Byrne Foreshew - Arnstein, Ontario

Byrne ForeshewAround the year 1900 or a little earlier the glad tidings of the gospel reached a small town called Arnstein, Ontario. A small village of farmers, loggers and  store keepers, having a total population of about 300 people. Nearby towns of Loring and Port Loring would bring this number up to about 1000 in later years.

I trace the message of the gospel back to its entrance into my family, starting with my grandmother on my father’s side who was saved when she was in her early twenties when she moved into the Arnstein area to teach school. On my mother’s side, the gospel first reached her grandfather and grandmother who where German immigrants who among others had settled in Arnstein. By the time my parents where born the gospel had caused very strong and bitter feelings on my mother’s side and a rather passive, carefree attitude on my father’s side. My mother was raised in a denomination that preached that Heaven was gained by “good works”, but my father was fully acquainted with the gospel, being the youngest of 9 children who all attended one of the three Sunday School’s held by the local assembly of believers.

I am the youngest of four children (all boys) and the reality of God’s salvation never entered our home until just before the birth of the third son. It was at this point that my parents both sought out God’s salvation and became the recipients of eternal life through faith in Christ (they would have been in their early 30’s). By the time I was born my brothers where going to Sunday School and as often as possible to the Sunday evening gospel meeting at the Gospel Hall.

My upbringing was the best that a child could dream of, but the presence of God’s word in my home was limited. Sunday morning we would read the Bible after breakfast and before going to bed a Bible story book would often be read to us. But talking about God and being told about what was in the Bible was what my Sunday School teachers did. They took a very keen interest in my soul and were very diligent and faithful in presenting to me, not only my sin and Christ as the Saviour, but also many things about God and who He is and all the things that he has done and can still do. What those teachers instilled in my mind and soul as a child are invaluable and where the basis and beginning of my search for “God’s way of Salvation”.

One teacher will always stand out in my mind, for this and numerous other reasons. Each Sunday as the class was ended and we where receiving our Sunday School work papers, to be completed for next week, she would say, “I’ll see you next week, that is if the Lord doesn’t come and take all the believers up to heaven”. This statement never became routine or common to me; it began to work in my young soul. It was thoughts of the Lord’s coming that would often cross my mind when someone wasn’t in a certain place or when they said that they would be there or when you expected someone to be home when you called or came in the door but the house was empty, even though the family vehicles where in the driveway. On these occasions I would be found, riding my bike at a rapid pace down the country road to my grandmother’s place to see if she was home, for if she was I knew that “the Lord had not yet come and I hadn’t been left behind”.

The assembly in Arnstein has been blessed over the years with godly elders, who had a sincere care for the “little flock” as well as those who where without Christ. Being in an assembly that has commended at least eight workers to labour in the gospel, its focus has always been in “reaching the lost”. With such a focus and desire they where able to see that there was a family of four boys, the older ones in there teens and none of them saved, but seemly showing some interest. The assembly began to pray and plan for gospel meetings in the month of March, 1981. The focus was the souls of those four brothers. With this all unknown to me, I began to be stirred in my own soul about my sin, eternity, the coming of the Lord and how I could be ready if He should come. With a solid foundation laid by two Sunday School teachers, the prayer of a godly grandmother, the exercise of a gospel minded assembly; God took up a dealing with my 8 year old soul. This working of God with me included sleepless nights, dreams of His coming and me being left behind, an awareness of my sin and a struggle as to “How can I be saved?” and “What does it really mean to believe?”.

It was a cold winters Sunday night in Arnstein and the Gospel Hall was filled as usual,  I was sitting between my parents about 5 rows from the front and the second seat in. The first speaker has finished, I haven’t heard a word that he said, all I can think of is “I want to be saved, but I don’t know how.” It’s ten minutes to 8 o’clock and the second speaker is speaking on John 3:16 and Revelation 20:15 the two “Whosever’s”. In front of me on the wall is a text about three feet by four feet, it was John 3:16. As the preacher spoke about how we can only be one of the two “Whosever’s”, either the one that has eternal life and their name is written in the book of life because they believe that Jesus died for their sins or the other whose name is not in the book of life and will never be in heaven but as an “unbeliever” they must spend eternity in the lake of fire. That night looking at that text on the wall, listening to the words of the preacher, the word “whosoever” in the text seemed huge to me. I realized then and there, that I could be that “whosoever” and I could have my name written in the book of life, if I simply “believed – take God at His word” that Jesus died for me. God can’t lie, He can’t change and His word is always faithful; therefore if God said it I can believe it.  I did that night and by His amazing grace I became the possessor of eternal life, that was February 2, 1981.

After the last hymn was sung and I had explained to dad why I was crying, we got up to go out and there coming towards us, against the flow of people, was my Sunday School teacher. Kneeing down in front of me she said with a smile and tears in her eyes, “You got saved tonight didn’t you?” How did she know? Eternity only knows. But I think that when you are so taken up with reaching souls with the gospel and constantly praying for them, when that prayer request is fulfilled the joy is not only in the presence of the angels of God but also in the hearts of those that care and pray. I am so thankful for the Sunday School teachers I had. Thankful for their faithfulness, prayer life, tenderness, godliness and interest in just one soul……mine.

Well, its only February and the gospel series isn’t to start until March, one of the four brothers has been saved. The series began and before the month ended my oldest brother was saved, that’s two of the four brothers. It was 12 years later, just after I had been involved in my first gospel series, which was in Arnstein, brother number three was saved. I have one more brother, he is next to me in age and as of yet he has not professed to be saved. Please pray for his soul, he comes to the gospel meetings and is favourable to it, only God knows why he is still outside the door. I know that the God of all mercy and grace can reach him to, just like He has the rest of the family.

This is my story of God’s grace to an 8 year old boy and the eternal value of the work of Sunday School teachers. If it wasn’t for their care I don’t know where I would be today. They truly have an awesome work and responsibility in shaping and moulding young lives in relation to eternity in the light of the Word of God

As of July 2005, with the confidence and support of three assemblies, I have been commented to the full time work of the Lord. This comes 5 years after being involved in a new work and being a part of planting an assembly in Brampton, Ontario. In order to fulfill His service He has given me a life’s partner, Lois Tait whose support, labour, help and spiritual strength has been a true benefit in our service for Him.

Serving the Best of Masters, for to Him I owe my all,

Byrnell Foreshew