CARMAN BECOMES OUR HOME
Carman, Manitoba, is situated on the western edge of the Red River valley. This is some of the most fertile land in Canada. It is a town of a little more than 2000 souls situated about 55 miles southwest of Winnipeg. The oldest church in Western Canada is situated here. Brother John Stirling who is nearing 95 years of age was a boy about twenty when he came to Carman. The church was then in existence. Sister Elizabeth York came to Carman in the very early days of the church. I came to Carman in the fall of 1921 to work and go to school. Thirty-four years later I returned to preach for the congregation. We stayed in Carman for a little over four years. I had been to Carman for two meetings in the years that intervened. There were quite a few at Carman that I had known in the school days but most of the members had come into the church during the intervening years. The work at Carman was not as located as I had thought it might be. Calls came for meetings and these brethren graciously consented to me accepting the meetings. Some invitations were turned down but never once for financial reasons. While living in Carman I held meetings in Winnipeg, Brandon, Dauphin and Manson. I helped them appoint elders in Manson. The church at Bannerman had ceased to meet and I held a meeting there and the work was revived. I also held meetings at Neepawa and Reedy Creek. These meetings were all held in Manitoba. The few brethren at Elm Creek decided they would drive into Carman and meet. The two towns are twelve miles apart. We did continue a weekly Bible Class there during the years.
During these four years we held meetings in Ontario on several occasions. I do not recall that anything spectacular happened in these meetings. Some rendered obedience to the gospel and in this we always rejoice.
It was while we lived at Carman that it was decided to move Radville Christian College to Weyburn. I opposed this move but when a majority were in favour I threw my support behind the new venture. Elsewhere in this book I mention the fact that I was mistaken in this matter. Recently I was accused of never acknowledging I was wrong. Those that know me best know how untrue that is.
The greatest event in my life while at Carman happened far away from Manitoba. Brother Wes Murray had studied his way out of the Christian Church. He lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia. You remember I spoke in the previous chapter about flying over Nova Scotia, and thinking of the glory that had departed from this part of the country and wondering what could be done about it. How little I realized that as I prayed Brother Murray was trying to devise means that would bring about the thing for which I prayed. He got a little group together to meet in the little meeting house at Mill Village. There is no mill and there is no P. 0. However, that part of the country about two miles out of Shubenacadie is known as Mill Village. There was one man in that community that knew something of New Testament Christianity. He had been a member when the truth was taught and practiced in those parts. The rest that assembled in that meeting had received all their teaching from Christian Church preachers. They had probably heard Brother C. G. McPhee preach one sermon when he was on a visit to those parts. Nova Scotia was his home.
Brother Murray wrote a letter to the Gospel Herald, and the Firm Foundation, and he may have written to other gospel papers, asking for some one to come and help him in an effort to restore the New Testament pattern. We are so interested in mission work that of all the members in Canada and United States that read that letter there was ONE PERSON that wrote to Brother Murray. Only Brother Eugene Perry wrote him a letter. As I stated before, Brother Murray had been raised in the Christian Church. But his mother had taught him what his grandfather had said the church should be. There was a meeting needed in Mill Village. When WE would not respond to his invitation he invited the most conservative Christian Church preacher to come and hold a meeting. (He came from Prince Edward Island, and the church from which he came comes the nearest to being like a church of Christ of any church of that persuasion that I know. They wear the name, Church of Christ. Brother Murray made them promise that no instrumental music would be used. There were three baptized in that meeting.
Brother Murray then wrote another letter to the Gospel Herald asking for help. There had been no meeting held at Mill Village for years and now that there was a meeting there they wanted to take over - I mean these conservative Christian Church people. I know they wear the name, Church of Christ. I do not feel free to use the name. I regard these people as my brethren. They teach first principles as we do. However, when Christ said He would build His church, He built an institution that did not have any instruments of music in it. Christ is the head of the church. Men presume to deny His authority when they place instruments of music in the worship. I appreciate the fact that they teach the truth and acknowledge the authority of Jesus when it comes to first principles but when it comes to the worship of the church they presume to use human authority and introduce the instrument. When the second letter from Brother Murray appear in the Gospel Herald I wrote him and told him that if no one else would come then I would come. Brother Murray wrote back and begged me to come. He said Brother Fred Wallace is old, and can take no part in the meetings. He told of the desires of these brethren from Prince Edward Island that I have already mentioned, and he said, I do not think that we can hold until the end of the year. During this period there was a general controversy raging as to whether you could send money to a church to support a man or whether you should send it directly to the worker in the field. There was a controversy in Canada raised by some brethren who said that a preacher should not receive any specified amount of support. I thought this was a good time to find out if these people were really in earnest or if this made a good alibi to avoid engaging in what we call mission work. I approached the Carman church and asked them for a three months leave of absence, suggesting that they not give me support during this time. With some reluctance they agreed to my request. John, our youngest son, came from College and worked for the congregation that summer.
I notified the brotherhood through the religious press, and through some personal letters that I was going to Nova Scotia in an effort to establish a solid foundation for the work that had been started.
This effort appealed to brethren. Support came in. When I went to St. Catharines, quite a few of the members, formerly from Nova Scotia, provided me with $600.00 that night. We arrived in Halifax in a pouring rain. We went the next day to Mill Village. We held a meeting. We held a VBS. We continued to preach there each Lord's Day. When the summer's work had ended ten souls had responded to the invitation. The church was in a more thriving condition. Optimism filled the air. Not only was there a church in Mill village but there was also a church in Halifax. These two congregations continue. A number of preachers have given time to this work. Brother Walter Hart is working with these congregation now and a building program is under way in Halifax. There have been a number to obey since that time. During our summer in Mill Village, we had carried on a radio program from Truro, N. S. Our needs had been supplied and I left more than $800.00 in the bank to help carry on the work of the church. I am glad that I did not have to depend for support on those brethren who had told us HOW the work HAD to be done.
On this trip we contacted the Betts family in New Brunswick. They were going across into Maine to worship. We shall have more to say about them in a moment. I also held a short meeting for the brethren at Springfield, Vermont. This was my second meeting there. We returned to Carman about the first of September.
Brother C. W. Murray made the arrangements for us to preach in a Christian Church building on Prince Edward Island that he attended as a young man. Some were pleased with the sermon and some were not. With this sermon I had preached in every province in Canada. For what it is worth it is a unique experience. No other man has preached the gospel in every province in Canada.
We returned to the Maritimes again the next summer. Brother David Lidbury went with us, and the church at Carman helped with our support. Brother David stayed in the work there for one year. We held meetings at Mill Village and Halifax on this second trip. We also held a meeting in Middleton. There were quite a few people that attended this meeting but we could only get the hall for a few nights at a time. I asked the coloured people if I could use their building. They said they would let me know in the morning. They phoned and said that I could have it. Some of the people that were attending the meeting, not members, said they knew that it was none of their business but if I used that building my influence in the town would be ruined. This was not in the southern States. This was Canada! Should I have gone ahead and held the meeting?
This summer we held a meeting in Fredericton, New Brunswick. There is a small congregation there now and Brother Louis Pauls, who studied under me at Radville, preaches for them. As these words are being written, our son John is there in a meeting and VBS. He will go from there into Nova Scotia for meeting and VBS at Mill Village and Halifax. The church at Windsor, Ontario, is paying his way. We held short meetings at Manchester, New Hampshire, where our oldest son and his family live. Then we returned to Springfield for a short meeting. We had planned to take six days to go from Springfield to Sault Ste. Marie to help celebrate my father and mother's 55th wedding anniversary. We had planned who we would visit each night of the trip. Just after we had made our plan that for once we would travel leisurely John sent word from Texas that he was graduating at ACC. He said that he knew we could not make it but he would like for us to have been there for his graduation. I got the road maps out and after I had studied them carefully I said, Mother we are going to John's graduation. We drove 4000 miles in five days. We attended the graduation and were back in Ontario in time for the 55th wedding anniversary. Rather rushed, you say? The rush was not over, for our youngest daughter was to be married about a week after our arrival back at Carman. It was a big church wedding and there never was a better group to help in something like that than the sisters in the Carman church.
Now we must turn back the pages of time for about one year. There was a widow that needed some help who lived about 17 miles from Carman. We helped her materially, and then we started holding Bible studies in her home to try to help her spiritually. In that home there were two little girls that were half Chinese to whom my heart went out the first time I saw them. The next time I went out there I took my wife, and on the way home that night, she said, I would give anything to have those two girls. I thought to myself, You perhaps said more than you realized. I went to the woman and she said that she did not want to keep these little girls. In fact, she said she was not going to keep them. So the day after our baby girl was married, I went out to Roseisle and brought in Carol and Debra. Obedience and respect they had learned from their Chinese father and you could hardly imagine two children easier to manage. We could learn a lesson from the Chinese in this respect.
I wrote a letter to the Mother asking for her consent to adopt these two children. She replied that she would consent provided we would take another child too. The third child had been raised by her maternal grandmother. She loved Maw as only a child can love an indulgent grandmother. However, Grandma consented for us to take her. So a few months before we left Carman we received the adoption papers. We now had ten children. There were five boys and five girls. Our older children have been most gracious in their love for their little sisters and our life has been made richer and fuller by their stay with us. We felt amply rewarded for any trouble we may have had when this summer Carol, the oldest one, came forward and confessed her faith in Christ. We love them as much as we loved their older brothers and sisters and they return that love. We do not doubt that the other girls, as they reach the age of decision will give their heart to the Lord. The girls are now 12, 10 and 7 years of age.
In the summer of 1958 I arranged no meetings. I felt well enough but I did notice that at times I was very tired. Stanley, our second boy, came along and took his mother and young sisters to Saskatchewan to visit his brothers and sisters. I refused to go. I said that I would go a little later and help Ray with his crop. Ray was sick that summer. Shortly after the car left I did not feel well but I carried on through Lord's Day and until Wednesday night. I thought I had the stomach flu. I had to leave the meeting as soon as the opening prayer was over. After the meeting some five or six of the brethren came down. They insisted that I get the doctor. I told them that I was not sick enough to get the doctor but finally consented. The doctor asked me to come to his office. He said that I had appendicitis and told me to come back in the morning. I went back and he sent me to the hospital. I arrived at the hospital about 9:30 and I was on the operating table by 11 that morning. I did not have appendicitis but something much worse. For some two weeks I had a hard time and then things definitely took a turn for the better. My wife hurried home from Saskatchewan and was my companion three times a day. We just had the two little girls at the time. They would come to the hospital and sit quietly in the waiting room for hours in the hope that the head nurse would let them slip down the hall and look into my room for a few minutes. Carol said, Mama, what would happen to us if anything happened to Daddy? She wore a solemn face in those days. How glad they were the day I returned home. I had never been in bed for 24 hours since before the first World War. For many days I was not able to put my feet on the floor. Months of pain were still ahead but as soon as I could go I was back into the pulpit preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ. The brethren were most kind during these days when we could not carry on. We shall never forget how they used us during those days.
It was during this stay that I had my last debate. It was with the Mormons. It was held in Dauphin, Manitoba. The main thing that I can say about my opponent was that about all he used by way of argument was sarcasm. They boasted around how they had won the debate but when a few months later Brother Jim Hawkins challenged them to discussion in Prince Albert they said, that he was to do the speaking himself, they were not to call in J. C. Bailey. I guess they did not want to whip me again. I went to Prince Albert and helped Brother Hawkins somewhat to prepare his material. He handled them as effectively as I could, or better. It was a great triumph for Truth.
Some of the great things in my life had happened during the Carman sojourn. We had been able to adopt three precious little girls. We had been able to help get the work going again in the Maritime provinces. On the other hand we felt chagrined in that we had not been able to appoint elders in the congregation. I felt there were men that could serve in the church to the glory of God. We had a very intensive study of the matter but when the time came those that were asked to serve refused, or I knew that some would object to those who would serve. This failure was one thing that made me feel that I could do more elsewhere. Moose Jaw did not have a preacher. I sent word to one of the elders that if they had no one else in sight I would like to move to Moose Jaw. The arrangements were made and after the summer Bible School in 1959 we bade adieu to some of the best people on earth. Twice we came to Carman. The first time we departed to preach in Montana. The second time to preach in Saskatchewan. My heart I think is here more than any place else on earth.
Published in The Old Paths Archive
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