The Mission Field is Arriving
The motto of Canada’s most western province is Splendor sine occasu, “splendor without diminishment.”
It is a province of mountain ranges and valleys. It contains two major fertile farming regions, large ranch lands in the central Cariboo, orchards and vineyards in the Okanagan and Kootenay regions, with the rest of its 945,000 km2 (365,000 mi2) covered by large tracks of coniferous forests. Forestry, mining, tourism, and fishing are major industries, and the province is rich in oil and gas reserves.
British Columbia is the second largest province in land area, with the third largest population in the country, of its 4.3 million people is urban and concentrated in the southwestern corner of the province. The Pacific Coast ports of Vancouver, Canada’s third largest metropolitan center, and Prince Rupert are the gateways to trade with Pacific Rim countries. Its capital city is Victoria; other large population centers are Kelowna, Kamloops, and Prince George.
THE PAST AND PRESENT
This province has a most interesting history. In 1778 Capt. James Cook of the British Royal Navy landed on the coast inhabited by Indian tribes and laid claim to the land on behalf of his country. Later Capt. George Vancouver took formal possession of Vancouver Island in 1792. Early settlement was prompted by the growth of the fur trade and later by the discovery, in 1858, of gold along the Fraser River and its tributaries. In 1866 the island and the mainland were united as a single colony and named British Columbia, which then joined the Dominion of Canada in 1871. Permanent migration to the province took place in two major spurts. The first started in 1885 when Vancouver became the terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The second, which began after World War II, is really still under way.
During the initial population surge, assembly testimony was first established in this province. Many believers who migrated had assembly connections in Eastern Canada or Great Britain, and assembly testimony dates to 1891. Gospel testimony flourished and many assemblies were established over the next few decades. A number of full-time servants of the Lord lived and pioneered in B.C. in the first half of the last century. In the seventies and eighties, there was a revival of interest to reach the interior of the province with the gospel, and brethren joined in gospel tours along some of the interior highways during the summer months.
Most assemblies today are located in the southwestern corner of the province, with assemblies outside this area few in number and widely scattered, most of them small. More recently, some outreach is being made into some communities in the interior of the province as well as some urban districts in the Vancouver area. Only two resident full-time brethren remain who actively labor in the gospel in the province.
B.C. is an ethnically diverse society, with immigration projected to be 30-33,000 per year over the next 30 years. The largest visible minorities are Chinese and South Asian. China, India, and Hong Kong rank the highest next to the U.K. as the birthplace of immigrants, with most new immigration now coming from eastern countries.
British Columbians are generally secular with 35% claiming to have no religion. With such a high percentage of the irreligious, it is not surprising that British Columbians are less inclined to attend places of worship than the rest of the country. There is a general distrust of institutions, and, unlike our American friends, Canadians tend to avoid public displays of religion. The statement is often heard, “I’m religious, but I don’t go to church.”
British Columbians desperately need the gospel. In spite of a humanistic, materialistic society that produces indifference to the gospel, there is often a resulting spiritual emptiness and longing for meaning to life that man’s philosophies fail to provide. This can be seen especially among many immigrants that are coming in increasing numbers from societies where the gospel has been suppressed for decades. In a very real sense, God has brought a mission field to our door. Some assemblies have taken advantage of the thirst many of these people have for God, and have reached out, using the Scriptures to teach them English as a second language.
The challenging fact remains, however, that in many towns and villages, the gospel has not been clearly preached for decades. How can we meet the challenge? The tried and true methods are still available to us, such as literature distribution, fair booths, mall displays, etc., to spread the message and establish contacts; all this with a view to gospel meetings in tents, community halls, store fronts, or homes. Perhaps radio and the Internet are tools that could be utilized to great advantage. For establishment of assembly testimonies, however, as military experts well know, there needs to be “troops on the ground.” That would require couples, led of the Lord, moving into areas as full-time workers, or seeking employment, with a view to establishing a Christian testimony over a period of time. The challenge is great, but the Lord’s promise still stands, “Lo, I am with you alway.”
For any who have an exercise for the gospel, the fields of British Columbia are “white already to harvest.” Our prayer should be that young men and women will catch a vision from God for the need and potential of this province, as Paul did when he heard those heaven-sent words, “Come over into Macedonia and help us.” In a place where the physical beauty of God’s handiwork is evident on every hand, the spiritual beauty of His workmanship could be displayed in the hearts and lives of individuals through the power of the gospel. In the context of evangelistic enterprise, “Pray without ceasing” and “Striving together for the faith of the gospel” should be our motto for the furtherance of the Lord’s work in our day and generation just prior to the Lord’s return.