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Smith family fights ‘lostness’ in eastern Canadacomment (0)

March 12, 2009

Gary Smith and his 11-year-old son Caleb tooled down the Trans-Canada Highway in their rented Toyota on a winter’s day. They were in the middle of a 12-hour, 600-mile road trip from Quebec to Prince Edward Island when reality hit the 41-year-old missionary and he suddenly started to cry.

“What’s going on, Daddy?” asked an alarmed Caleb, the oldest of Gary and Sue Smith’s four children. “What’s happening?”

Through his tears, Smith asked his son, “Caleb, do you realize that in all of these towns, cities and villages we’re passing by there are no Christian churches to tell the people about the gospel? There are no Sunday School classes for kids. There’s nothing like you’ve known all your life.”

As he looks back now, Smith thinks that’s when Caleb finally got it — realizing why his daddy was gone from home so much. “He and I stopped and prayed together for those towns, cities and villages,” Smith recalled.

It’s a fact, Smith said, that some 1,000 communities in Quebec have no evangelical church.

Smith, a native Kansan, realizes he’s not in Kansas anymore when it comes to the difficult challenge of planting new churches and sharing the gospel amid a vastly “lost” Canada.

“In eastern Canada, there’s a spiritual void,” he said. “If you’re under 40 years old and in Quebec, you probably don’t know who Jesus Christ is. I’ve had some people literally tell me, ‘Oh that’s a curse word.’ That’s all they know about Jesus. And this is where we are trying to evangelize, witness and plant churches.”

Smith said only 8 percent of all Canadians are connected to an evangelical church, compared to 28 percent in the United States.

“Montreal has nearly 5 million people. Almost all of them are lost. Only half of 1 percent are evangelical Christians. We’ve been here eight years now but only scratched the surface.”

As an example of the fading spiritual condition in Montreal — Quebec’s largest city — 95 percent of Montreal citizens attended a Catholic church weekly in 1955. Today it’s only 5 percent. The Catholic church has not only lost most of its spiritual ground in Montreal, it’s almost been kicked out of the culture, Smith said.

But the same holds true for Protestant churches in other Canadian provinces such as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Smith said despite local church planting by Southern Baptists, many of the churches in these provinces have either died out or been turned into art museums.

Smith said sharing the gospel in Canada often calls for new, unique and creative tactics in lieu of traditional “hard-sell” methods. In a country where so many know of Jesus Christ only as a “curse word,” tangibly reflecting the love and compassion of Christ proves more successful.

“On an airplane recently, I met a young French woman who was a social worker in Trois Rivierre, Quebec, one of the most unreached cities per capita in all of North America,” he said. “Not only was she a social worker, she had a caseload of 50 unwed pregnant teenagers, average age 13.

“I asked her if she had ever heard of Jesus Christ, and she gave the typical reply. ‘Yes Jesus is a curse word.’ I told her, ‘No He’s much more than that. ... He loves moms and babies.’”

Weeks later, Smith told the young social worker’s story at a Baptist missions conference in Florida.

“The folks in Florida got so fired up that five weeks later, I had these huge boxes delivered to my doorstep in Montreal. We opened them up and it was incredible — baby snowsuits, diapers, wipes, things for the moms, etc.”

When Smith drove to Trois Rivierre to personally deliver the baby items to the social worker, she and her colleagues said, “It’s so incredible what you’ve provided.”

“And I told them, ‘No Jesus Christ provided these things for you today. This is who He is.’ That was these Canadian social workers’ introduction to the gospel,” Smith said, adding that reflecting Jesus’ compassion in any lost place can make the missions field there much softer to plow and harvest.  (NAMB)

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