Crusading for Christ in Canada
September 11th, 1966 @ 10:50 AM
CRUSADING FOR CHRIST IN CANADA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-11-66 10:50 a.m.
Now as a background to the sermon this morning, I read from the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, beginning at verse 4:
And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, those that were ordained of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem.
And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.
Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,
After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.
And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas, old Troy. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia and help us.
And after he had seen the vision, immediately we—
And there Luke the beloved physician joins the company—
. . . immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.
This Macedonian call: Crusading for Christ in Canada.
A very gifted and affluent oil man who lived in Fort Worth, who belonged to the Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, who was the fine and devoted and liberal member with his fellow businessmen in the Baptist Foundation of Texas, that man was touched by the Spirit of God to help vastly the work of our churches in the western and pioneer areas of the United States. For several years he spent his summers in Colorado, and there being introduced to our witness in that western state, he gave liberally, largely for the support of the establishment of our churches and the furtherance of those churches in the western state of Colorado. As time passed, his ministry of giving and support seemed to be finished in Colorado. And he was laying before God what he should do with his great fortune, what God would expect of him in another work in another place beyond Colorado.
Possibly as a sign, at least it was a seed sowing in his own heart, there came to the Broadway Church in Fort Worth the executive leader of the Oregon-Washington Convention. His name was Milan. He was a pastor in Texas until he went up to assume that responsibility. And a message that he delivered there on a Sunday morning, the power of the Lord apparently was in the appeal that that fine denominational leader made. And when he finished, Brother William Fleming, this godly man and affluent laymen, stood up and addressing the pastor said, “Sir, no missionary should ever make an appeal like that and it go unheeded. I make a motion that this church give him for the work, $10,000.” Well, the pastor didn’t know quite what to do with the situation, but they voted to do it. And after the benediction Mr. William Fleming wrote out a check for $10,000 and gave it to the missionary.
He thought that possibly God would want him to support the work in the golden state of California. So he went out there, visited with the churches, talked with the leaders. And after the visit was done and the introductions were made, he had no impression at all concerning California. So in one of the national parks in the evening, lying down under a giant redwood tree, looking up through the branches at the stars in the sky, he had a vision. And a voice from heaven seemed to say to him, “I am calling you to the work in Canada.”
It was so vivid and so much seemingly of heaven that he made his way to Canada, and there for the first time was introduced to the small and struggling and feeble witness of our Southern Baptist people in that vast, giant land. As he stayed there and as he looked upon the industrial development of that wilderness, he was confirmed that the vision and the voice were of God. When he returned therefore to Texas, he built in the Baptist Foundation a great trust for the pioneer work in the West and especially for the work and witness in Canada.
Out of the blue of the sky, without any thought or knowledge on my part whatsoever, I was called to eat lunch with the dear people of the Baptist Foundation of Texas, located here in Dallas. And after the meal was over, there sat down with me Deacon Jim Cantrell, the executive secretary of the foundation, and deacon Jimmy Roberts who is in charge of the Fleming trust. And having already gone over these things with Mrs. Fleming, the widow of the great good businessman, they said to me, “We want to know if you will go to Canada and visit those churches and get acquainted with those pastors and look at that field and that world. And then come back, and if God would so lay it upon your heart, could it be that the First Baptist Church in Dallas might help us implement the meaning and the significance of this trust.”
They need so much, those little churches, in prayer, in encouragement, in staff, in direction, how to build a Sunday school, a Training Union, a WMU, a Brotherhood; how to carry through a visitation program and especially how to evangelize a great, mostly pagan nation. Doesn’t go to church, there are not one percent of the people in Canada who are Baptist. In all of that vast country there are only seven known Indians who belong to this faith and communion. The people are largely non-church attending and largely uninterested and unbelievably indifferent. Seemed that it was the thing that God wanted me to do—was to go. So arrangements were made, and we went.
First in Vancouver, which is the great city on the western Pacific––the Pacific side of Canada––on Saturday night I preached to a mass meeting of leaders from Oregon, Washington, and from all of that district around Vancouver, in the Kingcrest Baptist Church. Then Sunday morning I preached in the Westlynn Baptist Church. And it was such a gracious thing. Charles E. Fuller, of the “Old Fashioned Revival Hour,” was in Vancouver, read in the paper where I was to preach, and attended the service that Sunday morning, and prayed on his knees at the front of the church so earnestly for me and this work. Then that night at the Pike Road Baptist Church, whose young pastor is one of the most dedicated and gifted young men I have ever met; then after this ministry in Vancouver, it was planned for us to make a great arc tour through British Columbia and Alberta. We have in the area about twenty-five little churches.
The arrangements were made here in Dallas for the journey to be made by commercial airliners and by automobile. But in the providence of the Lord, at that exact time, Bob Dove––for whom Jimmy Roberts so earnestly prayed, a very gifted and able, dedicated young man––Bob Dove, who was the Training Union director of our Oregon, Washington Convention, had been called to superintend all of our Baptist witness in western Canada. And he had just arrived that day. And he has a little plane that I call the “Insect.” Coming up there to Canada in that little plane, to accept the work, it was his proposal to visit the churches also.
So it was decided that we, instead of going by commercial airliner and by automobile, that we would make that great arc and tour in that little crate. So we started out from Vancouver to Penticton, at the southern part of the Okanagon Valley. That beautiful lake is eighty-two miles long and about two miles wide and is the fruit-growing district in Canada. The Okanagon Valley and the Okanagon Fruit Association, one of the most prolific regions I have ever seen, raise enough fruit for the world.
Then from Penticton we flew to Kamloops, at the junction of the North Thompson and the South Thompson River; which is a flourishing community of pulp mills and log mills. Then from Kamloops we flew to Williams Lake, out in the wilderness. Then from Williams Lake to Prince George, at the confluence of the Nechako and the Fraser rivers, which is another flourishing city of pulp mills and log sawmills. And from back Prince George, through the Pine River Pass, over the great Rockies, to Dawson Creek, then from Dawson Creek, beyond the Peace River in northern Alberta, called Worsley, which is at the beginning of the end of civilization and the start of an untraceable wilderness. Then, from Worsley, down through White Court to Edmonton and to Calgary, then Banff and Yoho National Parks in the Rockies.
That country is indescribably vast. It is the largest wilderness area in the world. There are almost a million square miles of timber in it. On the far west is the coastal range of mountains, tall, rugged, and covered with snow. And on the eastern side is the great vast Canadian Rockies, so rugged, so tall and so covered with glacial snows. In between those two vast ranges, it’s not a desert as you would expect in America or in Mexico, but between those vast ranges are undulating mountains, not so high as the Rockies, and covered with those forests and dotted with emerald lakes; the vastest, intractable mountainous area that mind could imagine.
And the resources of that vast area are known only to God. The timber, the streams and lakes, the water power, the minerals, it is unimaginable! On that Peace River at Portage Mountain Dam, they are now preparing for electrical hydro installations that cost eight hundred eighty million dollars, almost a billion dollars. This is just one of the multitude of places where those dams can be built and the whole world flooded with hydro generated electric power. People are pouring into that country. It is industrializing at a rapid pace, and the future is illimitable!
It is the most breathtaking and spectacular of all of the scenic wonders of the world; ah, those towering, towering, towering white shouldered mountains, those vast and craggy peaks! Through the national park of Banff, we went up to the Yoho Valley, and there in the Yoho Valley I saw a falls; the Takakkaw Falls, one thousand two hundred fifty-two feet high and a river pouring over it. It was also in that Yoho Valley that we saw our first moose. A moose! Who would ever have thought that I’d be right there in ten feet of a wild moose?
John Cunningham, the pastor of the church in Calgary, as we looked at it, said, “You know this reminds me of the Scotsman who came here to the Yoho Valley and looked at a moose like that. And he said, ‘What do you call that animal?’ And the reply was, ‘A moose.’ And the Scotsman looked at it and said, ‘A moose? My man, if a moose looked like that, how big would a rat be?’”
And my sweet friend, Cameron Townsend, after September a year ago coming back from that Amazon valley and that Amazon jungle, I said I will never get in one of those little planes to fly anymore, never! But again it seemed the thing to do at the time. So I got in the crate, and I said to Bob Dove, “What vintage is this puddle jumper?” And he said, “1956.” It is a monument to friction tape and baling wire.”
So when we started out, among those towering mountains and those yawning chasms, I said to him, “Why is it that when you make this engine cough and spit, you always do it over these great vast chasms, whatever it is you do?” And he said he’s just changing the mixture in the airplane. And I said, “Why can’t you do that over some level place?” Oh!
Then as we went on he said to me, “You know why when we take off I immediately make straight for these great mountainous cliffs?” And he did it every time, no sooner would we take off than he’d drive that little plane right into the middle of those towering canyons and mountains. He said, “You know why I do that?” I said, “I just supposed to scare the living daylights out of me!”
“Oh no,” he says, “I have no such intent at all.” He said, “I go immediately to these great mountains sides in order for the updraft to lift up the little plane and that saves gasoline.” I’ve got news for Bob Dove. I read in an article in a current issue of the National Geographic magazine that Dean gave me yesterday, that those tremendous air currents not only always go up, but they sometimes go down.
In Prince George, way up there in northern British Columbia, it was decided that we should fly through the Pine Creek Pass to Dawson Creek and up beyond in Alberta to Worsley, in the middle of the intractable wilderness. There’s a godly farmer there from Colin County who had gone out there as a pioneer and in that wilderness had built a little Southern Baptist church. So we were going across and up to visit that godly man.
We came into Prince George Friday and had the service there Friday night. And we were to leave Saturday, but that evening, Friday evening, the first day of fall struck Prince George, and those lowering clouds covered the mountains and down into the valleys. We couldn’t even think about leaving on Saturday. Sunday it was the same way, and Monday it was worse.
When I got up and looked out that hotel window, it looked like pea soup. But toward noon the clouds began to break at Prince George, and Bob Dove went out to the airport to talk to the weatherman, and the weatherman said to him, “It is rising also, the ceiling is rising also in Dawson Creek. The clouds have broken above Dawson Creek, and the clouds are breaking here. So you have permission to take off.”
I learned several things in that journey. First thing I learned was this; because the clouds have lifted in Dawson Creek and because the clouds have lifted in Prince George, doesn’t mean that the clouds have lifted in the two hundred fifty miles between them. And especially when you have no way of knowing the weather in between, and especially when the spine of the Canadian Rockies runs in between, and you have to cross them.
Second thing I learned: I learned that the instruments on the panel of that little crate don’t work. The little radio he has is absolutely unequal to those vast differences in the north Canadian wildernesses. And the radio compass that he has, a little thing you put in your ear, the hearings on your ear, and you listen to the beat, the signal that if you’re on the beam it is bzzz, bzzz, bzzz, or if you’re off the beam its beep, beep, beep, beep. That’s what keeps you on the beam as they say. Well, his radio compass, if you turned it on a little while, the needle got hot, and he had to turn it off and it wouldn’t work anymore.
Third thing that I learned that I didn’t know on that trip: as we began to go and I began to watch him, I said, “Bob, have you ever been up here before? Have you ever flown this little thing up here before?” He said, “No, I never have.” All he’d done was flown that little insect down there in Washington, Oregon, and southern Canada. He’d never been up there before.
So I said, “Bob, how are you going to get to Dawson Creek across these vast Rockies?” He said, “I’ve got my map here on my lap, and we’re going to follow this map.” Wonderful! Wonderful! So just a few minutes out of Prince George, just a few minutes, those clouds as we began to go up those vast Canadian Rockies, to our right, going up in order to get to Pine River Pass to cross through to get over there to northern Alberta, those clouds began to boil ahead. And he saw me looking at them, and he said, “It’ll clear up just a little later on, just a little later on. It’ll all go away as the day wears on and the sun comes out and dissipates these clouds.”
So in just a few minutes we faced a thundering dark rainstorm. Well, he felt he couldn’t go through it, so he decided to go to the right of it, and he pulled to the right and then finally up to nine thousand five hundred feet and still going up, and those clouds getting heavier and heavier all the time. And as we continued on, he began to frantically, frantically to go through all of those maps and those little figures and numbers, lines. And then as he worked with that radio compass and all the other instruments, I finally saw his hand begin to tremble, like that.
And Jimmy Roberts, who’s in the back there with the luggage, Jimmy punched me, and he said, “Pastor, I sure don’t like the looks of this.” That is the classic understatement of all time! What had happened was, he could not find any beam of any kind, any beep or any buzz anywhere, and he was lost in those towering Rockies and in those boiling clouds.
As we went on, I said to him, “Bob, look, look, look!” And in the break, once in a while, in those clouds, you could see those towering peaks coming up to the plane and the vast snowfields around. Oh it was a frightful thing! Well, he turned the plane and tried to retrace his tracks just by guessing. Because when you are up there and the wind is blowing—and there is always a furious gale on those high mountains—you may think you are going this way, but that wind blows you that way, or blows you that way: you don’t know where you’re going.
He turned around to retrace his steps, and he said to Jimmy Roberts and he said to me, “Now you look here, and you look here, and let’s see if we can find that highway up to Pine River Pass, and see if we can find that railroad.” So I looked, and looked, and looked, and looked, and looked, and looked, and I thought we’d never find it. Eventually, it came into view, and we started following that highway and that railroad. And those clouds got lower and darker and heavier by the minute. And as we followed that highway and that railroad, we came into that pass, that Pine River Pass, through those towering Canadian Rockies, and followed that thing with those clouds pressing down on us until finally we came square up against a vast mountain, and the canyon went one way to the right and another way to the left.
And he said to me, “Which way does the road go?” I said, “I can’t see the road. I don’t know where it goes.” So he took that little plane, and by that time we were right next to that vast mountain, and he turned the thing on a dime, and my stomach is still up there on that mountain! He turned and he got it lower and down into that canyon, and he said, “Now can you see the road?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Which way does it go?” I said, “to the right.” He said, “Well, we’ll follow it to the right.”
And I looked up that canyon, and it was as black as smoke, filled with those clouds. I said, “Oh, let’s don’t go on, let’s turn around and go back.” And I turned around and looked at the back, and it was as black and as dark at the back as it was to the front. There wasn’t anything left to do but to follow that pass through those dark and lowering clouds.
And in the goodness of God, when finally we came out of those steep and craggy mountains and that deep and dark pass, we came to the great plateau on which Dawson Creek is located. And there the clouds pulled apart, and we could see the light of the sun shining through. Oh, what a day and what a blessed benediction!
And again to my thanksgiving to God, there was that rainbow that I saw in the Amazon jungle; here, arcing over. I asked Jimmy to take a picture of it. He said he did. I hope it comes out good. God’s promise: “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” [Hebrews 13:5]; “Be not afraid; for I am with thee” [Isaiah 41:10]. And as we came into Dawson, Bob, on that little radio, could by that time get the station, and he was hearing music over those earphones and began to beat time.
And Jimmy Roberts said to me, “He’s listening to music!” I said, “Yes, deacon, that is the heavenly angelic choir he’s listening to. We’ve been so near we can hear it ourselves!” The jeopardy, and the hardships, and the strenuousness of those several weeks of preaching and visitation were infinitely worth it. There will be a great deal that I hope in future days that I can describe.
Just one before I have to close at this hour. In the providences of God, the day we came to Prince George way at the north in British Colombia, the new pastor had come on the field just a few hours before, bringing his wife and his two teenage daughters. And Friday night at the service that I conducted, that Friday night we presented the new pastor and his family to his flock. That was one of the most preciously meaningful and moving of all of the services I’ve ever been in, in my ministry.
So small a group, there were two families there to welcome the new pastor, and a few other people who had come, just a little handful. And when I was done with the message, I pressed the appeal for Christ. And there came to the pastor his younger daughter, and she spoke to him in many tears, and there on the floor before the pulpit, the pastor and his younger teenage daughter knelt and poured out their hearts to God.
When she returned to her seat, in a moment the older teenage daughter came forward and spoke to her father with many tears, and again knelt down there on the floor and poured out their hearts in prayer to God. I felt that I knew every syllable of what those two teenagers were saying. And I felt that I knew every sentence of the book that they were writing. For that pastor had taken those two teenagers out of this precious and blessed Baptist Zion of Texas, away from all of their friends, and had transported them to a far away country, a wilderness. Everything those two girls had ever known is left behind, every friend, every association, even their native land. And as I looked upon it, for the first time I realized the tremendous price that is paid by the missionary pioneer is not by him, nor even by his wife; it is paid by those children.
Just to be sure that I was correct I asked the father after the service was over, I said, “What did those girls say to you with so many tears?” And he replied, “Each one of them said the same thing. They said, ‘Daddy, we are with you, and we are for you, and if God has called you to this place, we will do our best to help.’” What glorious teenagers!
And as I stood there in the pulpit and looked, I tried to reason out why I cried so much and why it moved me so deeply. Is it because at one time God called me to be a missionary and I refused? No, for the years that I was in Baylor I belonged to the volunteer band. I went around with those missionary volunteers. Nor did I ever feel that God had called me to do anything but to be an undershepherd. And that has never changed through the years. I feel it today as I did when I was a teenager myself. It is not that.
Why does that move me so much? Is it because God calls me to rededicate and to reconsecrate my own life to the Lord? Is that why it moves me so much? Oh, oh, oh! The service continued; in the love and prayers of that precious little family, there were three converted at that service.
You know the proportion of those conversions would be as if, as if there were a thousand come down the aisle at this service accepting Jesus as their Savior. And when I preached again on Sunday night, there was another young man who came, publicly gave his heart to God and joined the church by baptism. Bear with me while I close this message in just a moment.
There are some things that the Foundation would love to see us do. Let’s do them. One, I want that Chapel Choir to go to those western provinces. There’s not a church that can hold them. I don’t want them to go to the church; the citizens of that vast wilderness to not know that we exist, or apparently that God exists. I want that teenage choir to shell the woods, up and down the streets, shake the bushes and the trees. Turn them loose in every town and city in British Columbia, and Alberta, and Saskatchewan. Turn them loose, give them tracts, let them knock at the door. Let them stop people on the street.
And then in a municipal auditorium that has to be arranged through mayors and aldermen, let them sing as they never sang in their lives. And Wednesday night, when these pictures are shown at 7:30 and we pass those collection plates, some of our gifts will go to those pastors who need our encouragement so much. But I could pray that it would be large enough that we could help greatly, beside what the Foundation does, to send that choir on a tour next summer.
Again, the pastors say to me, “Oh! I wish I had somebody that could tell our Junior leaders and our Beginner leaders, there may not be but one in a church, how to do this work. If you could just send us one of your staff members, it would be an immeasurable blessing to us.” I hope our deacons and our church will make that possible. Let’s send some of our staff members up there to show them how to take a group of people, even small, and reach others for the reading and studying of the Word of God.
Some of our fellow elders can go, and spend a month in a place, and we can go on our vacations up there. It’s a glorious world! It’s a marvelous place! Plan our vacations and spend it in a town where we have one of those little churches and work with that pastor for two weeks. Why, we’d change the complexion of the whole earth.
And last we can pray for them. At the end of the eight fifteen service, one of our dear members said to me, “Publish the names of those pastors in your Pastor’s Pen, and I’ll call them by name before the throne of grace.” In one of those faraway places in a wilderness, one of the pastors said to me with many tears, he said, “Dear, friend, when you go home would you call my name in prayer before God?” I said, “I would. I have. I do now. I shall.” This is just one of the vast mission fields of the world. But it is also one that I think we can greatly encourage. and the Lord add to it His sweet and precious and heavenly benedictions.
Now I realize we’ve gone far beyond the time. As we sing our song of appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, you, somebody you, give himself to Jesus, give herself to the Lord: “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” A couple you to put your lives in the fellowship of this church; a family you, however the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, come now, don’t wait. Just decide for Jesus: “Lord, deliver Thine, and here I am, and I’ll trust You for all the rest.” Questions I can’t answer, but God knows; strengths that I don’t possess, but He is all sufficient and all adequate. Trust Him. Give your life to Him and come. And when you stand up in a moment, in this great balcony round, on this lower floor, when you stand up, stand up coming to the aisle, down to the front: “Here, pastor, I give you my hand. My heart have I given to God.” Do it now, do it now, while we stand and while we sing.