Hector Alves was born in Philadelphia, PA, in 1896 and was raised in Aberdeen, Scotland. In 1908 the family moved to Vancouver in the period of massive migration to the West Coast. There, a vigorous Gospel testimony was flourishing in a frontier atmosphere, and J. J. Rouse and D. R. Scott were enterprising tent evangelists. The family settled a few blocks from where the first Cedar Cottage Gospel Hall would be constructed in 1909.
Hector attended the Presbyterian Church on Victoria Road, but had the responsibility of walking his younger sister to the Cedar Cottage Sunday School. From age 13 onward he attended himself, having been encouraged by Mrs. John Bell. His sisters (younger than he) and later, his parents came to know Christ. He was respectful to the Gospel as a youth. In his old age he wrote: “In 1911, Mr. John Smith of Cleveland paid his first visit to Vancouver. It was during [his] meetings that the writer was brought under conviction of sin.” He was not religious by temperament or in conduct, yet he wrestled within and allowed men of God to reason with him of righteousness, self-control, and judgment to come. However, he put off God’s salvation for seven years of indecision.
During the First World War, at the age of 20, he moved to Seattle. A magazine report mentions D. R. Scott having had a few nights of meetings in Seattle early in 1917, and Hector Alves has written in the margin: “Spoke to me earnestly about my soul.” Later, during a short series of meetings by Mr. David Oliver, he was anxious to converse with the preacher. It wasn’t until the last night that the gentleman, while putting on his overcoat, simply turned to the youth and said, “Well, have you found out yet that you are lost?” He had, but for some reason he was not yet willing to be found.
On March 24, 1918, a Lord’s Day, he planned to attend a theatrical performance in the afternoon. In those days he was taken up with entertainment by Harry Lauder, Henry Houdini, and the like. While he was standing on a Seattle street, a voice within warned of the possibility of going directly to eternal perdition from a theater. Instead, he went to an auditorium where a free-lance evangelist by the name of Nels Thompson preached to an audience of six hundred. A few weeks earlier he had told that preacher, in a conversation on the street, that he could not attend his campaign because it was not being held in a Gospel Hall!
Mr. Thompson caught the youth’s eye as he was leaving, and entered into conversation with him at Mr. Alves’ fervent request. The sequence of Scripture texts which they read on their knees was excellent, each one followed by a piercing question from the evangelist and a sincere reply by the young man. First, Romans 3:23 – “All have sinned.” Second, 5:12 – “death by sin.” Third, 6:23 -“The gift of God is eternal life.” Finally, 10:8-11 – “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
The evangelist was not permitted to finish those last verses. The young man exclaimed: “That’s what I want! I am saved.” Wisely, the older man protested, “But how do you know?” The youth insisted, “I believe with my heart; I confess with my mouth.” Mr. Thompson prevailed on him to attend the evening service instead of rushing to the little Gospel Hall to tell his friends what had transpired. To the youth’s enormous embarrassment, the evangelist announced to the audience that there was a young man present who would come to the stage and “confess with his mouth” what had transpired in his soul that afternoon. So, our brother’s first “preaching experience” was accompanied by protests, tears, and a very stammering tongue.
In that same year, shortly after being baptized and received into assembly fellowship, he was taken into the U.S. armed forces and for a time suffered dearly for his convictions. It was in the Seattle-Tacoma barracks that he came under the positive influence of Walter Firth and commenced his project of copying the entire Word of God, written line by line in ink with a careful hand, as a sign of things to come.
He returned to Canada in 1919 and soon married Eunice Anna Scott, who made up to him much of what he had lost by inadequate schooling. Her father, already mentioned, would be one of several in the Pacific Northwest in the 1920’s and 1930’s who influenced the tenor of Hector Alves’ service. He was driver, mechanic, and frequent preacher with Mr. Harry Fletcher’s “Gospel car,” which was used by an exercised group of future leaders to evangelize the Fraser Valley. In the Cedar Cottage assembly he was a janitor and at the same time an overseer.
Two of the strong leaders insisted that our brother was needed in the assembly and should not entertain thoughts of a wider sphere of service. However, he had no rest in his soul in that regard, and in 1931 commenced full-time service in the gospel with the blessing of three assemblies in the city. An initial effort in Lynden, WA, was encouraging, until he preached baptism to the converts! Salt Lake City was his first endeavor farther afield, with a three-month apprenticeship under Mr. Samuel Keller, depending upon God for their daily food and an audience to preach to at night. Especially in the first fifteen years of his ministry, he spent long periods of time in schools, rented halls, and tents in the western half of the continent. In 1936, he built a small house trailer (an oddity in those times) for use on the Canadian Prairies.
His field of service was enlarged in 1942 when he accompanied Mr. Samuel McEwen from the West to Virginia at the time of Mr. McEwen’s final illness. From that time he traveled widely, ministering the Word in the U.S. and Canada, and also visited Australia and New Zealand in the late 5O’s. He served thirty years as an associate editor of Truth and Tidings, toiling thousands of hours alone in his study where he prepared an article for each issue of the magazine as well as answers to questions.
More important, it was there that he prepared, in meticulous detail, some five hundred outlines on Scriptural topics. His series on The Tabernacle, The Seven Churches of Asia, etc., still live in the memories of many.
Nevertheless, Hector Alves never lost his interest in gospel campaigns, nor in preaching from Romans 10:9, until he went to be with Christ in 1978, after preaching his last gospel message in his home assembly. His view, expressed a few years before being taken away, was: “Eternity will reveal whatever there has been in all this for the glory of God.”
(Acknowledgment and thanks to D. R. Alves, Valencia, Venezuela, Mr. Hecor Alves’ son, for most of the details for this article.)