Out of Every Kindred, and Tongue, and People, and Nation: Ontario

From a Different Bible?

I was born and raised in a Roman Catholic family in a poor community in Northern Ontario. My father was an alcoholic and worked as a lumberjack in the bush. Often, late on a winter’s night, my mother asked my brother and me to go out the mile trail to the highway to look for him. Many times we found him on the side of the highway where his drinking buddies left him. We brought him home on the sled. He would have died there if we had not found him.

When I was about eight years of age, my father left my mother. She had to raise their seven children alone. We were very poor and most of what we had was other people’s castaways. Each day after school my brother and I went hunting for partridge or rabbit to cook for supper. At night before we went to bed, my mother prayed and recited the rosary with us. Although the Bible was never opened in our home, my mother taught us reverence for the Bible and took us to mass regularly.

At the age of ten I became an altar boy and this is where I had my first exposure to alcohol. Around this time my mother became ill and was unable to care for us, so we were placed on Children’s Aid. I became angry and unruly and often got into trouble in the various foster homes where we lived. Once I tried to run away, but the police brought me back. I became increasingly rebellious. Soon after, I was sent to a Catholic boy’s reformatory where I learned nothing but crime and drugs.

The next nine years of my life were spent in and out of prison. Inwardly, I was miserable and contemplated suicide. At my last release from prison, I decided I had to do something with my life and called my brother Denis in Woodstock. He promised to help if I obeyed his rules.

I later moved to London to work but didn’t care for city life. I looked for a place in the country. The Lord was working without my knowing it. I found this little farmhouse in West Lorne and decided to move there. My landlord, Jim McCandless, came to the door the Monday after I moved in and asked me if I would come to a gospel meeting in a tent. I had never heard of such a thing but since I didn’t know anyone in the area, I decided to go to meet some folks from the community.

In a tent, sitting on a lawn chair, I said to myself, “Butch, what in the world are you doing here?” What I heard that night I had never heard before. I always believed the Bible was the Word of God but had never read it for myself. They were preaching that the Bible said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” I thought to myself, “The preacher’s Bible must be different from the Catholic Bible.” Later, I called my mother to check, but her Bible said the same thing.

Some days, I would go with Jim to help him in the fields. There he would talk with me about his life and I could identify with him and his experiences. He told me how he was saved and sure of heaven. The preachers, Mr. Norman Crawford and Mr. Paul Kember, visited me regularly. I soon discovered that God had only two places for people to go when they died, heaven or hell. There was no purgatory in the Bible, and I knew I wasn’t fit for heaven.

One night at the end of the gospel meeting, Mr. Crawford asked the question, “Where will your soul be one second after you die? You could leave here and have a car accident on the way home and where will you be in eternity?” For the first time, I was afraid of dying. I had seen people die and had some close calls myself. But now I knew there was no second chance, no purgatory, and I was headed for hell.

After the meeting that night, the preachers came to visit at the house as I was in earnest about being saved. They read many verses with me, then prayed and left me alone at midnight. I went to bed but couldn’t sleep knowing I was headed for hell. I got up again and began to read in John 3. I read it over and over. I tried to get saved, but I couldn’t. I would just have to go to hell because of my sin. Again, I read John 3 and when I came to verse 16 I read, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” I had known all my life about the death of Jesus on the cross, but I had never realized why He died. He had died for me! If I had been the only sinner in the world, God loved me so much that He would have sent His only Son to die on the cross for me.

On July 27, 1980, at about 2 a.m., I knelt on my living room floor in front of the old furnace and thanked God for sending His Son to die on the cross for me. I had peace with God and had no more fear of death, knowing I had a home in heaven. I have never regretted salvation and neither will you if you will trust Christ. Where will your soul be one second after you die?