At the end of that four-year stint as pastor in the wilds of New Brunswick, I felt the need for a break. That’s not to complain against God’s call on my life, or that I was fed up, but I weighed less than 140 lbs and needed a complete renewal in body and spirit. By then we had two small boys and my wife at 5′-8″ weighed less than I did! So I had resigned as pastor and we returned to Campobello to live with my parents and I worked on the 70 ft. dragger for the next 4 months. In the meanwhile I’d applied to a mission organization with headquarters in New York City.
I’d worked during summer months as a crew member on my dad’s fishing boats since I was fifteen, but had been away from that for the last four years. So I had to get my sea-legs back again. Well, that opportunity came in a hurry as the first trip in early May, after a bad spring storm, was to a fishing grounds somewhere between the New England States and Nova Scotia. After a storm with 60 mph gale force winds the Atlantic Ocean doesn’t suddenly become calm again. It takes days for the whitecaps and 20′ waves to become mere 8′ rolling swells. After twelve hours of an 18 hour trip to get there, I was seasick… and I mean never had I been as sick before in my life. In fact, I’d never been previously seasick in my life to that point… and it was for the whole week! Yet by the end of that first week I was over it and had my sea-legs again.
(My cousin’s lobster boat in the foreground which he gave to his son. Pic on our visit to Campobello in summer of 2018)>
By the end of the summer we headed for New York City in my British Consul, a 4-banger, loaded with my pregnant wife, two small boys and everything we owned. That also included a roof rack with a huge box-shaped container that allowed a top speed on the super highways of 60 mph, max — that was with the gas pedal nearly floored !
From September to a few days before Christmas we were introduced to big city living in Brooklyn, just off Flatbush Ave. Classes from Monday to Friday were attended. Saturday was for ourselves, and Sundays I was sent to preach in various churches of the greater New York area. That was interesting since we were in the process of becoming acquainted with The Big Apple. One Sunday I was the preacher in a corner store converted to a church in a black community. Another in a black community with a white pastor! It was a huge church, all black, and the pastor was away for the weekend. I was on my own preaching to several hundred, and often heard, “Preach it brother!” But the one church I spent most Sundays in was on Long Island in a very wealthy, sophisticated all white community. The congregation was several hundred Presbyterians who were without a pastor at the time. It was suggested that I might consider becoming their pastor — and I was in training for missions in another language!
The followup to all that was 18 years of missions work, including ministry in two languages — French and English. Eventually, that led to becoming director for Canada, which involved speaking engagements in both languages and International travel for the same purposes. I was rarely home. We then had a growing family with three teenagers and one preteen. When I was home, that meant a lot of administrative duties. I was responsible for the home office, meetings with the international committee, and representing the mission that sometimes meant conferences with other mission leaders, etc. We were a member mission of the IFMA (Interdenominational Foreign Missions Association) which numbered around 100 mission organisations scattered around the world, that in turn was in a working relationship with another +100 evangelical denominational mission organisations (EFMA). We were non-denominational (not supported by any particular church affiliation such as Methodist, Baptist, Nazarene, Pentecostal, etc.).
But I had to make a decision regarding our future as a family. I needed to be home more to support my wife in looking after a family of teenagers. And I was not really cut out for hours of administration when home. My heart was in people work, not in numbers and finances. So while in the Alps of France in meetings with fifty coworkers, God gave me peace to accept an invitation to become pastor of a Toronto church. That was in the fall of 1977.
During those two decades of missions work, I hunted once in Quebec, and that was it. I gave my 12-gauge to a couple headed to Northern Canada for missions work. All that was early on in years living in the Montreal area. I didn’t have time for a break. Starting a new church in the French language, training a pastor to succeed me, attending conferences as speaker, travelling internationally, etc. was my life. Guns and hunting were the last thoughts on my mind.
But my hobby — yes, I did have one — was astronomy and telescope making. I became a member of The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, joined a telescope making club with a colleague. This club was associated with the RASC of Montreal. I made five personal telescopes, starting with a 10″ Newtonian. Then another 10″, and finished the 10″ mirror of my colleague-friend’s by correcting it from a 10″ sphere to a 10″ paraboloid. (A telescope mirror – reflecting type – after the front surface has been ground and polished to a perfect spheroid, must then be corrected to a perfect paraboloid for all light rays to focus properly to within at least 1/10 wavelength of light. Otherwise a concave spherical mirror of less than f10 will not focus light rays from an image to the same point.) I also made a compound 12.5″ reflecting telescope (that’s the diameter of the mirror, not length of telescope) with a total of three mirrors — one convex for increase of overall F rating. That was the best telescope I ever made but too heavy to be toted. It eventually became the property of a grandson. But any of the 10″, and the 12.5″ in particular, was optically superior to my current commercial 8″ Celestron that is worth 4x what they cost! (That was a gift from a friend with mobility problems)
I had learned from my experiences as a young pastor in New Brunswick that long-term ministry, and its success, depends not only on sweat and tears, but also on rest and relaxation. A complete break from our “work”. And that rest is primarily in God Himself as we learn that He is not expecting us to self-immolate (self-inflicted martyrdom), but to rest in Him by trust and hope for Him to do what we cannot. I’m still learning that.. by leaning on my Heavenly Father in a relationship through Jesus Christ.
So a hiatus of nearly two decades intervened between hunting in New Brunswick in my twenties and becoming a pastor in Toronto in my early forties.
No call to be a pastor in a city like Toronto will be “a piece of cake”, but I was home with my wife and two teens — our daughter and youngest son. The two older boys were in college “Down East”! The daughter and youngest son were in high school at a campus just behind our home, literally, with only a line of mature trees between.
A good salary with benefits, and a month’s vacation whenever I wanted was graciously provided. Plus, I had a lot of weddings, several of whom were motorcyclists — and they got me into that at age 45! And then our two sons, coming back from college, were excited about hunting “down east”, and that stirred the embers of the fire in my own soul again.
Not long did it take for the purchase of a rifle at an army surplus store in downtown Toronto. That was a military Brazilian Mauser in 7 x 57 still in its grease. Once I cleaned it up, its beauty and craftsmanship were stunning!
Yes, it went hunting, but when I missed two shots on a bounding buck through forest and brush, I realized that with only one good eye, wearing glasses (for protection and minor astigmatism) and unable to focus on both front and rear sights at the same time, I needed a scope. But the 7 x 57 Mauser had a bolt handle that stuck straight out horizontally, and when lifted to eject a cartridge it went straight up vertically! Not good! So, I made a choice to change that situation by returning this elegant piece of wood and beautiful metal to the same dealer for a well used military Mauser ’98 with laminated stock that had been converted to a .30-06. The bolt was “bent” down so it could be manipulated in a familiar fashion without interference with a scope. I purchased a scope (3 – 9 X 40mm “something”) and a “contraption” for mounting it. I also bought a Lyman manual, some .30-06 brass, powder, primers and bullets! I was on the road to becoming a “handloader” in 1979 — forty-one years ago. I never shot anything live with that rifle but I became active at a range north of Toronto with one of my sons (Phil). In producing .30-06 ammo, and being frustrated with that rifle and scope setup, the next year it got traded at a west end Italian, upscale, gun shop.
I forget the exact number, but I think the owner/manager gave $75 credit on a slightly used M70 Winchester in .30-06 Springfield. The owner and dealer said the former owner of the M70, .30-06 decided for a new .300 Winchester Magnum. I now had a REAL rifle in .30-06! Shortly thereafter a series 340 Winchester semi was added in .22LR (sometime later that became a collector’s piece). It was later given to my son, but it had knocked-off quite a few woodchucks prior to that. After the gift-giving, I purchased a bolt-action .22 Win Mag, and that one was really awesome on chucks! Later still came my first center-fire single-shot for which I also developed handloads in .22 Hornet — that eventually became the property of Phil (that was not a donation!).
I was learning the handloading game — about powders and bullets. That meant more books, manuals and magazines. I had swallowed the hook, line and sinker! That also meant visits to gun shops and auctions. But deer are not usually hunted on Bay Street, Toronto — I obviously needed a place and permit to hunt big game.
Back tracking a year or so: It happened that an elderly bachelor member of our church told me of an older couple living far- northeast of Toronto, who were relatives, and they might be willing to entertain son Phil and I for a week of hunting on their property. He was/had been a bee keeper, and they were childless. It was arranged for us by the elderly bachelor, and when deer season arrived in that area we headed northeast, about a two-hour drive from Toronto. It turned out to be within the area of my current hunting activities over the past thirty-one years! It was there that I fired the two shots from the 7 x 57 that missed the fast-moving buck.
Due to quick paced changes taking place with our two oldest sons, Brent leaving for Africa, and Phil going into training for same, our daughter getting married to a young man from our church, hunting (not handloading) took a back seat for a couple of years until we (my wife and I) moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia for pastoral work in a relatively younger congregation.
We’d been in Toronto for six years and two months. During that period our two oldest sons had finished college and both were married and headed for missions in Africa. Our daughter had also graduated from the same college with her fiancé, I’d married them, and the youngest was still in college. (All since have gone on to earn Master’s degrees in their fields, except Phil who is the head IT with the Salvation Army nationally.)
The four years in Halifax allowed me to deer hunt annually, and with some success using the M70 Winchester. But I’ve written in former blogs about the emotional loss of a huge buck while using that .30-06 with handloaded 165gr Nosler BTs. Because of shooting RH bolt-actions from the left side due to my blind right eye, I decided for a semi-auto to get off a faster second shot — it’s always bad timing to make changes when under stress!
In those days I didn’t own a chronograph nor a range finder, but the “book” said the 165gr Nosler BT bullet should be leaving the muzzle at about 2800 fps. At a paced off 153 yards it broke-up on the probable 400 lb buck’s shoulder. From the middle of a wood’s trail on private property, in one bound he was gone into the timber and brush where I expected to find it dead. Instead, I found a few droplets of blood that soon petered out. I followed it’s trail over piles of brush and dead-falls to a bog that it crossed. On the far side of that bog were rifle shots that I was certain would mean the finish of that great buck that I’d wounded.
I literally lost sleep as I rehearsed that scene and probable causes. I found a small pool of blood with some bone fragments, and that was it! To this day, I can still “see” that big buck as it appeared out of nowhere staring me down from the top of that hill 150 yards away.
The highly regarded M70 was turned in for a new BAR in 7 Rem Mag. It was a beautiful gun with a Leupold scope that someone ordered but never came to pick up. The manager of the shop gave me what I’d paid for the M70 in Toronto. Then it was off to making handloads for a semi in 7mm Remington Magnum.
I took it as a challenge and liked the BAR (Browning semi-auto) very much. It was accurate and fast with any load. That is until…
More to come on this saga…