Personal Testimony

I have chosen 1 Corinthians 2:1-14 as my text for this testimony because one it was a text I received very early in my Christian life and I identify with Paul in wanting to lift up Jesus so the Holy Spirit can do his work. And I, too, want to testify to the power of God to do seemingly impossible things. [A text without a context is a pretext]

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching [were] not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

God is alive today and working by his Spirit in people, ordinary people, like Paul was, like you and I are. He is no respecter of persons. What he has done for anyone he will do for you.

He changed the direction of my life. Our family was Francophone, we were not well off financially. We were rich in extended family [our aunts and cousins and grandmother often lived with us]. I was born in Ottawa but moved to Hull immediately and then eight years later we moved back to Ottawa when my dad took the caretaker position at the French Baptist Church on King Edward Ave. I went to church, we lived in one! [You can live in a garage but you’ll never be a Cadillac]. I wanted no part of it. I made Mrs. Crompton’s life miserable … then at 18 mother told me it was time to get done … baptized that is. I was in my last year of technical school. I went to the pastor’s baptism class and he made it all make sense. I received Christ and was baptized Easter Sunday 1962. Boy the water was cold! But I was changed, I came up out of the water and I knew something had happened.

1 Corinthians 2:6-10 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden [wisdom] which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10 But God has revealed [them] to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.

Verse 9 of this passage came to me that morning and it was impressed by the Spirit on me that God was speaking to me. I thought I had it all figured out. I was not very good in school, in a printing course I didn’t like that much. But I was going to get a job. I was interested in bus driving as a career.

God had other plans. In fact a specific plan – the Robart’s plan. He was minister of education that year and he opened the academic stream to technical students. I heard the announcement at school the next week and knew it was for me. I ended up spending 2 more years in high school and god grade 13 and accepted into Carleton University. They made me take Spanish but I thought that was cool because, by this time I thought I was going to be a missionary in Bolivia.

In my final year of university I went looking for a teaching job in Thunder Bay because my fiancée, Ruth, was already working up there as a reporter on the Fort William paper. Would you believe there was a job waiting up there for me to teach English and Spanish? Ruth’s former principal in Collingwood was the superintendent in Port Arthur at that time! Our wedding was our centennial project that year [1967]. I studied in Toronto at U OF T teacher’s college for two summers to get my certificate and we moved to Toronto after my contract expired with the Port Arthur board [teacher returned]. From 1968 to 1977 I worked for the Toronto board in their adult new Canadian program, we bought a house and a car and had 2 kids. I had tried to go to seminary in September of 1968 but after 2 months the Lord shut the door. Ruth and I met some people through a fellow at work. He was a pastor who had been kicked out of his church. I took him to lunch and asked him what he did! I thought he must be a pervert or something like that. He told me he just loved Jesus. You don’t get kicked out of your church for loving Jesus I said. He then told me his story and shared about the Charismatic Movement and being filled with the Spirit. His church had put him out on the street when it happened. Verse 10 came alive to me. We eventually received our own infilling of the Spirit and learned about the gifts of the Spirit.

By 1976 the Lord was in the process of taking our next apart. The group we had attended for so long got under the control of some cult leaders and we began to see this and pray earnestly for deliverance. I had heard about the Wycliffe Bible translators up in Thunder Bay but their training was always in the summer and I was always working. Then we heard in 1977 that they were starting a full time program in Dallas, Texas and we decided to sell everything and go train for ministry.

We were delivered through the border supernaturally. In 1978 we returned to Ottawa because we could not remain and work in the U.S. as students. It was a very bad summer. We started a company with the help of our family and sold water distillers. At the end of the summer the Lord put us in touch with Jack and uncle Griffen of the West Ottawa Christian Fellowship and the Lord spoke through them. We came to believe we needed to return to Texas and finish what we had started. We had no money [the promise of a teaching fellowship – $365.00 a month], a visa as students, some furniture we had left with some friends and nowhere to live! The Lord provided the money to return [an accident] and once again he supernaturally got us through the border.

From 1978 to 1982 we lived in Arlington Texas in a rented house on lover’s lane. We got it by going to the place we wanted to be and the Lord had it waiting for us. [Owned by a Christian woman and the $200.00 rent never went up] we started to go to a Baptist Church – Shady Grove but it too, was experiencing a move of the Spirit. We began to see that God didn’t send us to Texas to go to school as much as to go to church. So while I was working on my MA and then my PhD I was also doing homework for church. I became a house church pastor. After I had been studying 3 years, Ruth got a scholarship to do her BA at Dallas Baptist university and I went to work for UTA teaching ESL. Then for two years I worked in the Christian high school associated with our church. In the summer of 1982 we returned to Canada so I could work legally, in the States I only had a visa to work for the church. Jack and Unice let us stay in their cottage at Shirley’s Bay. I taught ESL that summer for the Ottawa board. We returned to Texas so Ruth could finish her degree. We had left our house on lover’s lane so we went to live with my assistant house church pastor and began to look for a place to live. We borrowed $1,000 from a bank to put 1st and last month’s rent on an apartment or house but could find nothing near the church. We got a Pennysaver type paper one day and my eye fell on an ad for mobile homes. The man’s name was Ben Mericile [pronounced miracle]. I phoned him and told him we needed a miracle and he asked us to come on Saturday and see him. It turned out he was from Louisiana and his mother’s maiden name was Desjardins! We looked over the second hand homes and went in to talk to him. He asked us if we liked anything we saw. We said we liked them all; our problem was money, we only had $1,000! He asked us to return the next Wednesday. We had looked at the new homes out of curiosity and on Wednesday he asked us to come with him to look at the first new house we had seen. He took us behind it and showed us what he called a $1,000 dollar scratch. He explained that the insurance company had already paid him for this damage and if we could find just $250.00 more, with our thousand we could have a brand new, fully equipped home! We rejoiced but could only find a spot for it 30 miles from the church in a little black community called Hutchins, Texas. So we borrowed a missionary friend’s second car [60 Valiant] and commuted to school and church until the summer.

In the summer of 1983 Ruth graduated [we still don’t really know who paid her final bill], and my work visa expired. What to do?

1 Corinthians 2:11-12 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

We needed to know what to do so we prayed. The Spirit revealed to us that we were to go home [Ottawa] – and Ruth got the message first. Myself I wanted to go to Saudi Arabia or China or anywhere else – there was no ministry I knew of in Ottawa. However, we had several problems: no vehicle, no money, no equity in the mobile home [no one in the church wanted it – too far away]. There was a song on the radio around that time, maybe you know it:

Lord of the harvest, Place your fire in me. Servants, you need now, Servant I will be. Give me the eyes of your Spirit, A heart of compassion to go. Lord of the harvest, Show me where to go

And he did – he said go home! So we began to pack boxes in the center of our trailer. We prayed, we sent angels out on assignment [Heb. 1:14]. The kids said, “What are you doing?” We said we’re going home. But dad, we don’t have any way to go home! But we knew we heard God so we kept on packing. Then God moved. Some missionary friends tithed their wheat harvest to us [$300.00], we had met a lady, Diane, in the trailer park and she had been healed and came to the Lord so we took her to a local Baptist church to plant her there. The pastor ended up buying our trailer. He wanted to move it to the church’s property called “Gloryland” so they could live in while they built a house. [That song “I’ve got a home in Gloryland” now has a whole new meaning!] He had an offering taken up for us when we left and that little country church blessed us [$600.00], the local U-Haul place had a truck with a heater stuck and they didn’t know how to fix it. When they found out I needed to go to Canada they rented us the truck cheap – after all it was only June and we probably needed the heat up there anyway – at least there would be someone up here who could fix it! We headed home. I taught grade 13 English and designed the course with books I knew had spiritual themes and I got to preach all summer!

In February I had had a dream where I was a gynecologist and was presiding at a birth. The mother was very young and the child premature [7 months] though perfect . When I prayed about it after we knew we were going home, the Lord confirmed that in seven months he would place me in a ministry that was not an old established one but the right one for me. By September 1st I thought it was sure to happen soon. Then we ran out of money, went on welfare, I complained to my pastor … he told me Roy Stuart was leaving the Huntley Street* counselling and prayer center. I went to see Roy, he was delighted. Would you believe it was the last days of September before I knew I had been hired! So I started with Huntley Street in October of 1983.

[* Editor’s note: 100 Huntley Street is a nation-wide Christian television ministry (similar to 700 Club in the United States), founded by David Mainse. At that time, prayer and counselling centers were set up in various cities across Canada, Ottawa being one of them.]

In 1985 I returned to our church in Texas for a visit and was ordained there. I returned and ministered until after nearly 11 years in the ministry, the center, along with 2O others, was closed in 1994. Ruth and I counselled from home while I got employment insurance, I took a government sponsored computer course, ministered, did weddings and funerals, pastored a French church part time. God did a miracle and united 3 churches and it has become Le Centre de Vie. We turned it over to Harold and Ruth Sowerby [I am the only Francophone in my family].

Then in January of 1997 I got a full time job in a group home for mentally and emotionally challenged adults. I tell you it was me that was challenged! I prayed mightily every day, prayed to work, prayed home and prayed on the job. It did wonders for my prayer life but I lost 20 pounds doing it! Mercifully in August that year just 2 days before my vacation, David Mainse called me to go to Montreal on a two month contract and raise up a French prayer center. It was the call of heaven! I stayed 4 months and God did miracle after miracle. We averaged a salvation every day I was there. I had just one month to create the center, put my teaching notes back together, train volunteers and be ready for the first broadcast in Quebec of the program. God did it. He has a sense of humour too. They sent me 9 booths all in pieces for me to assemble. I took one look at them and asked God to send me an angel to help. One of the ladies who I trained said that she knew of a handyman and so Gerald dropped in one morning and put everything together, even though he admitted he had never seen that kind of booth before! When I asked for his full name and address he said his name was Gerald Gabriel! He was my angel …

I left Montreal just before Christmas and wondered what to do next. I had a dream and God said that what I had done in Montreal I should do in Ottawa. That was a Sunday and when I went to church this prophetic fellow asked to speak to me after the service. He brought the pastor over, Ken Hall, and said, “This man needs to set up a prayer center in Ottawa.” I was floored! My pastor agreed, and it happened. With help from area pastors, a Christian foundation and many individuals we were able to incorporate and set up a center. Then in January of 1999 our special funding ran out and we had to become volunteers on the phones. We had to do a workfare placement so we chose the workfare program at Dayspring Church and taught life skills, CV preparation, emotional and spiritual healing and Scripture. In August 2000 I took on the pastorate of a Foursquare church here in Ottawa. It was a part time ministry [there were 4 squares in it when we started and now there are 6!]. We closed the church a year later and I began supply teaching. In October 2001 I was offered a full-time contract to teach ESL at Glebe Collegiate and I have continued there, this year taking over the Spanish department. We are being sustained by his Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:12-14 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.

Our problems relate to the fact that there is a natural man [male and female] / spiritual man dichotomy. It’s not a question of bad and good. Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people, alive. We are born physically and that puts us into a physical family. God is Spirit, and man needs a spiritual birth to enter God’s spiritual family. We are not all God’s children till we receive God’s life:

Titus 3:4-7 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

What’s next for us? God is using us at the high school. It is a great mission field. We started an Alpha course and a Christian Fellowship club and we have hope [the blueprint of faith]. And faith in the One who provides. Where are your hope and faith placed today?