bob wrote me, and said that he was up against it, that he could not continue even to the end of the month. He was folding up. I sent him a letter by return mail. I told him to tell me how much money he needed each month and I would see that it was supplied but that he should appoint me as Business Manager. He told me how much money he wanted and it was supplied every month on time. Not only that but as the subscription list grew I raised that amount from time to time without being asked to do so.
I wrote to twelve brethren and asked them if they would give one dollar per month if it was needed. They all replied that they would but we never called on any one of them for one cent. I do not remember now who any of these brethren were but one. I expect if I had had to call on them for help, I would have remembered.
The Gospel Herald was paying its way. Brother Bob seemed unable to get the paper out on time. I felt that we should not continue in that way. I wrote Bob and told him that I would turn the paper back to him or he could turn it to me. He was offended. I am still sorry that I offended him but I still cannot see any other way I could have acted. Business has to be done promptly.
The Gospel Herald now came to Meaford. It was put out from there until I left there to return to Radville. We shall tell more about the Gospel Herald in the next chapter.
Shortly after this happened Brother Bob wrote an article for the paper. His article was based on a verse in the King James Version. To my mind the American Revised Version was the better rendering there, and it made Bob's article untrue. I refused to publish what he wrote. There were some hard things said about that, and some things that were entirely untrue. May God have mercy. The Gospel Herald went into hundreds of homes and some obeyed the gospel as a result of the things that were printed there.
When I went to Meaford there was a church at Cape Rich, Griersville, and Collingwood, as well as in Meaford. I laboured with all these churches much. There were four men in the Meaford church that were very capable, and who took turns preaching while I was engaged with these smaller congregations, or elsewhere. One of the congregations suddenly disappeared. The army decided that they wanted several thousand acres of land that surrounded the Cape Rich church building for a tank range. They appraised the land and gave the farmers so many weeks to move off. Where they went was their business. Such is one little example of the ruthlessness of war not toward foe, but toward friend. A number of these families settled in the Heathcote district. We immediately held a meeting there and two were obedient to the gospel so with what members that were already there we started the worship and the church continues there unto this day.
One of these folks that was baptized was a great-granddaughter of Peter Elford. So again we had reason to feel that a debt, that could never be fully paid, had been paid in part. This young lady was married at the time. I do not recall her married name but her name had been Cornfield before marriage. She came to me one night with tears in her eyes and she said,
I would like to be a Christian but I do not know what I will do with my worldly friends.
I said, You do not need to concern yourself with what you are going to do with them but what they will do with you.
She was baptized and at the church services a week or two later she said, I understand now what you meant. I met the girl I have chummed with ever since school days on the street on Saturday night and she would not even speak to me.
The world knows that there is a dividing line between the world and the church even if the devil blinds the mind of some Christians to that solemn fact.
During this period a few of my relatives had moved from Thessalon into the city of Sault Ste. Marie. I held a meeting there in the spring and then again in the summer and four were obedient to the faith. The Meaford church also provided three hundred dollars with which to start a building fund there. Through the years I have returned for meetings. There are now two congregations in the SOO. My father ended his pilgrimage here. He laboured with both congregations.
Brother H. A. Rogers baptized a Philip Goatcher and his wife in the first meeting he held in Regina. Brother Goatcher had a zeal to teach others. He had an old aunt in Montreal that he felt he could teach her the truth if he went back there so he went to Montreal. He was not successful in his mission. When the 30s came he found himself as part of the unemployed and when the government offered to move people out on bush homesteads he accepted the offer.
His youngest daughter had decided to marry and he had talked with the young man enough he thought that with a little teaching he could be persuaded to obey the gospel. I was invited to come to Farmborough, Quebec, for a meeting. I went there. The people flocked to hear the gospel. By the fifth night I thought I had taught enough to extend the invitation. When the invitation was extended these people, at least some of them, did not understand the orthodox way to do it. They did not wait for the invitation song to start, five of them just walked to the front. Brother Goatcher, bless his memory, was so overwhelmed that he broke down and cried. So there I was. Some people wanted to confess their faith in Christ but how could I do it until that song was sung? In all there were fourteen that rendered obedience to the gospel. I am sorry to say that despite such a wonderful beginning the light has long since been extinguished at Farmborough. How tragic it is when those who have once been enlightened turn back again to the beggarly elements of the world. Brother Goatcher died in the faith and Sister Goatcher still tarries this side of the turbulous waters of death. I could hope that some of these who once knew that the Lord was gracious could read these lines and come back again to the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.
While in the North Country I also held meetings at Charlton Station, Ontario. This work was started by Brother C. W. Petch. He came to an untimely end in an accident on his farm there. I baptized several in meetings there. The light still burns at Charlton Station but there are only a few faithful left. Sister Petch lived here long for the sake of the work and close to the memories of the one that had been her faithful companion for many years. She is now living with her daughter, Viola, who lives at Sundridge, Ontario. The work there is in a thriving condition. During the stay at Meaford I helped in a meeting at Sundridge. One of the Preston boys obeyed the gospel. Brother A. D. Sinclair spent a number of years in this vicinity and started the work at Huntsville farther south. Since that time Brother Gordon Dennis has laboured in that part of the Lord's vineyard. He has done an outstanding job. He has recently done a great deal of pioneer work in the Baysville area. Another work is either started or will be in the near future. Thus the church continues to grow. Brother James O'Neal is labouring in that part. We could double our work and double our growth if we would put first things first.
In an earlier chapter I talked about the early days in Sarnia, Ontario. When I came back to live in Meaford they asked me several times to come back and labour with them. These invitations were always acted upon. Thanks to the interest of the Meaford church, of that time, in spreading the kingdom. No matter how long I was away there were these four brothers that would always preach. Reg Franklin was the oldest of the four. He died very suddenly a few years ago. He has left a faithful wife and a faithful family to bless the community in which they live, as well as the Church of the Lord.
Brother Frank Ellis and his wife had both attended a Christian College, and no person more willingly gave himself to whatever he could do than Brother Frank. Brother Frank died of cancer a few years ago. His only daughter is married now and is a faithful member of the Church. His good wife teaches in Great Lakes Christian College, and it was my happy privilege to see her recently on a visit to the College Campus.
Brother Lorne Ashby for many years after this laboured with the Collingwood church. He is now in the State of Ohio giving full time to preaching the gospel. His daughter still lives in Meaford and is a faithful member there. Sister Ashby has stood nobly by her husband's side through the years. The fourth brother in this team was Brother Philip Petch. He still lives and labours in Meaford. His wife has passed from earthly scenes and he has remarried. Our paths cross from time to time. It is always good to see Philip.
Well, I am getting this rather mixed up. I started off to tell you about Sarnia and some work there. I told you, instead of the four men that made it possible for me to hold so many mission meetings. In one meeting I held in Sarnia a little frail woman took hold of my coat sleeve, and said, Son, sit down here, I want to talk to you.
I sat down. She told me that she had read the New Testament for fifteen years every day. (That would put a lot of Christians to shame, wouldn't it?)
I knew there was something wrong but I never knew what it was until I heard you preach. However, she said, I am an old woman, and owing to the condition of my health I could not be baptized. Do you not think that the Lord would accept the heart for the deed?
I told her that there was no such thing as a person not being able to be baptized. I assured her that we would make the needed arrangements. She expressed a desire to follow her Lord. I knew that the church in Windsor had a large baptistry. I phoned them and asked them to fill the baptistry as full as it could be filled and to heat the water until it was lukewarm. I was wondering if I should have the woman kneel down and baptize her face foremost, or if maybe we should put her on a chair and baptize her that way. I had heard of these things but had never seen it done. I finally decided that I would ask Brother Bruce, one of the elders, to stand by in case of any need. I took her down into the tepid water and I lowered that frail little body beneath the pliant waters. She came up without a struggle and she was a faithful member of the Sarnia congregation until the summons came that all must heed.
At another meeting at Sarnia, which was the best attended meeting I ever held in Sarnia, a man said to me one night after the meeting:
I am not quite sure what you meant when you were talking about making the good confession.
I told him that before men we simply confess our faith in Christ. He replied that any one could do that. I said, if you will do it I will call the audience to attention so that they may hear your confession.
No, no, he said, Don't do that.
The next afternoon I was out doing some calling. I was making my home with Brother and Sister Fred Whitfield who have been previously mentioned. Sister Annie phoned me and asked me if I could come home. I told her that I would be home in a few minutes. When I arrived this man and his wife sat in the front room. He said that he had come to make that confession. His wife wanted to make it too. They wanted to be baptized before he went to work on the afternoon shift. I baptized him and his wife in the most southern extremity of Lake Huron. Years before, I had been baptized in the Northern Channel of that body of water, some three hundred miles distant. The church at Sarnia had met from place to place from the days that they met in the building that belonged to the coloured people. One night after meeting we met on a lot on the corner of Russel and Cobden Streets in the city of Sarnia and after a short prayer I removed the first shovelful of dirt from the building lot. They now have a very commodious church building where we first removed that shovel of dirt.
In the fall of 1941 I decided that I should return to the West and visit the churches and see how they fared. I took my mother and father with me. I spent some six weeks on this journey. There were five that became obedient to the faith. These were war years and jobs were plentiful. Our oldest boy decided that he would rather work than go to school so he went to Toronto and took employment. He worked at several things and then went into radio announcing. He has followed that line of work ever since. He first worked for the CBC in Toronto. There was an opening in St. Catharines and he moved there. While he was there I held a meeting in the city. One night he phoned me and asked me to come down and do the news. I told him I would be there. I arrived. He handed me the paper to read. I had often thought I would like to make a news cast. I was sure I could do it better than some I had heard. When I arrived at the station, Norman informed me that, Really, we are not supposed to let an outsider do this, but he had asked the boss and he had said that it would be all right. I had started the news cast when the phone rang. Norman answered the phone from the control room. (I knew nothing of this until afterward). It was the chief engineer.
He said, Who is that doing the news cast?
Norman's heart missed a beat or two. He replied, That is my dad, what is the matter?
Matter? replied the engineer, why if some of the rest of you could do a news cast like that you would get some place.
You can be sure that Norman was quite relieved. May I suggest, that when he told me I was rather pleased.
During our sojourn in Meaford we put a radio programme on the air from Owen Sound. There is no radio station in Meaford. What I said was not too pleasing to a certain Baptist preacher. He began to carry on a one-sided debate. It did not continue that way. I finally challenged him to a debate. He refused. He did continued his derogatory remarks. Radio rules forbid the calling of names. I did not call any names. I did, however, say that there is a certain gentleman, for reasons best known to himself, who refuses to meet me in a public discussion, either in a hall in Owen Sound, or Meaford, or to discuss our differences over the air. However, he refused to meet me in a public discussion. I do not blame him. If I were a sectarian preacher I certainly would never meet a member of the church of Christ in a public discussion. Since we are talking about Baptist preachers there was another rather amusing thing that happened while we were at Meaford. They started a Fundamentalist Baptist church while were there. This Baptist preacher would gather up the children off the street after school and teach them. One night he gathered one of our twins in his net. He began to teach them Baptist doctrine of salvation by faith alone. Roy spoke up and said, that the Bible says, He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. The preacher glared at him.
He said to Roy, I do not suppose that you are out of public school and I have been to College.
Roy said, It still says, 'He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.'
He tried in two or three other ways to intimidate Roy, but Roy stuck to his guns.
The Bible said, He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.
The preacher who had been battling with me on the radio was invited to come to Meaford and speak for the new Baptist congregation. It was the same time as our service that he spoke so that I could not attend his service. However, one of the members and his Christian wife did attend and they told me what this preacher had said. I know what you want to ask me. Was it right for these people to miss a service of the church to attend this meeting? I am not passing on the right or wrong of the action, I am merely reporting what happened. A few days later I met this Baptist preacher on the street (the local preacher, not the imported one). I told him when Mr. Dodds made a certain statement in your pulpit on Sunday night he lied. He said, I don't know anything about it.
I said, Will you sign your name to that statement, that you do not know if Mr. Dodds made that statement or not?
He flushed red with anger, and said, I will not sign anything. Then he turned on me and said, That boy of yours, nearly broke up my meeting that afternoon he was there.
I was not angry. I was glad that the power of the gospel, in the hands of a boy, that had not yet reached his teens, had confounded the mighty COLLEGE graduate.
The war had not yet ended but travel restrictions were being somewhat eased and I decided that we would return to the work in Western Canada. Some 76 people had become obedient to the gospel in meetings, and in Meaford, during our sojourn there. I think my wife liked living at Meaford better than any place we have ever lived. Our oldest boy was gone from home and two of the boys were working in Meaford and were to follow us later. We drove to Sault Ste. Marie and boarded a boat from there to Port Arthur. We drove from there to Winnipeg and thence back to Radville. Thus ended another period in our lives.
Meaford days were happy days and friendships that were begotten then have continued to thrive. Not long ago I held a meeting at Griersville. This is just five miles out of Meaford. Brother Jack Franklin said to me, You know, Carlos, it does not seem right yet that you are not at Meaford.
We appreciated such friendships. Many of those dear friends of yesterday have crossed the dark, silent, turbulent river of death but we shall greet them again in the after while. Christian friendship is a foretaste of heaven. How grand heaven must be. We sing, at times, almost longingly, when the mists have rolled in splendor from the beauty of the hills, and the sunshine warm and tender falls in kisses on the rills, we may read love's shining letter in the rainbow of the spray; we shall know each other better when the mists have cleared away.
Published in The Old Paths Archive
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