George Campbell Biography, Evangelist to Newfoundland - 22 - THE HOME-STRETCH

 CHAPTER 22

THE HOME-STRETCH

?Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.?

Hebrews 12:1-3

DECEMBER 27, 1984

Twisting and turning, I wasn?t able to get any relief. I cried unto the Lord as men do when their bodies are not feeling the way they should. It came to me that the Lord could put His hand there, just now and stop the pain. I knew He could do that. Then I thought to myself that that might not be the will of God. To magnify Christ in our bodies is what really counts. I had to come back again to that ministry that had already been given and was now being tested. ?Lord, not my will but thine be done? Finally, I took a pain killer and after awhile the pain subsided.

There is a lot to learn in this of the sovereignty and the Lordship of Christ. It is not that the Father stands aloof. He is like Paul who was like a nursing mother and a firm and loving father. Like a mother with a sick child in her arms, feeling pity and longing for its well being, and yet loving the child even as it falls asleep, even unto death. She is with it all the time. So it is with God. We don?t understand His great pur­poses for us. Sometimes we don?t feel that He is there. We have the as­surance of His word that He will never leave us, nor forsake us. All we can do is say, ?Lord, Thy will be done]?

To live could be disastrous. To live could be a life ill spent like Hezeki­ah?s, who failed after God answered his prayer for longer life. On the one hand, we could tell the Lord we want to live for Him in a better way and serve others more effectively. However, if it is not God?s will for us to live on, we must be willing to go through the process of disease and sickness in this sinful world. We have to go through it just as Adam?s entire race does one way or the other. Some go quickly, some linger, but not one is unknown to God.

These kind of experiences make us understand that God is a real and caring God, and when the tempter would come and make us think that God is cruel and hard, the pain killer begins to work and we thank the Father for medicine and for drawing close. We thank the Lord for remind­ing us that the whole creation groans in travail and pain, and we thank Him that the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. He feels and understands our frame.

We are only weak mortals, and yet He makes Himself real to us. How thankful we are for this. ?For me to live is Christ:? said Paul, ?and to die is gain.? He desired to magnify Christ in his body whether in life or in death. We can only do this by the grace of God and by the help of the Holy Spirit.

Related scriptures: Luke 22:42; 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8; Psalm 1 03:13; II Kings 20:1-6; II Chronicles 32:31; Philippians 1:21.

COUNTDOWN WELCOME HOME

The last week in December, George preached a long-to-be remembered message on ?Heaven? in the West Richmond, B.C., Gospel Hall. Many were touched as they realized that they were listening to a man who was drawing near to that wonderful place and was calling to them to come, too.

Early in January 1985, the cancer specialist okayed a trip to Palm Springs, California for George and Mona. While in Palm Springs, he often took a handful of gospel papers and handed them out to people on the street and talked to them. One lady said to her husband, who was trying on a new suit, ?You need to lose weight. Look how nice and slim that man is (referring to George who was nearby.)?

George replied, ?You wouldn?t like to lose weight my way. I have cancer. But I am not afraid because I also have Jesus?? This opened a good wit­nessing opportunity. He had quite a lot of these with strangers as well as his own relatives and friends.

When he arrived back from California two weeks later, I was with his cousin, Lorene and daughter, Lois, at the airport when Mona wheeled him out in a wheel chair. He was visibly lighter in weight than he was two weeks before when I had last seen him. That was his last trip away from home. George had traveled hundreds of thousands of miles by land, sea and air to carry the gospel in his thirty years of service, but now his traveling time was over.

The many Christians in the Vancouver, B.C., area who knew George showed their kindness in so many ways. George and his family appreciated flowers, meals, cookies, cakes, phone calls and visits in late January and early February. By that time, his condition had worsened to where he couldn?t receive too many visitors. However, he left standing instructions that if young people who he felt he could help spiritually wanted to come, he would receive them in spite of his condition. They came -- and sat beside him -- and he encouraged them, instructed them, warned them, challenged them and prayed with them, and they went away touched, moved and sometimes crying.

People from many places phoned. Every day, long distance calls came with assurances of prayers and comfort. Some came from the United States, some from various parts of Canada and sometimes calls came from Scotland. The ones that stirred him the most came from Newfoundland - the place closest to his heart, Labrador. There were times after talk­ing to someone on the telephone that he would say, ?Let?s pray,? and intercession would be made for some suffering believer, elder under pres­sure, preacher in service or convert who wanted desperately to talk one more time to his or her father in the faith.

George realized what a difficult time it would be for his children after his death, so he took a lot of time discussing life and death as frankly as possible. He wanted the girls to be able to check the oil in the car, so he had one of them bring in a dipstick to the house to teach them how to do this. He tried to think of everything that should be done and said, even to making sure they all knew the arrangements of his funeral so there would be no conflicts. He was aware of his parenting responsi­bilities right up to the last hour.

It was his request that he be allowed to die at home with his family and friends around him, not in the unfamiliar and sometimes lonely iso­lation of a hospital. Mona is a highly qualified nurse and anticipated potential difficulties by carefully planning ahead. Some days he was well enough to get dressed and lie on a couch in the living room or sit in a comfortable chair.

His last excursion out was in company with Jonathan Procopio. In 1974, George had asked Jonathan to come to help in the summer?s gospel work. He came and ultimately became a full- time preacher of the gospel. Jona­than traveled from Newfoundland to see Mr. Campbell, and early in his month-long visit, they took a drive around some of Vancouver, had lunch at a restaurant and went to the bookstore. A day or so later, he became quite weak and wasn?t able to go out any more.

Cornelia Linstead, of L?Anse au Loup, Labrador, a nurse with the Gren­fell Association, took four weeks off work to come to Vancouver and help Mona Campbell take care of George. She had heard the gospel preached the first time the ?M.G.M!? had sailed into L?Anse au Loup Bay. Several years later she came to know the Lord and now wanted to help care for the man who preached in her village. Because of her devoted help, it was possible for Mona to keep George at home as was his wish. Dr. Silverthorne, a brother in Christ, very kindly made weekly visits to check on George?s condition. They would enjoy fellowship and a time of prayer together after the doctor?s examination.

After the first week of March, George was seldom able to get out of bed. One day a phone call from Labrador brought news of the sudden death of a young man he knew. Right away, he said, ?Let?s pray,? and began to intercede for those of the young man?s family who were left to mourn. He seemed to be concerned for the welfare of others more than ever.

One day he sent out for a beautiful bouquet of red roses with these words on the attached note, ?To my beloved helpers, Mona, Cornelia and Goff.? George?s thoughtfulness, even in times of physical discomfort and weakness was amazing. By nature he was impatient, so it surprised us to see how patient, kind and thoughtful he was in sickness.

By the middle of March, it was obvious he wouldn?t last much longer. Francis Barney, an elder from Labrador came to see him, arriving just when George was about to go to sleep. At first he couldn?t believe that it was really Francis here in Vancouver, over 4,000 miles away from home. He really appreciated seeing this man who had been saved as a boy when Mr. Campbell first went to L?Anse au Loup.

I was staying in a motor home behind the Campbell?s house, getting material for this book. We had an intercom hooked up so we could talk back and forth. One night he buzzed and asked me to come to his room.

?How much longer do you think it will be until you?ve got everything you need?? he asked. ?I don?t want to go home before my work is done, but I?m getting anxious to get there??

His commitment to finishing this book as well as a tape album of some of his messages strengthened him on his bed. He was a committed man to any work in which he was involved.

On the morning of March 21, 1985, it was becoming evident that this would likely be the day of his home-call. During that night, he had talked some of dying and said, ?Really, I hardly know what to expect when it actually comes. Imagine, perhaps by this time tomorrow, I?ll be talking to the Lord Jesus in heaven instead of you here by this bed??

Mr. Campbell had a talk with Cornelia and told her how glad he was that she had come. Also, how he felt her place of service for the Lord was on the Labrador Coast even though he knew she had been previ­ously thinking about the mission field in a foreign country. This was typi­cal of his talk with young people-very few generalizations and usually strong, clearly defined opinions as to what they should do.

He also called in his children one by one and talked with them and prayed. Mona and he had some time together alone and then David came from Calgary, Alberta around 6:00 p.m.

George?s mother and cousin, along with Mona, David, Ruth, Elizabeth and Lois were all at the Campbell home the night of March 21, 1985. Also, Cornelia Linstead, Victor Hull, Francis Barney and I were privileged to be there. The doctor came to the house in the late evening and after he left, Mona and the children and four friends gathered in his room. He recognized everyone, but wasn?t strong enough to talk any more.

However, in response to some comments made to him about his serv­ice and labour for God and his example to us all, he said in a clear voice, ?Sixteen men for God??

Just what he meant by that is not exactly clear, but what does come clear is that right to the last of his life, he was concerned that God?s work go forward. Those were his last words. He peacefully breathed his last breath shortly after and moved into glory.

After praying together, we left that room conscious that we had gone right up to the door of heaven with one we loved and had seen him safely arrive at home.

Sixteen men -- responding to my message,

Sixteen men -- converging on my bier,

Sixteen men -- share the grand commission,

Sixteen men -- with a bored ear.

Each like myself, a brand plucked from the burning,

The torch pass on which I held high with them.

The race they run, which I have now completed,

Lord, keep them safe from fear of men.

Sixteen men let down their nets at Thy word.

Lord, grant each one they be on the right side.

Grant that Thy people rise and join them,

With mind of Christ, and not the devil?s pride.

Margaret Goff