History of Gospel Preaching in New Brunswick - 7 - French Assemblies

 Chapter 7

 

French Assemblies

by

Anne LeBlanc

Shediac Assembly

Here is an account of how we came in contact with the Gospel. We were married in June 1971 and were renting an apartment from Bill and Thelma Swan who are in fellowship in the Moncton Assembly. Looking back on how the Lord had His eyes upon us in those early days of our married life, we can only wonder, even yet, at His marvelous grace and dealings with us. Their daughters, Angie and Heather would come over and play Sunday School with our son, Denis. When they would ask him to say his verse, he had no clue what they meant. I recall one of them saying, "Oh! Denis, you don?t know anything"

We were not practicing our religion at the time and we were in complete darkness as to the way of salvation. Although raised in a good home with good moral values, as we got older, God was not in our thoughts and life. I recall getting an invitation by mail to attend a series of Gospel meetings. I tried to avoid our landlords because I wasn?t interested at the time.

In 1974, our daughter was born and in the spring of 1975, we bought our first home. The girls, Angie and Heather, asked us if Denis could go to Sunday School. We were completely unaware that from that day, our lives would take a definite turn. Denis would bring home a Sunday School paper with Bible stories and a small verse to learn for the following Sunday.

Until then, I thought I was the happiest woman in our neighborhood. We were happily married with two healthy children and a new home. But it wasn?t long before I started to wonder about God. Did God really exist? Is it all true? I started to feel an emptiness and a void in my life. I had no serenity. These anxious feelings alarmed me so much that I called my doctor for help. Later some of our old friends came to visit. They were saying that

they had found peace through "meditation". I got very interested at first, but I soon realized that their trust was in a man.

Several weeks went by, then two men came to our door. I had noticed them going from house to house before and I was hoping they would come to ours. My husband, Omer, was not searching at the time but he would keep an eye on things to make sure I would not get involved too much in these things. I had one question to ask,. "Is God real?" After four months of studying their little book with them week after week, I had many questions and no clear answers. I was so confused I decided not to let them come anymore. I no longer knew where to turn when, in my desperation, I remembered those books I had seen on the shelves at Bill Swan?s place. These people had been very kind to us in the past. Their lives were very different from ours. Why didn?t I think of that before? But it was all in God?s plan. I called and in a brief conversation with Thelma, she informed me that a series of Gospel meetings was starting that Sunday night, and they had planned to invite us.

Mr. Bert Joyce and Bill Bingham were having these meetings. We sat in the very first row. The scripture was read: Romans 3:23, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Not aware of the workings of the Holy Spirit as the meeting progressed, I was wondering in amazement how these two men knew so much about me and how they could answer the many questions I had in my mind. Night after night, the Word of God was revealing my inner thoughts, bringing me to conviction of sins and my great need to be right with God. I knew that these men were real, their message was real and I wanted to find God. That Thursday evening, November 20th, 1975, I was overwhelmed by the love of God to me, a sinner and the words "...whosoever believeth in Him... hath everlasting life" brought peace to my longing soul. I trusted Him. My burden was lifted and I was saved forever. The hymn was sung:

Just as I am, without one plea

But that Thy blood was shed for me,

And that Thou bid?st me come to Thee

O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

These meetings continued for several weeks. Omer knew he had to be saved. The meetings concluded but it was only six months later at the annual spring conference that, after much struggling, he too trusted Christ as His Saviour. Realizing that "salvation is not by works", he anchored his trust on the Solid Rock, Jesus Christ.

We were both baptized in June of that year and later received into the fellowship of God?s assembly where we continued by the grace of God for six years until the Shediac assembly was formed.

We feel indebted to those Christians who have taken time in our early Christian life to open to us the many truths concerning His Person and His will for us. Those basic foundation truths have helped to ground us in the Word of God and we desire to honor Him in the days to come until His return.

 

We were the only French speaking couple in the assembly at the time. Later, another young woman, Monique Arsenault came to hear the Gospel. Her sister, who had been saved in Fredericton, was interested in seeing her saved. A short while after, Monique got saved (March 25, 1978) and later moved to Fredericton where she was baptized and received into fellowship. She came back to Moncton and continued in fellowship until she too, came to be part of those believers who formed the assembly in Shediac. Later, Monique had the joy of seeing her brother Robert and his wife Helen, saved and have been in fellowship in the Shediac assembly since the early days of the work.

Omer was born in the Shediac area and later moved to Moncton where he spent his teenage years. I was born and brought up in a small coastal community near Tracadie. Our visits there became more frequent as we endeavored to bring the Gospel to our own. The second youngest of a family of eight, I was very close to my elder sister who lived between Tracadie and Bathurst. Being a close-knit family, some got interested at first but their interest diminished as time went by. My sister, Linda, would sometimes get annoyed and would make excuses saying she did not have enough time to consider the matter. A year went by and she had to be hospitalized in Moncton for surgery. I visited her regularly and she seemed more concerned about her soul. Our brother, George Heidman, agreed to visit her and on my next visit, she had professed faith in Christ and seemed happy in her soul. Her sister-in-law professed later in the fall of 1977, then both their husbands and a niece.

Larry Buote, who had been commended to the Lord?s work in Quebec, was attending the Moncton conference in

1978. After a brief discussion, he agreed to visit the new converts.

There was no French speaking assembly in this province at the time. It was not till the early part of 1979 that the first assembly was planted in the small village of Green River, near Edmundston. These brethren would drive to my sister?s home, several hours away, to have a Gospel meeting and wouldn?t get back to their homes till sometimes late at night. A short while later, my brother and his wife professed. A small group would gather whenever someone could come for Gospel meetings.

Around the same time, in October, 1976, another man from Tracadie, Leon Comeau, had also gotten saved. He had requested a New Testament by mail from someone he heard on television. Although a very respectable man in his village, he soon found that he was on his way to Hell. He was saved shortly after that. His wife got saved later but at the time he knew no one else in the area with whom he could share his new discovery. While we were having meetings a few miles away, here was a man craving for fellowship. But God knew! Through contacting someone from Quebec, who knew Mr. Davey, his name was given to Larry Buote. A few weeks later, in December, Leon received his first visit. You can imagine his joy when he heard that others had found the same thing. Larry had an exercise for Tracadie long before he met anyone there. He had prayed for this area when he would drive through when he was a salesman. A Gospel meeting was being held at my brother?s apartment. It was there that Leon came in contact with the others who shared the same salvation he had found.

The work progressed and the meetings were now being held in Leon?s basement. Several more professed. These new converts were now meeting regularly for Bible study and Gospel. Baptisms were also held in the river. Then the tent went up for public declaration of the Gospel. There was much opposition and the town council, who had given them permission to erect the tent, advised them to take it down. Another tentative effort to erect the tent somewhere else also failed. But the meetings were held in different homes. God was working and five souls were saved bringing great joy to these new Christians.

 

On November 2, sixteen believers were gathered for the first time in local capacity to remember their Lord.

We cannot speak of the work among the French speaking people without the mention of our late brother, Mr. Vincent Davey.

We revere the memory of this older man of God who labored much through many difficulties in Quebec where he spent most of his life in the work of God. He rejoiced to see a new work in the province of New Brunswick and he made many trips here. His visits were always appreciated and his kindness and his love were evident to all and he was greatly missed by those who had the privilege to know him.

Our brother Leslie Wells, a French language professor, from Northern Ireland, came to New Brunswick for a short visit in 1981. He came back to help in the Gospel in the summer of 1983. He was later commended to the French work in New Brunswick in 1985. He has settled in Tracadie where he built a home and has endeavored to help in the Gospel and in the teaching of God?s Word. He proved to be a great help in translating hymns from the Believer?s Hymn Book to add to the new hymn book for the French speaking assemblies. Also, he has been a source of encouragement in writing different articles in our magazine "La BanniŠre de la V‚rit‚", published four times a year. His mother, who later moved with him from Northern Ireland in 1990, passed away to be with the Lord in February 1995. Her late husband, Mr. John Wells had been in the work for years in Venezuela and other parts where he and his wife labored faithfully.

Sad days have come where some have left God?s assembly but God has given the believers in Tracadie much joy in seeing a work in other parts. Different series of Gospel meetings were held in Tents during the summer months. A few got saved in the village of Neguac and were received in the assembly in Tracadie. A weekly Gospel meeting has been held in the home of one of the believers for the past twelve years until now. "Kember texts" are being assembled there. This great work has been used of God to spread the message through many parts of the world and the brethren in Neguac had the privilege to be part of that work which began with our late brother, Mr. Walter Kember from Sarnia, Ontario.

God?s work was progressing. The assembly was busy spreading the Gospel to the surrounding villages. God had his heart on another village farther north, Pigeon Hill.

Pigeon Hill is a small coastal village situated on the LamŠque island, northeast of Tracadie. In the summer, it takes an hour to travel to Pigeon Hill but in the winter, traveling is sometimes difficult and very treacherous because of poor visibility when crossing the plains of Shippegan.

The Gospel came to this area through a young man who was studying at the university in Moncton in 1981. He heard the way of salvation through other students who were having meetings on the campus connected with the French Baptists. Richard Desrosiers, who was connected with that work at the time, later moved to Tracadie where he first came in contact with the Assembly there. He has since moved back to Moncton where he is in fellowship.

Serge, originally from Paquetville, another small village outside of Tracadie, was eager to bring this message to his parents who were reluctant at first, but later embraced the truth of salvation by grace. His sister and several relatives were living in Pigeon Hill where his father and an uncle owned the local club. The good news spread and it wasn?t long before the little village was beginning to hear and witness the change in the lives of those new believers. Aunts and uncles, cousins and his sister were among the first to get saved. Later, the club was closed permanently.

In the spring of 1984, Serge came home from the Baptist College where he had continued his studies. While visiting his parents, he came in contact with the assembly in Tracadie. He was later received in the assembly in December of that year. Having cut all ties to his former life, he wanted to be gathered with the Lord?s people who met in His Name alone. He encouraged his family to go to the meetings in Serge?s sister?s home. Others got saved and a baptism took place in the river nearby. Their courage and consistency, were a testimony to many in the community who would look on and watch as they would leave with their young families every Lord?s day and midweek for the regular prayer and Bible study.

There were several other villages to reach in those parts of the Acadian peninsula. With the encouragement of their brethren, weekly meetings were held and on June 28,

 

1992, a testimony was planted in the area with 15 in fellowship. More than 30 now meet in their new hall which was built later in 1996.

The Assembly in Tracadie in conjunction with Pigeon Hill hold a monthly meeting for the ministry of God?s Word through the winter months. They alternate from November through March. They have found this very profitable and an enrichment for the believers.

Shediac is situated in the southern part of the province, 22 km east of Moncton. The hall is built off route 11 where it can be easily seen on the way to Prince Eedward Island.

This work commenced at the CN shops in Moncton in May 1982 when Luc Bergeron heard the Gospel through a man from India, Raj Manuel, a fellow worker at the CN shops, who was speaking to many about their souls. It was through the simple truth of Ephesians 2:8, 9 that Luc came to Christ. Later, another young man, Denis Bourgeois, got saved in September of that year. Then others got saved. The word was spreading and several were meeting on their dinner hour to discuss the Scriptures. Later, they started meeting in Luc?s home in Robichaud, near Shediac. Raj had received literature through the Moncton Gospel Hall tract band and John Craig followed up Raj?s request for literature. Raj and his wife Patrima were later received in God?s Assembly in Moncton.

A year went by and Luc and the others were eager to hear more about the Scriptures. Raj invited them to attend a series of Gospel meetings with our brethren Albert Hull and Doug Howard. The clear and earnest preaching of the Gospel left an impression on them. John went to see Luc at the "shops" and encouraged him to come to the Hall on

Lord?s day. Then he referred him to us since we too came from a French Catholic background. We had been in the assembly, just a few years when we first met Luc in our home. Since he had already seen the way of gathering according to the Scriptures and the truth of the Lord?s supper, he wanted to know more because those things were not practiced where he was going since he had gotten saved.

That summer of 1982, Clarence and Robert Budd had a few Bible studies with them but seeing that their interest was to have something in French, Clarence contacted Larry Buote who was labouring in Quebec. That summer, Larry encouraged Luc to go to the Tracadie conference and in September, he also attended the Sussex conference. He heard much on assembly truths. Convinced that they should be gathered to the Lord?s Name only, they came out of the different denominations where they were going and were gathered in fellowship with the believers in Moncton.

The fall of 1982, Larry Buote came to Robichaud for Gospel meetings in the basement of Maurice Gaudet?s home. We were having Bible readings on Saturday evenings because all the brethren were working at the shops week nights. Gerard Roy and Larry had several meetings on a weekend on assembly truths. Mr. Berney from Quebec was also invited by the Moncton brethren to come for ministry. Our dear brother, Mr. Davey made several trips to Shediac and the other French assemblies to encourage the young assemblies.

In January 1983, Gospel meetings were held to reach others in these parts. By this time, it was becoming clearer that we had a responsibility to bring the Gospel to surrounding communities. Almost two years had passed since these men had heard the Gospel at the CN shops. The Lord had answered their prayers by bringing them in contact with the assembly where they could witness what they had seen in scriptures.

They had experienced the Lord?s dealings in their personal lives in salvation, His grace in bringing them in fellowship with His people gathered to His Name and now His marvelous dealings with each one by putting in their soul a desire to be gathered in local capacity in the community of Robichaud (near Shediac) where God had commenced His work.

In April, 1983, the brethren sought the fellowship of their brethren from Moncton. A letter was given indicating our desire to commence the assembly. A letter of acknowledgment was later received. In much feebleness, 16 believers met for the first time in assembly capacity and in accordance to His will to remember the Lord.

The assembly has sought to continue to spread the Gospel in other areas. There are now 50 believers in fellowship. Our annual conference is held in the fall in the Shediac High School and the monthly ministry meetings throughout the winter months have been a blessing for the assembly.

A year later, the hall was built and the first series of Gospel meetings were held that summer. Gerard Roy, who had just been commended to the work, joined Mr. Grainger from Ontario for these meetings.

A man in his fifties Camille Cormier, from Scoudouc, and his wife had gotten saved a few months before. Camille had heard the Gospel at the CN shops and after much struggling he came to the realization that he was going to hell and he came to Christ. Four of his five children, all young adults were still living at home. They had witnessed such a change in their parents? lives that when they came to hear the Gospel in this series, they too got saved. Fourteen people professed in those meetings and it has been a joy to see those newly come to the faith rejoice in such great salvation.

Visitation is done on a regular basis to surrounding communities near Shediac. An outreach through the province is also made regularly with the help of the other assemblies who help distribute "Seed Sowers" texts to villages beyond.

A weekly Gospel meeting was being held in a portable hall in the village of St-Louis, an hour north on the way to Miramichi. Two families live in St-Louis and drive to Shediac for the regular Assembly meetings. This work has gone on for 13 years. Several have come but very little fruit has been seen. We leave it in God?s hands for results.

"God, be merciful to me a sinner"

Here is a brief account of a young man who got saved shortly after he heard the Gospel. Mark Cormier was brought up in the Shediac area, then moved to Moncton where he got into many things as he said: "things I wasn?t proud of but couldn?t get away from doing them".

In the summer of 1988, his best friend?s brother with whom he had spent the last few days, was killed in a tragic accident. Mark remembers thinking, "Where has he gone?"

 

"But man dieth, and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?"

Job 14:10

With time, he managed to get on with his life. He got interested in music and became part of a rock band. Although, enjoying the popularity and the "good time", the thought would come "Heaven or Hell". When he was younger, he had a deep respect and fear of God but the world of sin and pleasure had a hold on him now. After practicing in the band on a cold and rainy summer night, Mark ways, "I was tired, depressed and I wanted to go home. The way home was long and the weather was bad but he decided he wanted to be alone so he hitchhiked and after 45 minutes, he finally got a ride. The driver was coming back from a Gospel meeting in St. Louis and he spoke to Mark about being saved. Mark recalled, "We had a long discussion that night". He came back to visit me two days later. I could see I needed to be saved. From that day, I began to read the Bible. "The night I was supposed to go to a Gospel meeting, my best friend who had been working at James Bay, Quebec, dropped by unexpectedly to surprise me".

They both went out to have a good time but Mark was miserable. He decided to settle the matter. A few days later, another friend arrived at his door to invite Mark to join their band. Although it was a very tempting offer, he showed his friend his Bible and told him he had something to settle first.

Gospel meetings came to Quispamsis and he went for the next three weeks about three times a week with the brethren from Shediac who made a three to four hour round trip so he could hear the Gospel.

Although he had given up the things of the world, "I was troubled about my soul more than I had ever been". Recalls Mark. Finally, like the publican, he cried out to God, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" Luke 18: "It was then that I finally understood that His Son died for me... This was the 31st of July, 1992 at 10:30 p.m. that night".

Mark has since been baptized and received in the Shediac Assembly. He has been a faithful witness of the grace of God to others. His cousin and a friend were attending the Shediac high school and were involved in music as well. They got interested and soon after they too saw the vanity of their life and left the entertainment of the music world and embraced salvation. It was a joy to see them go on for God and received in the assembly.

A work in connection with the assembly was also started on the campus of the University of Moncton. The brethren from Shediac laboured faithfully for the last 14 years to spread the gospel there by visiting weekly and putting over 100 texts each Monday night inviting students to come and hear the truth about eternal matters. Each Saturday night, the gospel message is proclaimed. Many have come over the years and several have been reached and saved and are now found in God?s assemblies. Several are bringing up young families and are seeking to honor God in their lives.

"...By grace not by works"

Another young man who was attending university got saved and brought the gospel to his parents. He was the youngest of a large family. His father, Mr. Raymond Melanson was 75 years old at the time. When they heard the message of salvation by grace they got very troubled. All their lives, they had believed that salvation was by works. Their oldest daughter, Alice, had gotten saved too. They listened to the conversion of an ex=priest, Joseph Tremblay, and they couldn?t sleep that night. The next day, Alice recalls, "they were very pale and not saying a word".

Convinced that they needed to be saved, they turned their back on all their beliefs and trusted Christ as their Saviour. Mr. Melanson would speak to everyone about salvation. He was so overwhelmed with the reality of it that his life was characterized by devotion until he passed away to be with the Lord in June 1996.

There are now four French speaking assemblies in the province and two commended workers among us, Mr. Leslie Wells, from Northern Ireland, and Gerard Roy, of Green River. Larry Buote continues to labour here and in Quebec and attends our conferences faithfully.

What more can we say?

TO GOD BE ALL THE GLORY!

HE DOETH ALL THINGS WELL!

We have much to thank God for His Work that is still going on in spite of our failures and unfaithfulness at times.

May we seek to serve Him better as we see the day approaching.

May our lives be as shining lights in this world where He is rejected!

Love in Him, Anne