Labrador History - 4.2 THE

Mary Taylor4.2 THE “M.G.M.”
By the spring of 1956 progress had come to the coast and the gravel road now ran from Blanc Sablon to Forteau. It was pushed through to L’Anse-au-Loup that fall, a distance of about twelve miles. Initially it was fairly good, but later it got a bit rough, but a road was a road. Then the first car in Forteau appeared - mine! My Dad drove from British Columbia to Ontario, bringing the car for me to take back to Labrador, so I met him in Ontario and took the opportunity to meet family again.
I visited friends in Ottawa until Dad arrived and then we stayed with my sister in Clinton, Ontario. By this time my little nephew was nearly two and his little sister was on the way. It was good to see Dad as I hadn’t seen him since I left British Columbia in 1953.
The return trip to Forteau from Montreal (with the car on board!) was on the North Pioneer along the Quebec coast to Blanc Sablon - on the same boat and the same route I had travelled when I first went to the Labrador in 1953. The boat trip took even longer this time, nearly two weeks in fact, but my feelings were very different this time, for I had a sense of going home! Another Grenfell nurse was travelling on the same boat and I was glad of her company.
There was great excitement when I arrived in Forteau with the car and for many, especially the children, it was the first car they had ever seen. They just wanted to go for rides! My teacher friend was glad to see me back with the car as we had agreed to share it. He used it when I was working and visa versa.
We had become good friends over the years and there was much talk in the community that we were more than friends and would be getting married, so we received our fair share of teasing. This was not to be, however. We did not share the most important thing in life - a common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour. I had to learn that where there is a conflict of interests, Christ must come first. There is a price to pay for true discipleship, as I was to find from bitter experience.
Partly because of this situation I felt especially burdened and continued to pray that the Lord would sent someone to lead souls to Christ. As I prayed the burden seemed to grow heavier. During the summer I read two books that were a great help to me because they reflected my burden. One was John R. Rice’s book on prayer, “Prayer - Asking and Receiving”, and the other EB. Meyer’s book on Jeremiah. A verse in Jeremiah explains how I felt, “Then I said, I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His Name. But His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.” [Jeremiah 20:9]
I remember one afternoon walking up the new road behind the nursing station with these thoughts and burdens on my mind. The road rose steeply behind the station and one could get a nice view of the Strait of Belle Isle from the top. It was a beautiful day and, as I looked over the straits, there was a mass of ice pans clear over to the Newfoundland shore. I stopped to take a picture. Every thin was so still and quiet and God seemed very real. Little did I realise how soon my prayer was to be answered, although not in the way I would have imagined, and I was feeling rather depressed about things at the time. I had my little terrier, Twinkle, with me and she seemed to sense my mood as dogs so often do and looked up into my face as if to say, “Cheer up, things will grow better by and by.” Even a dog, one of God’s creatures, can give one comfort at times.
Life went on, however, and answers came later.

The M.G.M.

The M.G.M. 


June and July were not busy months that year, so I was able to get out in the garden that I had tried to keep up over the years. We had a little greenhouse which was heated by a wood and coal stove, and I grew tomatoes and cucumbers from seed, although the tomatoes had to be ripened in the house because of the short growing season. I planted some flower seeds and had a nice show of cosmos, snapdragons and other summer flowers, and one summer even started primula seeds and transplanted them into the garden in the fall. Contrary to my expectations, they survived the winter and grew to be quite large plants, making a pretty border to our flower
Most folk did not have time to grow flowers as they were too busy with the fish during the summer but they did put in vegetable gardens and grew such things as potatoes, cabbage, carrots and turnips. Turnip tops are used for greens and they are delicious, a welcome addition to one’s diet. I used to grow lettuce, green onions and radishes, which were a treat; that is when the slugs did not get them first!
With the road we got more outpatients as the people bought cars and were able to get to the clinic. Meanwhile my friend, Howard, when he was not in school, was kept busy bringing people to clinic. I had to put a stop to people coming on Sundays or I would not have had any free time at all - and there was Sunday School to think of too.
In July we had three new babies. One of these was a little girl. The mother was very pleased as she really wanted a girl, and already had a boy who was three years old. She was a pretty little thing, and on top of that I think she was the first granddaughter on her husband’s side of the family!

Spoffard Earle, Uncle Pierce and Aunt Rose Linstead.

Spoffard Earle, Uncle Pierce and Aunt Rose Linstead. 


A woman from Belle Isle came to Forteau to stay with relatives while waiting to have her baby. Belle Isle, a rocky, barren, isolated island at the entrance to the straits of the same name, was about nine miles long and three miles wide. It had two lighthouses, one on the east end and one on the west, each with a lighthouse keeper and an assistant and their respective families, and a Marconi radio station on the west end that checked weather conditions and was an aid to navigation. Despite there being lots of bakeapples and partridge berries on the barrens, these people lived very hard lives in lonely isolated places, but did not complain. One of the prices they paid was separation from family at a time like this, but it was the safest way. This expectant mother was married to a lighthouse keeper, and had a little girl too.
That same month we saw a young fisherman from Red Bay (the settlement at the far end of our district) with an infected finger. I had to incise and drain it, a task I really did not enjoy doing, but it had to be done! Infections of the hands were a problem when fishing, and in particular, there were what were referred to as “water paps”, boils situated around the fishermen’s wrists. These were very painful and were irritated by salt water and by the sleeves of the fishermen’s rough jackets. Naturally, the men hated to stay off work during the all too short fishing seasor, but sometimes it was necessary to do so.
From time to time we admitted convalescing patients who had been transferred from the hospital in St. Anthony. We had two that July, and they had to have dressings done daily. One, an older man, had had surgery for an acute bowel obstruction, and was very grateful for the care he received. After he went home I still saw him, visiting him from time to time. He lived in the tiny community of L’Anse-Amour, which was within walking distance of the lighthouse.
An interesting case, in light of all the prayers going up, was that of Spoffard, a fisherman with acute back strain. Spoffard was a brother of Ralph mentioned earlier. He had to rest flat on his back which was hard for him to do during the fishing season, but during his stay I discovered that he was a Christian. When his father, “Uncle” Will, and his brother got saved he also became concerned about his soul and a few days later he had trusted the Saviour too.
My heart rejoiced to see that God had been working in the past and I continued to pray that others would be brought to Christ. There was another young man in the nursing station at the same time, and in later years he too came to Christ. (Years later, the men told me that they used to hop out of bed to the bathroom when I was not looking; they were supposed to be on strict bed rest, particularly Spoffard!) While Spoffard was in the nursing station he told me how he and his family enjoyed listening to the Gospel being preached over the radio. Many people did the same; the seed of God’s word was being sown in many hearts that was bear fruit later.
When God moved, events started in the most innocuous way with a knock on the door!
One evening “Aunt Blanche”, who did our weekly cleaning, told me a young man wanted to see me. I never dreamed that his coming  was to be the answer to the many prayers I had uttered past few months. Introducing himself as George Campbell, said he was a Christian. He was one of a group of men preach- the gospel and travelling around the coast of Northern Newfoundland and Southern Labradoron a small cruiser called the “Missionary Gospel Messenger,” or “M.G.M.” for short.
They had called at St. Anthony en route and met Dr. Thomas, telling him they were visiting communities along the coast and were preaching the Gospel from the boat. He was interested in this and suggested they contact me when they got to Forteau. George was originally from California and had come to know the Lord in Vancouver in the fall of 1951, the same year I was there doing a course, and when the Lord called me to full time service for Him. He asked if they could get the use of a building in which to hold some meetings over the weekend, and I was happy to arrange for them to have the use of the community hall.
The men held Gospel meetings in the community hail that weekend and quite a number attended. Several were interested to learn more and some appeared concerned, but not everyone was favourable. This response to the message of the Gospel has been true throughout history; in God’s word we read that, “some believed and some believed not.”
Their boat was giving them a bit of trouble, having sustained some propeller damage, so they were longer in the area than planned. On Sunday I invited them over to the Nursing Station for lunch, and got to know them. There were four of them; Herb Harris, the most senior of the men, Bert Joyce, who later moved up to Red Bay with his family, Douglas Howard, and George - the youngest and the most recent convert.
Over lunch the men told me a little about themselves, and of their concern to bring the Gospel to the outport settlements of Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Harris had been burdened about the people scattered in settlements that were accessible only by boat, and had been praying that the Lord would open the way for them to obtain a boat for the purpose of bringing them the gospel. He confided his concern to Donald Moffatt, who was living in St. John’s at the time, and was the speaker on a weekly radio broadcast called the “Newfoundland Gospel Hour” (later renamed the “Family Bible Hour”,) a program I enjoyed myself for many years. He was able to obtain a suitable craft that was owned by a shipbuilder from Scotland. It was called the “Margaret Grace McKenzie” but was renamed the Missionary Gospel Messenger, or M. G.M. for short.
As we talked, I told the men of my own concern for the people of the coast and of how I had been praying that the Lord would send someone to work in the area on a full time basis. When Mr. Harris asked if there would be an opening for someone to come and spend the winter preaching the Gospel in the area, I told him I was sure there would be.
The brethren left Forteau early the following week after their propeller had been repaired enough for them to continue to Corner Brook. Little did I realise at the time that this would be the beginning of a great work of God in the area.
Over the next couple of months I was able to talk to some of those people who had attended the meetings that weekend, and got their reactions. One was Pearl, a friend who lived quite close to the nursing station (not to be confused with my nurses’ aide who had married some time before.) She and I had gone to hear Mr. Harris speak on the Sunday night, and he spoke on John’s words, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” [John 1:29] This made a big impression upon her and later she came to trust the Lord Jesus Christ as her own personal Saviour. This was the same friend who had lost her little daughter and read Dale Evans’ book, “Angel Unawares”
A woman I visited (she was ill) told me that she had trusted Christ as her Saviour many years before, through the life and testimony of a Christian teacher who had lived in Forteau and who held services in what was then the old Methodist Church. She also told me that her husband had been concerned about his soul for sometime. (She was married to “Uncle” Joe, the man who had been lighting the fire for us at church the previous winter) He used to listen with great interest, often in tears, to the Gospel being preached
- radio programs such as the “Old Fashioned Revival Hour” and “People’s Gospel Hour”, programs I also enjoyed and which
elped to cheer me many times when I felt lonely.
The other side of life continued in the midst of all this, and I continued to be dependent on the Lord here too. One five month o1d was very sick with diarrhoea and vomiting, and needed an interstitial drip to get fluids into her. This was a means of supplying fluid by inserting two small hypodermic needles just under the skin of the back, chest or thighs. The fluid was allowed to drip in very slowly and was gradually absorbed. In a tiny baby it is very difficult to get into a vein even if I had the equipment. Poor little Jenny was very ill but the Lord answered prayer and she slowly improved until we were able to give her frequent small feedings by bottle. I spent many anxious hours beside her crib.
September was a busy month. We had twenty-one admissions with an assortment of ailments! A woman with a threatened miscarriage, several children with gastroenteritis, an eighteen month old baby with an abscess on his scalp (probably the result of infected flybites), a six year old boy with a nasty cut on his face, another six year old boy with hot water burns of his neck and arm, a woman with pneumonia, a young girl with bronchitis and so on...
We had two deliveries that month, one was quick and easy and the other much more complicated. The latter was a thirty-eight year old woman with her tenth child, and who was in irregular labour for two or three days before delivering. I knew this could lead to problems. As her labour progressed, I sent a message to the doctor in Blanc Sablon that I might need him and warned my friend, Howard, that he might have to go and pick up the doctor in our car. The baby finally put in an appearance with no problems, but then the afterbirth refused to come. I contacted the doctor again and my friend went up to fetch him, and in the meantime I prepared the instruments which he would need.
I left the room for only a few minutes but, to my horror, I returned to find my patient haemorrhaging. I hurried to get an intravenous started but her veins were very ‘flat’, so it was very difficult to get a needle into her vein. It was only because God guided my hands that I was able to do so; I was praying hard, believe me. When the doctor arrived he first of all gave her some blood, that he had brought with him, before attempting to remove the placenta. It was a very worrying experience but once again I was able to prove the faithfulness of my God in the hour of need. I never forgot this experience and it made me realise afresh the need of a greater power than I possessed naturally.
The second delivery was less dramatic, but it reinforced the value of the new road. Sarah, a young mother from L’Anse-au Loup, was in labour and I got there by road as soon as I could, a Department of Highway’s worker taking me in his van. We took a stretcher too, just in case, but when we arrived, Sarah was standing beside the road with her suitcase! We hastened back to the nursing station and the baby, a girl, was born about twenty minutes later. We made it just in time!
To get a break from work one afternoon, I went berry picking with a couple of other women and we accidentally set fire to the barrens! Lily Mae, Blanche and I spent the afternoon together and as we walked we talked about the happenings of the past few months and of the Gospel boat. Both women seemed quite responsive to the Gospel.
Let s have lunch now Lily Mae said after we had picked our berries.
“Good idea,” I said, getting into the spirit of things, for having a boil-up was part of the fun of berry picking. “I’m beginning to get hungry. I’ll gather up some sticks.” I gathered some dry sticks of wood and took them back to the others and got a fire going. It was a small fire, but a good fire.
“Blanche, you put on the water for tea, and I’ll get the sandwiches ready.” This from Lily Mae.
We were just about to sit down and enjoy our supper when we saw that our fire was in great shape. Too great, as a matter of fact! It had left its initial confines and was spreading through the local vegetation, threatening to take off across the landscape. At this stage it was not a big problem if equipment was available. It wasn’t.
“Quick! Get some water,” Lily Mae said, the reality of the Situation dawning on her.
We only had the pails we used for picking berries the little ones we emptied into larger containers - the type which come with hard candy. They couldn’t hold much water. Where was the water anyway? The nearest pond was too far from the fire to be any use to us, but there was a little brook nearby, so we used that. Quickly we filled our pails and ran back and forth trying to dowse the fire. All to no avail.
“Let’s try beating it down with twigs,” said Blanche, desperation showing in her voice.
Since nothing else was doing any good we tried that for a while, but the conflagration merely gathered strength, preparing to take over the whole area. Finally, some men picking berries nearby saw us and came to the rescue, quickly getting the blaze under control. We didn’t hear the end of that adventure for awhile, I can tell you. The fire was out, but the shame lived on! And we never did get our “lunch” before my friend Howard picked us up in the car.
Mind you, this provided a diversion from our busy schedule. That month there was a wide diversity of types of care I was called upon to give. I admitted an old lady who had been coughing up blood, and transferred her to the hospital in St. Anthony. She had tuberculosis. Another older man had lung cancer. Two very sad cases. Nursing is very fulfilling but also brings times of sadness when we realise that we can’t be of much help, except in a supportive role.
October was not quite so busy which gave me time to get caught up with some of the home visits and immunisations. It gave me time to reflect on the coming of the gospel.