Our brother Robertson has written about Paul Kember’s work and input into the Chatham assembly, which met in Merlin for many years. Similar accounts could readily be written by elders from perhaps a dozen assemblies in southwestern Ontario.
We share with so many others the deep sorrow of our brother Paul Kember’s Home call, yet we thank God for blessed memories of his years of labor with the assembly gathered to His name at Merlin. Paul responded to a word of encouragement from one of his cousins who suggested that a small, struggling assembly needed someone to come and work the area in the gospel to see what the Lord would do with such effort. At the time, just nine believers gathered at the Merlin Gospel Hall, a one-room structure about twenty miles southwest of Chatham. The building was without even so much as indoor washrooms.
From early in 1979 until 1988, Paul spent all but two summers and many of the other months of those years visiting door to door in the district, seeking those with an interest in their soul’s welfare. His first series began in February when we rented a community hall in the tiny hamlet of Quinn, hardly a spot even on a county map. That summer, he and his uncle Timothy Kember had a gospel series in a tent in Merlin, and it seemed that they made little headway. As a result of those meetings, however, two boys came to the morning children’s meetings just twice. A few years later, a man came to the hall to inquire about our doctrine and practices. He was searching for the truth and had heard from those two boys, his sons, about the little assembly out in the country that preached the gospel. That man is an elder in the assembly today.
Throughout the following years, the work spread out geographically to many surrounding districts, including the city of Chatham. Others, particularly Paul’s cousins Shad and Steve, came along and provided significant help to the work. Many professed to be saved during those years. A number who were saved then are in the assembly in Chatham to this day. Paul was ever conscious of the need of teaching young believers. Often during the winter, Paul was involved in house meetings, convened to bring before new converts their happy responsibilities
and privileges in Christ.
Paul’s labors were not only spiritual in nature. When plans were made to renovate the old hall in Merlin, Paul was a mainstay in carrying out those renovations. I can vividly recall seeing him and his then, future son-in-law, John Dennison, stuffing insulation into the exterior walls of the old building. Replacing the roof, painting the interior walls, and leveling and carpeting the floor were all part of Paul’s physical labor of love at Merlin.
Paul’s consistency of service left us an example to emulate. Whether pounding tent pegs, visiting homes with invitations to meetings, visiting new believers to give help with their diverse problems in life, teaching truth to those who had professed faith in Christ or preaching the gospel in tent, home or hall, Paul did so cheerfully and tirelessly. He instilled in us, by example, a pattern for gospel service. Our prayer is that his example will live on in those of us among whom he worked and in those whom he won for the Savior. We venerate the memory of Paul and are thankful for what the Lord has done through his labors in these parts for God’s glory and the assembly’s blessing.