Tribute: Alex Dryburgh

portraitWhen God saves a person early in life, the first few years will often set the course, conduct and commitment of their whole life. When Alex Dryburgh was saved by God’s grace in Scotland at the age of thirteen, the influence, training and guidance of godly parents and becoming a part of a scripturally gathered assembly helped establish him in the faith. The Bible was important to him as the source of his faith, and he grew and developed a thirst for the Word of God as he read and studied daily what the Spirit of God taught him. By the training he received, he learned how to pass on, in a point-by-point way, the things he learned. First Peter 4:11 comes to mind when thinking about Alex: “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

Alex spent a couple of years in Ontario in the mid-1960s, and then came to Newfoundland and Labrador for a few months in 1968 on his way back to Scotland. He joined brothers George Campbell, Wallace Buckle, Andrew Bergsma and Vernon Markle on the “Northern Light” gospel boat and learned a lot of things very quickly. Four to six men living in close quarters without any privacy for several months forces one to adapt and learn to work with others. Open-air preaching on the deck of a boat demands that one be concise, simple and brief when giving a message. Also, accountability to fellow-workers is absolutely necessary.

This was new to Alex, but when souls were saved, a whole new reason for knowing the Word of God opened to him. It was important that he pass on to others what he himself had learned from the Scriptures. New believers had to be taught by God through prepared servants who were willing to obey our Lord’s commission.

After marrying Irene and living in Scotland for seven years, Alex and Irene felt led by the Spirit of God to go to Labrador to labor in His field. With two small children, they arrived in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1975. There were four fairly new assemblies in southern Labrador, and it was their exercise to teach believers and preach the gospel in that area. They were willing to adapt to the people and the place and accept the problems of living in a different way than they were used to. The people on the coast were accepting of them and, particularly the Lord’s people, welcomed them with open arms. They were joined to the Lord’s people in the English Point assembly, and it was from that assembly and the Highbury assembly in London, ON, that a recommendation to the grace of God for the work of the Lord ahead of them was given. That was based on their previous life and work which commended them.

Through the fifteen years they lived on the Labrador coast, Alex and Wallace Buckle labored on the Quebec North Shore, Old Fort, La Tabatiere, Harrington Harbour, Chevery and Kegaska, which covers about two hundred miles of coastline. There were a number of brethren together on the “Northern Light” in the summer, and they travelled by airplane in the winter. Many of our brethren will be rewarded because of the work done on that shore. There are souls already in heaven and others on the way to heaven who look with thanks to God for those men who brought the gospel to them.

When Wallace and Olive Buckle moved to Goose Bay to work in the gospel, Alex often joined them in the work there. One special thing Wallace appreciated about Alex was that he always answered a question with a Bible verse. Wallace and Alex were at a conference on the mainland, and Alex got up and gave a word of ministry. A Christian came to Wallace after Alex spoke and asked who that brother was, adding, “He really knows his Bible!” With a sense of humor Wallace said, “He should. He’s been with me all winter!” Wallace said they didn’t accept that as the reason for his knowledge when they heard Alex teaching the Word.

Brother Alex’s knowledge of the Scriptures and his unique way of presenting what the Lord laid on his heart opened the way for his teaching gift to minister to believers in all the assemblies in Newfoundland as well as Labrador. He would attend the three spring conferences when he could, as well as the three fall conferences, and ministered the Word of God to the upbuilding of God’s people. He had a bit of dry humor which he used when a three-hour ministry meeting became wearisome. His earnestness made the importance of his message a matter of concern to the hearers.

A wider ministry opened to them in 1990 when they moved to Toronto where they became a part of the Mimico/Applewood Heights assembly. His teaching ministry led him to many parts of Ontario and then across the provinces of Canada. He also taught in many assemblies in the United States, particularly at Bible conferences. His understanding of the Scriptures and application of them was appreciated. Even though they were living in Upper Canada, Alex and Irene would often come to Atlantic Canada in the fall and go to the conferences that started in October in Sydney, NS, then to L’Anse au Loup, LB, then to Parsons Pond on the NL west coast, and lastly to St. John’s, NL, on the east coast.

Between the conferences, they would visit other assemblies in the field to which the Lord had first called them to minister to His people. The Lord’s people will miss the clear teaching of our brother that would begin with “Firstly …, secondly …, thirdly …” and from which points he would expound the Word.

Loss of health in several different ways limited Alex during the last few years, but his heart was in the things of God and the work of God. He never stopped using his analytical and spiritual mind. We appreciated the way his thought processes worked when speaking with any of us, even when he was sick; he edified us by his words and unique way of saying “Firstly …, secondly …, and thirdly ….” Our brother Alex and his wife Irene have been a great blessing to the Lord’s people. Now he has a new field in which he is engaged in the Lord’s work.

Taking the words of various Scriptures, our Brother Alex Dryburgh was “the minister of God to thee for good,” a “minister to the saints,” a “minister according to the gift of the grace of God,” a “minister [of] grace to the hearers,” a “faithful minister,” a “minister of God,” a “minister of Jesus Christ.”