“Come oven,.. and help us” Acts 16:9
Acts 16 is a pivotal chapter in the history book of the New Testament. It records a change of Persons as the activities of Paul, Barnabas, and Mark give way to those of Paul, Silas, and Timothy; a change of Place, as the spread of the Gospel moves from Asia to Europe; and also a change of Plans as the Lords redirects the movements of His servants.
The second missionary journey began with a desire to return to visit those saved, the fruit of an earlier work, but the Lord had other purposes for His servants. In this chapter we can see four lessons of importance for every servant of the Lord:
1. There was a need that the Lord knew: “help us”
2. There was a man that the Lord wanted: “appeared to Paul”
3. There were doors that the Lord moved: “suffered them not… come over
4. There was the assurance that the Lord gave: “knowing assuredly”.
The Lord, while He was upon earth had given to His followers the commission to go “into all the world.” Later there came a specific call in the life of this chosen vessel. Now it is circumstances that are used to turn this servant to another direction.
Coming from Antioch in the south, they had gone eastward into Galatia; following that they tried going northward to Bithynia, but the Lord would have them go west to Macedonia. It has been said that when the Lord closes one door He opens another. We are not told the details, nor do we need to know them. It is sufficient for us to learn that circumstances can be ordered by the Lord to guide His workers. The work of Macedonia was not the desire of Paul, but one known by the Lord. The Lord of the harvest called the servant He wanted for the work. We need to be conscious that changing circumstances can be the Lord’s leading. Furthermore we see that the Lord chose the one He wanted. His life of service had begun with the words, “What wilt Thou have me to do?” It is important that He was still yielded and listening. Let us not be so entrenched in our ways that we fail to hear His voice. The endeavor into Macedonia was not with uncertainty. Difficulties and hardships there would be, but “knowing assuredly” caused them to move with confidence. Servants of the Lord learn that where there is a definite call to a work the trials can be faced and the blessing of the Lord expected.
The work here in Grande Praine, Alberta, was a need known to the Lord. There was a farmer who could say “I have prayed for years that the Lord would send someone,” a couple who would say, “‘we have been praying and asking for the Lord’s blessing in this area.” As in Corinth, we believe that the Lord has “much people in this city” For the previous twenty years we had sought to serve the Lord in Newfoundland, but for a number of reasons Grande Prairie had become the object of our prayers and concerns also. There has been a steady migration of many young people as they sought employment in the west. Time and again we were asked what assembly activities there were in the Grande Prairie area. In the fall of 1997 in a very clear and definite way the Lord opened the door for us to go.
Grande Prairie is the service center of the Peace River country of Northern Alberta. With a population nearing 40,000 it provides services to an area of 200,000. Three primary industries, oil and gas, forestry, and farming form the economic base of the area. The rapid growth and employment potential has caused a considerable immigration of people particularly from eastern Canada with several thousand coming from Newfoundland. Alberta, the fastest growing area of Canada, has few assemblies.
The work in Grande Prairie began with meetings in a home. From there we were able to rent a room at a school for a mid-week Bible meeting. Later, a regular gospel meeting was arranged in a room in an office building. In time, these meetings were moved to rented space at an Inn. In the distribution of Seed Sower texts, Vias, and tracts, contact has been made with many that at some time or other went to a Sunday school or gospel meeting in the east. From a simple beginning of just a few the numbers have grown as the Lord has added. This is a work not confined to the city itself, but reaches out into many towns and villages around. Quite apart from the work in the city, there have been monthly meetings with another group some fifty miles away. There is a great need all around us for the message of the gospel and for believers to be taught God’s principles of gathering.
Last Easter, following several weeks of teaching on assembly pictures and principles, the believers of Grande Prairie met for the first time to remember the Lord. Since then the numbers have increased to the point that a larger meeting place is needed. With the booming economy there is a lack of rental property available. Arrangements have been made to purchase a building lot and in the will of the Lord construction will begin on a new Gospel Hall this spring. We look to the Lord that in time there may be other assemblies as more are reached by the Lord in the area around us. The believers here appreciate the continued prayers for the Lord’s blessing upon this part of His vineyard.