Our Heritage: Vistas from Newfoundland and Laborador

We will attempt to give brief historical reviews of assembly work in different parts of North America.

Gospel work in Newfoundland and Labrador began in 1943. Our esteemed brother, Mr. Herbert W. Harris, after some years of fruitful activity with Mr. Albert W. Joyce in Prince Edward Island, ventured over to Newfoundland. With true pioneer vision, he saw the potential of a work for God and returned in 1944 with brother Douglas Howard to try gospel meetings. This, however, was not the first effort by brethren to work in this area. A letter to the writer from Mrs. McMullen, wife of the late servant of the Lord, Mr. Isaac McMullen, states that Mr. Brennen, a preacher in Nova Scotia, had a great interest in these parts. Along with Mr. John T. Dickson, he came to the city of St. John’s in October of 1919. They rented an Orange Lodge for Sunday nights and preached in the open air during the week until Nov 4. Then they went to Harbour Grace till Dec 8 with a full hall on Sunday and good numbers the rest of the week. Each year an effort was made to work in some area of Newfoundland. We have met some of the souls who were saved in those early days, though all are in heaven now. Further visits are obscure until Mr. Isaac McMullen came to Canada in 1921 and until 1928 he accompanied Mr. Brennen to Newfoundland, usually during the late summer and fall. Possibly due to increased work in the Maritimes, no further endeavors were made in Newfoundland, though prayer was often focused toward those parts at the Pugwash Junction conferences.

The spread of the gospel by the old Methodists many years ago had almost died away, but it left some areas prepared for the advance of the gospel by our brethren in later years. Brother Herb Harris began a move resulting in a good number of souls becoming believers and assemblies being gathered in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Without going into details, we think of several features of this progress. These would include open air, portable buildings, and tents. The remote areas on the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador were reached using boats and aircraft. In later years, many of these isolated areas were linked by road making them more accessible. Tents have been used for many years and these avenues are still in use to bear the precious seed of the gospel to needy souls. The desire and exercise of young men to help, usually during summer months, was a great contribution to the work. A number of these young men continued their exercise to full time service for God, while others became accredited men for God in their home assemblies.

From 1944 until 1949 a number of brethren worked with brother Harris. These brethren included Russell Harris, Douglas Howard, Albert Ramsay, Donald Moffatt, and Stanley Simms, all of whom are now with the Lord. An assembly was formed first in Carbonear, and later another in St. John’s. These testimonies still carry on today, maintaining scriptural order.

In 1950 the writer joined brother Herb Harris in Corner Brook on the west coast of Newfoundland. A number were saved and an assembly was formed the following year. Corner Brook was really the writer’s initiation into teaching and caring for a new assembly since brother Harris, being older, would leave during the long winter months. After traveling by coastal steamer around most of Newfoundland and seeing so many isolated communities, the vision for a boat was born. In 1956 this became a reality and a suitable boat was obtained from Scotland and delivered to St. John’s by a Furness-Whithy steamer. Changing the registration would have been costly so we retained the name MGM (initials for a family name). We fitted our own name and called it the “Missionary Gospel Messenger.” For 13 years this boat was used to reach the coastal communities in Newfoundland and Labrador with the gospel. Brother Harris asked the writer to take charge of operating the boat and we are grateful for God’s protection, as so many ships have gone down around these shores. Later during this era, a second boat was obtained called the Northern Light and further trips were made to many out ports with the gospel.

As a result of this exploratory type of work during the summer and fall, follow-up work ensued in areas felt to be ready. In some areas, souls were saved and assemblies formed which continue today. During this time, a small aircraft was offered to be used for reaching these areas at other times of the year. This became, and to a great extent remains, a useful means of getting to communities in Labrador. It might be added, that on more than one occasion, this was also the means of getting into a new area with the gospel. One such occasion was a forced landing due to a snowstorm that isolated the writer for three days in a small community on the west coast of Newfoundland. We learned there were relatives of some who had been saved in Labrador, and after further visits concluded we should follow up later with the boat and then meetings on shore. This eventually resulted in the assembly being planted in Parsons Pond and later in Rocky Harbour.

In 1998, the assembly in St. Johns recalled 50 years of testimony while Coiner Brook will do the same in two year’s time. At its conference in 1998, the Lanse au Loup, Labrador assembly recalled 40 years since its inception while English Point and Red Bay were formed in the following year.

From the beginning of the work until the present time, tents have been used in a great number of places. Some of these efforts have been very fruitful in the salvation of souls and the establishment of New Testament assemblies. As far back as 1924, the magazine, “Our Record,” refers to Mr. W. N. Brennen and Mr. Isaac McMullen having tent meetings in H umber-mouth, NF (part of Corner Brook today), with a tent, at a time when the paper mill was being built. Men from many parts of the province were working on this project. The report mentioned that 300 were inside and as many outside the first night of the meetings. It was hoped many would get saved and spread the gospel to other parts. In many of these later tent efforts, younger men came from assemblies in Canada and the United States to help. Older school buses and vans were used with station wagons and cars to transport people and children to the meetings. In smaller communities this activity may have been an exciting form of new entertainment but for the brethren it was a tremendous opportunity to make inroads with the gospel. For one period in central Newfoundland, the writer can recall having as many as 18 brethren helping with the work. Younger men worked with children in the mornings, afternoons were occupied with open air meetings, and at night the gospel was preached. Some helped cook and clean, some drove equipment to bring people while other young men took turns with singing, quizzes, and Bible stories for the children. A picture was taken at one place with over 400 children outside the tent. Another time saw an SOS to Toronto for 400 bibles which came quickly and without charge. Younger brethren might still be challenged to help in the spread of the gospel in this way. Such days are slipping fast away with many entertainments of the devil so prevalent. Tents do not evoke as much interest any more in most localities but are still being used to reach souls. Most of the larger areas have been worked with the gospel but there is, as everywhere, much land to be possessed. Other evangelicals (so-called) have corrupted the gospel with the falling away doctrines and charismatic endeavors.

Some of the over 20 assemblies are small, being in smaller communities. Per capita, they would be on a par with larger assemblies in larger areas. Their testimony is often quite evident and can be very effective.

Several areas in the last few years have had times of fruitfulness for which we give all glory to God. More recently we feel the effects of Satan’s attempts to hinder, spoil, and corrupt the assemblies. This appears true in all the Maritime Provinces just now and should cause a deep concern among the saints of God in every place gathered to His lovely Name.

Many other details could be added regarding faithful men who labored for God in these parts and assisted in seeing souls brought to Christ, and assemblies formed and brought to a measure of spiritual maturity. At present there are assemblies as far north as Goose Bay, (being one of five in Labrador), to Seal Cove on the south coast of Newfoundland. Assemblies dot the Newfoundland west coast, east coast and central areas. It was noted recently that there are ten conferences through the year in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Lord’s servants with an exercise for the saints and others who are able to join us at these times, are greatly appreciated. We would give all the glory and honor to God who has enabled such a work to be accomplished and pray that these assemblies might not only be preserved unto the coming of the Lord, but also that many other testimonies might be raised for His glory.