After many years of marriage and ministry, Phil and Grace Welch look back to 1957 as a significant year in missionary work among First Nations people in the Maritimes.
That year the following took place: pioneer NCEM missionary Art Wellwood began outreach in Nova Scotia. And, interestingly, three NCEMers who would also later serve in this area were born.
Also in 1957, Phil, who grew up in a small fishing village near the Bay of Fundy, was saved at age 15 while reading a pocket New Testament in his church.
On April 14, 1957, Grace, at age eight, typed this in a note to her father: “I an (am) going to be a Missionary. I an (am) glad that Jesus save me and you. I hope you pray for me. I will pray for you. I wish your family was a Missionary.”
After high school, at the encouragement of his pastor, Phil attended Bible school in Moncton, New Brunswick. While writing a paper for his sociology class, Phil came across Art Wellwood’s name. Phil wrote him, asking him for information on the social and economic conditions of Native people in the Maritimes. In his response, Mr. Wellwood also included their spiritual needs.
About this same time, one of Phil’s Bible school friends expressed his burden for the Native people he had met while working at a summer job in northern Ontario. And so began an early morning prayer group where Phil and three friends interceded for Canada’s First Nations.
Soon after, Phil met NCEMer Bud Elford during a missions conference at the school.
It was at her church in Moncton that Phil met Grace. After they were married, Phil continued his Bible school training. While seeking God’s will for their lives, they were encouraged by hearing 1 Thessalonians 5:24 quoted by several different people (“Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it”).
The Welches believed the Lord was calling them to serve with NCEM and joined in 1972. They spent 20 years among the Mi’qmaw people of Cape Breton (Nova Scotia), five years in Kuujjuarapik (Arctic Quebec), and Phil served as Eastern/Inuit-Field Director for 10 years. They raised four sons and now have three grandchildren.
“Our hearts are ever grateful for our Savior’s mercies and the many blessings that we are still receiving,” say Phil and Grace.