Dear Pastors, Missionaries,
Chaplains & Friends,
Steve here… I recently visited a cemetery in Quebec during a north shore tour (St. Lawrence River) of our churches and pastors. I was not previously aware of the details of the early gospel advance in Quebec in the mid-1800s. It’s a fascinating story and here is a brief synopsis with a few photos I took at the location. I think you’ll find this interesting.
After a revival broke out in Geneva, Switzerland (1816-17), some adherents broke from the state Protestant church. These dissidents were persecuted by a law (1824) that could send them into exile. Henriette Feller left the official state church in 1827 and joined an Evangelical Missions Society in Lausanne after her husband’s death. This Society began sending missionaries to Lower Canada. In August 1834, Henriette left for Canada accompanied by Pastor Louis Roussy. In Sept 1836 she took up residence in Grande-Ligne (10 miles south of Saint-Jean) after being forced from several other places due to persecution.
The Earlier Years were Tough
Other Society mission-aries lasted only a year and returned to Switzerland. During the 1837 rebellion in Quebec, she fled with some converts to the USA, accused of being friendly with the British. But, the 1837 rebellion broke the grip that the Roman Catholic priests had on society and the French Protestantism advanced. Henriette would say, “The time is come, Canada is open.”
Preaching locations opened along with schools and the French Canadian Missionary Society opened in Montreal in February 1839. Henriette endorsed their mission, but never joined them, due likely to her fierce desire to be independent of outside influence. She went on eight fundraising trips to the USA insisting Louis Roussy report on the Grand-Ligne church and school every few days. Her school students called her “mother”.
From 1855 to her death in 1868, her health was very poor, however, it never stopped her from running the affairs of the mission, even from her bedroom. Throughout her 32 years of missionary service in French Canada, Henriette Feller settled the first Francophone Protestant community in Quebec, educated young people, sent gifted Francophones for higher learning and established nine Protestant French churches with seven pastors shepherding them. There were approximately 900 members attending those churches.
In a recent conversation with Dr. Michael Haykin, one of Canada’s leading church historians, he said to me, “Steve, by the end of the nineteenth century there were about 50,000 French evangelical Christians in Quebec.”
I wonder what happened to this impact. Immigration to the States because of persecution in Quebec, fewer missionaries being sent to Lower Canada, poor leadership and evangelistic apathy among the churches and in a couple of generations the Grande-Ligne’s legacy has floundered. Remember, the Christian church is always one generation away from extinction.
Will we repeat history?
Then some young Bible students started leaving for Quebec in the 1930-40s. Pioneers like Wilf Wellington, Murray and Lorne Heron, Ernie Keefe and others. French churches were started, the Fellowship’s French Mission was established and approximately 100 churches have been planted. Today, there are 87 French-speaking Fellowship churches in Quebec with about 9000 believers – the largest French denomination in Quebec. It’s a wonderful story of God’s grace. But, only 0.8% of French Canadians identify themselves as evangelical Christians. Our work has only begun.
Missiologists tell us that nations or people groups under 2-3% evangelical will struggle to sustain themselves without any outside help. Imagine our Fellowship churches and donors stopping our commitment in Francophone Canada now. At only 0.8%, we would likely repeat the late nineteenth century history. The great gains of these past 50 years might all but disappear in one single generation. We cannot let this happen! The time is come. French Canada is open!
Very few nations are sending missionaries to French Canada. As Canadians, the Lord has given us this divine responsibility. Please join me in praying for the salvation of Canadians — French Canadians.
Thank God for the Henriette Feller’s of the church. Have we got any more out there?
Have a blessed week,
P.S. Check out the new Fellowship French Directional Document [Click HERE].
P.P.S. Why not consider registering for our upcoming Fellowship National Conference in Richmond, BC (November 11-13, 2013) by clicking here.