Tribute: Bryan Funston

Paul’s appreciation of Timothy was personally expressed when he wrote to the Philippian believers that he had “no man likeminded who would naturally care for their state” (Php 2:20). These same traits were reflected in the life and service of our brother Bryan Funston. Although living centuries apart, they both conveyed wholehearted interest and commitment to the advancement of the gospel and the establishment of New Testament assemblies.

Bryan was born on Christmas Day 1946 in Richmond, BC, the oldest son of Bill and Elsie Funston. Their home and the assembly at West Richmond were marked by gospel activity which no doubt influenced him from earliest years. He was saved at the age of 10, and although he intended to join his father’s shoe business after college graduation, he began to sense a “higher calling” from the Lord. After spending several summers helping on the Newfoundland Gospel boat, the “Northern Light” on the Quebec North Shore, he was commended to full-time service in 1969 by the West Richmond assembly and joined the expanding work on Canada’s east coast.

The following summer, 1970, proved to be a turning point in his life as a Christian doctor practicing on Fogo Island suggested to the brethren that they should consider bringing the gospel to that small island. This was new territory, but as the Northern Light steamed into the harbor and the open-air preaching began from the deck of the boat, it was soon evident that there was a real interest. In time, a tent was pitched for further meetings, and when the summer’s work was over, it became clear that Bryan was the man to anchor the work and follow up the interest. Conditions were rugged and the winters were long, but his labors there along with others were fruitful, and by October of 1973 an assembly was planted that continues today.

The 1970s proved to be a time of wonderful visitation in Newfoundland and Labrador, and in 1973 a work began in Gander Bay that included some contacts from the Fogo work. Bryan helped extensively in that summer’s work, but most of his focus continued to be Fogo, with the first breaking of bread there that fall. In September 1975, Bryan was married to Elizabeth Young of Toronto, and their first home was in Gander Bay to help consolidate the new assembly in Main Point. However, their stay there was brief as a tent was pitched the next summer in the Eastport area, one hour east of Gander. Interest was again encouraging with blessing in salvation, but this time, the new work encountered some real opposition. During renovations on a purchased building to be used as a hall, some windows were broken, water lines were cut, and a human blockade was set up to hinder the development of a cemetery. Despite the violence, Bryan and Elizabeth and the young Christians persevered, and a lampstand to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ was established. Another assembly in Gander was planted in 1982, and Bryan, along with others, was a vital part of these outreaches.

Bryan worked effectively with all the Newfoundland workers in those years – Wallace Buckle, George Campbell, Alex Dryburgh, Gaius Goff, Jim Jarvis, Bert Joyce, Peter Mathews, Carl Payne, Jon Procopio, Gordon Williams, myself and many local brethren. Albert Ramsay spent weeks with Bryan in both Fogo and Eastport, while Eric McCullough shared in several efforts in the gospel over the years. Bryan was a real soul winner with a deep-seated interest in people. He kept boxes of file cards with the names and addresses of people that he had met and sought to follow up with them whenever he could. His memory for names was astounding, and Bryan was able to give you a detailed account of not only an individual but also of his or her “family tree”! His preaching and teaching were marked by his earnestness and desire to see people come to know the Savior and then to live for Him, and many even today thank God that Bryan ever crossed their paths with the gospel.

By 1985, the works in Eastport and Gander were well established, and when Bryan received a “Macedonian call” from the small struggling work in Fort McMurray, Alberta, he felt that this was the Lord’s guiding hand to another sphere of labor. With thousands of Newfoundlanders living and working in the area, Bryan was the right man to spearhead the work. It wasn’t an easy move for the family after almost 18 years in the east, but the Lord blessed his labors there with souls saved and the assembly witness fortified. For the next 11 years, Fort McMurray was their home, but by 1996 family considerations resulted in a move back to Delta, BC, and the work in the Pacific Northwest.

As was his norm, Bryan poured his wholehearted efforts into helping the BC work, whether it was the annual PNE booth, the tent outreach in a new Vancouver area, or gospel series and assembly conferences throughout the province. These years also included a number of trips back to Newfoundland and especially to Fogo and Eastport to encourage the believers he loved. However, in 2007, during a gospel series in English Point, Labrador, Bryan became seriously ill and suffered a debilitating stroke. This proved to be a turning point in his labors, as several more strokes in the years that followed ultimately terminated any prolonged gospel efforts or conference preaching. Valiantly, Bryan sought to do whatever he could even in this condition, but during his final years, he was lovingly cared for by his family and in particular his oldest son David. Unexpectedly, on January 8, 2024, he suffered a heart attack and slipped into the presence of his Savior, the One whom he loved and served for so many years. His labors are over and he now awaits the day of resurrection.

The Lord’s ways are “past finding out,” but we do know that He makes no mistakes in any of our lives. Only eternity will reveal the full results of our brother’s life of service, but many of us are blessed to have known and worked with him. Prayer is certainly valued for his dear wife, Elizabeth, along with the rest of the family as they deal with the homecall of dear Bryan