It was nine decades ago, in 1926, that the first assembly commended worker, John Spreeman arrived in the province of Quebec to begin a “boots on the ground” work of evangelization among French Canadians. Indeed, for number of years, tract bands from the neighboring province of Ontario had already been showering the province with the Gospel. Now God’s time had come to begin sending in the troops.
Needless to say, it was slowing at the outset. Preaching the Gospel in Roman Catholic Quebec often met with strong opposition. John Spreeman and others who followed him were kidnapped, imprisoned and their lives were threatened. Brother Spreeman himself suffered a serious breakdown from such treatment which seriously impaired his health.
And then there were the new believers, recently delivered from Catholicism, who were ostracized from family and friend, often losing their jobs and /or being forced to move to new locations. Their children also experienced the effects of such harassment as they were the brunt of verbal and physical attacks from classmates whose parents had poisoned their minds against the Protestants whom they often qualified as Communists.
But the Gospel cannot be bound and as the seed was sown, it grew and produced, some thirty and some sixty and some hundredfold, being watered by the prayers of God’s people across Canada, North America, and throughout the world. It took eight years following Mr. Spreeman’s arrival for the first local French-speaking assembly to be established at Girardville in the north of the province. That assembly is functioning today, the very first of no less than seventy-five such gatherings of God’s people that the Lord established. At one time, there were fifty-five francophone assemblies across the province in operaton at the same time. Today there are forty-three with one or more currently in development.
In the early days, tract distribution by mail and door to door colportage of Bibles and Christian literature were about the only ways to get the gospel out. In 1957, God raised up Publications Chretiennes to provide the needed ammunition for such activity. As time went on, however, radio and then television opened up. The first programs to be aired in French by any of our workers were those by Arnold Reynolds broadcasting from Sherbrooke beginning in 1946. Due to religious pressure, he was forced off the air after only three and a half years. A decade would pass before our flagstaff radio programs L’heure de la bonne nouvelle with Gaston Jolin at the microphone, launched in 1961, and La foi vivifiante, begun by Fernand Saint-Louis two years later, saw the light of day, television followed in 1964.
Happily, our brethren were not destined to labor alone in this vast field as God eventually sent others with whom they served in happy fellowship. Baptist and Mennonite Brethren were among several groups with whom our workers joined hands in joint efforts such as Bethel Bible School, begun in 1948, Quebec Every Home Crusade in 1950s, and sermons from Science in the 1960s.
And who of those that lived through the stirring times of the late 1970s and early 1980s will ever forget the thrill of those days when it seemed that the windows of heaven were open over the province of Quebec. Hundreds came to Christ, churches were multiplied, evangelical infrastructure increased many-fold. This was followed by a period of leveling off which caused much concern throughout the entire evangelical community including our assemblies.
All along, God has been raising up workers from among the French-Canadian believers themselves. Roland Lacombe was the first such to be commended to the work in 1949. Blanch Durocher followed in 1952, Charles-Eugene Boulianne in 1959, Fernand and Yolanda Saint-Louis in 1962, Gaston and Margot Jolin in 1964. Little by little the ratio of workers originating from English Canada, the Untied States and Europe decreased until presently more than two-thirds of our work force of eighty-five active, commended workers are of French-Canadian origin. To God be the glory!
Today, after ninety years, God continues to work through the assemblies of His people here in French Canada. The pioneers, along with most of the early workers, have gone on to their eternal reward but God has raised up others to carry on where they left off. A new generation of prayer warriors and laborers. May he find us, each one, faithful in service for Christ.
All of this and more can be found in over three hundred pages of Ebb and Flow: A History of Christian Brethren Churches in Canada 1926-2010 (English version). This book is available at News of Quebec, P. O. Box 1054, Sherbrooke (Quebec), J1H 5L3 or by email at [email protected]