Safely Home: David O. Kember (1)

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A Devoted Soulwinner

The family of dear brother Dave asked me to express my feelings about the loss of a dear husband, father, grandfather, and, to many of us, a spiritual father. I first met Dave in the winter of 1960 in a compressor house in the factory where we both worked in the city of Sarnia. About 2000 men were employed there and I had heard of the man who preached to any he met. When he entered the room where I was working and I saw the name on his hard hat, I realized who he was. To attract his attention and out of curiosity as to what he would say, shamefully, I started to curse. I thought, “If he is a REAL Christian, he will not like that and rebuke me.” He came over to me and did just that and then he asked me a question, “Do you know that you need to be born again to go to heaven?” I was 27 years old and had never heard that before. The conversation ended. I thought that was all I would ever hear about it, but two nights later he was at my door in the village of Oil Springs, 25 miles from his home. That was the beginning of numerous visits over the next few weeks. At the first visits, I did all I could to discourage him from coming, but I never told him to leave. I just thought he would give up. Well, Dave Kember did not know what that meant, and God started to deal with me. On April 4th, God saved me and that was the beginning of a wonderful fellowship and friendship that has lasted these past 45 years.

Dave was born in the city of Sarnia, in 1919, one of 11 children born to Guy and Mary Kember. Dave’s Father had just been saved through the preaching of Mr. David Oliver and when Dave was born, he was named after the evangelist. Dave would say that of the 11 children, he was the worst; he rebelled against the Christian atmosphere of the home. He left and started a life away from the influence of the gospel. He was drafted into the army in 1939 and that winter he was sick and in the hospital. His father came, and because of the farm and the need for workers, Dave was released from the army. In the winter of 1942, Mr. Hector Alves and Mr. Robert McCracken held gospel meetings in the Gospel Hall. Dave was 22 when he was saved on February 3, 1942, at the end of that series. God put the desire for souls in his heart that night and he started the work of an evangelist.

In 1946 he married Phyllis Gratton of Grand Bend. Together they opened their home for the gospel. As time passed, they enjoyed the addition of six children to their family. When I was saved, Dave and his brother John brought a portable hall to Oil Springs. For one year they held meetings in that building four nights a week. In these meetings my school friend, and now servant of the Lord, Lorne Mitchell and his wife Edna were saved. On April 9th 1961, the small Glenrae assembly moved over to Oil Springs and, together with the new converts, the present assembly began.

In 1968 Dave and his family moved to the Clinton area. He began house meetings, school house meetings, and meetings with the assembly there. God blessed those efforts and many precious souls were saved and added to that assembly. When there were nights with no meetings, he visited the unsaved and encouraged the newly saved ones. In 1979 his dear wife Phyllis went home to be with her Lord. Later Dave married Thelma Jarvis of Sarnia and she shared Dave’s commitment to the gospel.

In 1981 Dave was exercised about New Brunswick and soon moved to Northern N.B. He worked tirelessly in the many small towns and throughout the countryside, having numerous tent series. Those who had been saved drove an hour to Madawaska, Maine to be with the assembly there. In September 1992, outside the town limits of St. Leonard, NB, the few believers gathered as an assembly in an unused United Church. The rent was very little but the church committee did not want the structure altered for historical reasons. Dave bought a generator, as the building had no electricity or furnace or inside plumbing. A wood stove supplied the heat. Those were happy meetings and Dave’s love for the children’s meetings was evident. He put his entire person into his unique lessons.

In 1999 because of Dave’s failing health, he and Thelma moved back to Ontario and were in the Oil Springs assembly until his homecall in his 87th year.