“Would You Have Let Him Go?”

a Maritimes mission story from our new book "Late Dawn" (from Issue #523)

A Maritimes Mission Story

by John Ives

John Ives joined NCEM in 1982 and was assigned to serve in the Miramichi area of New Brunswick. His ministry took him to Eel Ground and Red Bank First Nations, and to other Reserves in the area. John shares this story from his time there:

I fondly remember Mike, a Native elder. One day I was visiting with Mike and he interrupted the visit to inform me of something.

He said, “John, I want you to know something. I was born a Catholic. I was raised a Catholic. I am going to die a Catholic. You will never change me.” I replied, “Mike, I do not intend to change you.” That seemed to remove a barrier.

Mike had lost his first wife and family, except for one daughter, in a diphtheria epidemic. This daughter had become a believer and was fellowshipping at a Baptist church in the Campbellton area. She was working with Wycliffe Bible Translators, translating the Bible into Mi’kmaq.

Mike had a hard time accepting what his daughter had done and would question her every time she came home for a visit about, as he put it, “leaving the faith.”

Mike had remarried, marrying a lady six years older than himself. They didn’t have any children together, but had adopted a boy. I never met him – he had been murdered by some “Christian” (i.e., Protestant) young men who lived in the next community up the road. As a result, Mike was a very angry, bitter man.

Not long after getting to know Mike and his wife, she fell and broke her hip and was in the hospital. It was shortly after this that Mike felt free to share with me what had happened with his adopted son.

I said to him, “Mike, God knows exactly what you are going through.”

Mike swore angrily and beat the table with his fists. Everything on the table was bouncing with blows. He yelled, “How can you say that?”

I put my hands up in the air and said, “Mike, stop and think. If you would have known that he was going to get killed that day, would you have let him go out of the house?”
Mike swore again. He said, “There would have been no way that I would have let him out of the house. He would still be alive today.”

I said, “Mike, you have every right to feel that way. But think about this: God knew beforehand that we who are dirty rotten sinners would beat His only Son, Jesus, nail Him to a cross, leaving Him to die, mocking Him and making fun of Him when He died. He did it because He loved us and wanted to save us from our sin.”

Mike must have thought over this as several months passed.

Mike was a very talented man. He was a professional chef, a commercial fisherman, a professional guide and an excellent carpenter who did very beautiful wood work. He was also a musician. I learned a lot from him, especially in the area of cooking and wood working.

One day when I went to visit Mike, he had hit rock bottom. I sat down beside him. He said, “I am worried about my wife. Will you pray for her?” I put my arm around Mike as I prayed.

Later we got talking about the things he was doing, and the current building project we were working on together. But I knew something was eating at Mike.

Suddenly Mike stopped and looked at me. His voice was breaking as he said, “John, will you please pray for me?” I put my arm around his shoulder and prayed, “Lord, touch Mike in such a way that he won’t be able to deny it. Show him Your love.”

Suddenly Mike went limp – he started to weep. His hands were soaked with tears. After awhile he started to pray. He said, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner. I repent. Please save me.”

There was a pause. Then he continued, “Thank You, Lord, for saving me. Lord, please save my wife. Lord, please save my brother.” Then there was a bigger pause. He continued, “Lord, I choose to forgive those boys who killed my son. Please save them. I don’t want them to go to hell. Please save them.”

Mike’s wife and brother and others got saved shortly after that. Mike was 75 years old at the time. This all took place in the last six or seven months I was in New Brunswick.

After this there was a massive change in Mike. We would spend hours studying the Word. He cleaned up the house, the yard and the shop. He got me involved in the band that he played with. I would take him to their “jam sessions” (Mike was no longer driving). We would spend a couple of hours playing music that was popular in the area. Then Mike would say, “Hey guys, it’s time that we played some church music.” They would swing into the old hymns of the faith.

After a couple of hours of this, Mike would say, “Hey guys, I think it’s time we let John share something from the Word.” Then we would have a Bible study. These were men from several different church backgrounds. Few of them (at first) were walking with the Lord. Some were not affiliated with any church. It was through Mike’s influence that I was able to spend time with them.

After I moved west to work at NCEM Headquarters, I kept contact with Mike. Later I went back down East to visit some of those I knew, and to spend time helping at NCEM’s Arrowhead Native Bible Center. Mike was one I visited. He wept for joy when I walked into his house.

On one occasion Mike’s daughter came out west to attend Key-Way-Tin Bible Institute’s spring conference and graduation. She stopped in at Headquarters for a tour of the facility. When she saw me, she came running and gave me a big hug that hurt.

She said, “Thank you for helping Daddy.” She said she’d seen a change in her father. Carroll Hill, who had been my field director, also saw the change. I had told Carroll about Mike’s decision, and I remember him saying, “Now that explains the change in Mike. Praise the Lord!”

Every time I wrote Mike, he would write a letter back to me, thanking me for showing him the Way, and that he was praying for me. He did this until the Lord called him home.

This article by John Ives is adapted from LATE DAWN. To read more short stories of God’s work in the Maritimes and the people involved, order your copy today (see Contact Us for phone/mail numbers)

(from Issue #523). Note: some of the locations and involvements of our missionaries may have changed since the original publishing of this article.