Autobio 2000

A Personal View of the Twentieth Century

by Robert Brow   Kingston, Ontario, Canada, 2000

Chapter 8

Becoming Canadian

Apart from the awesome list of meetings I spoke at, my diary recorded very little of lasting interest. The most memorable time was at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. The five days of mission emphasis included speaking in the chapel every morning, teaching classes, the main conference messages, dormitory meetings, and interviews with many students thinking of overseas service. By the last evening I was drained and exhausted. But then my diary records:

1 Nov 1963  "After supper some students invited me to a prayer meeting in a private home where about thirty gathered. There was prayer, some simple Bible exposition, two messages in tongues with interpretation, singing in tongues, anointing with oil and prayer for the sick, and prophecy. It went on for three hours, and I felt wonderfully refreshed. There are apparently many such meetings in Los Angeles."

In 1962 Mollie and I had attended a similar gathering run by the Assemblies of God Pentecostal Mission at their Childers Lodge, Landour, Mussoorie, North India. But this was our first encounter with the Charismatic Movement which was then beginning to touch the mainline denominations and other groups outside the Pentecostal churches.

In each of these places Dennis Clark, who had arranged the tour, fitted me in to a very wide variety of churches, conferences, seminaries, and InterVarsity student meetings. The contacts I made proved to be invaluable for my work the next year as North America Director of the mission. And preaching at Little Trinity Church in Toronto and St. James, Kingston, gave me a foretaste of the very happy years Mollie and I later spent serving those two congregations.

Early on in the tour Dennis Clark had suggested Mollie and I make our base in Toronto. He wanted me to alternate with him at the home end and overseas in South Asia. This took time to negotiate with the London and Toronto boards of the mission, and I was already booked in to speak at mission conferences in Britain during the first half of 1964. So we were not able to leave for Canada till August of that year.

We arrived at Toronto's Union Station just before midnight. Dennis Clark had arranged for me to rent a large station wagon to drive to Don Mills.  When I saw the exit named Don Mills Road, I took that instead of Lawrence Avenue as directed and got lost without a map. Eventually early in the morning we found our temporary home at 54 Tallwood Drive, which the Bill Fultons had kindly left for us to use while they were away.

Two weeks later we took over 42 Addison Crescent, which we had agreed to buy from Dennis and Gladys Clark. They had gone back to continue their work in Pakistan, and we agreed to board their son Martyn for his last year at Don Mills Collegiate. He would come in from school, play "Chopsticks" on his piano, and then go out as a Fuller Brush salesman. His favourite product was their oven cleaner. When a woman opened the door, he would rush straight past her, open the oven, and with one swipe of the oven cleaner say "Madam, you can see what a good over cleaner does for you." Soon he was into buying and selling sail boats. When he got married, after the reception we saw the couple sail away from Toronto harbour for their honeymoon. Martyn and Marg Clark later founded and still direct the very effective Salt wooden sailing ship building and training programme out of Victoria, B.C.

In Toronto we began attending Knox Presbyterian Church on Spadina Avenue. Mollie was very comfortable there under the rich preaching ministry of Dr.William Fitch. And I was free to take services among all denominations in North America, which would not have been possible under the tight discipline of the Anglican Church at that time. This was a disappointment to Harry Robinson, Desmond Hunt, and Tony Capon, who had all written to ask me to join them in the struggle to maintain an Evangelical witness in the Anglican Church of Canada.

As North America Director I had a small office in Upper Darby, a suburb of Philadelphia. It had begun a year before with Ruth Rittler, a typewriter and telephone. I told her it was a grain of mustard seed, and would grow as BMMF became known as a forward looking mission team. The Chairman of the American Board was Dr. Mariano di Gangi, who was at that time Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church. I very much enjoyed flying or driving down every other month to meet with him and the very capable members of the BMMF (now Interserve) board. What irked me was that every time I went through immigration into the United States or back into Canada I was asked "Where do you live?" and I would answer with my strong English accent, "I live in Toronto." They immediately recognized that I wasn't a native, so they would ask "Where were you born?" and I had to answer "Karachi, Pakistan." I was then ushered into a office to be questioned and delayed for twenty minutes. I noticed that all the fellows in business suits and carrying briefcases would answer "Trraaner" and they were waved through immediately. So I practiced in front of the mirror till I could say "Trraaner" with easy confidence. Next time, sure enough, I was waved through with the others, and I was never asked to show my landed immigrant papers again. In conversation I suppose my English accent has slowly mellowed, but to this day people know immediately that I cannot be a real Canadian, having come from England.

The Toronto BMMF office on Cottingham Street was an easy twenty minute drive in from our home in Don Mills. The wonderfully capable office manager was Ann Davies, who had previously been secretary to a top executive in the World Health Organization. Betty Gardner took care of the mailing list, and lovingly kept in touch will all our supporters. Here are brief notes from my 1965 diary with some later reflections on what happened.

George and Emmeline were accepted by BMMF for service in India, and when visas were refused that fall, George had already resigned his teaching post as a Mathematics professor at Queen's University. So I arranged for them to go to Beirut where George began teaching at the University for Women. I gathered that the London committee felt this was a hasty unwise move into West Asia. Later everyone was delighted with the wonderful work George and Emmeline Bush did as "tentakers" in Iran and then in Turkey. At that time we were attending St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, and we were expecting to go back overseas in 1966 at the end of our two years in Canada.  So I thought I should try to regularize my status as a minister. Dr. McKillican explained that because I was serving an interdenominational mission board I could not be received by the Presbytery as a minister. Five years later I again approached the Presbytery when Mollie and I were attending Bridlewood Presbyterian Church. But after two or three interviews I felt more and more uneasy and withdrew my application. In the next chapter I will describe the return to my roots as an Anglican minister. I noticed that Ann Davies was taking copious notes, and I discovered that the evening before she was unofficially engaged to Frank Benoit. When she got married she was very much missed in the office. But, in addition to raising three children, for the past thirty years she has continued serving on the Canadian Board. She has been responsible for the Candidates Committee which has interviewed and sent out dozens of candidates for short and long term service. Religion : Origins and Ideaswas published in London by Tyndale Press in September 1966. It was well received, and it came out in a Second Edition in October 1972. The first half was later used in two editions of the Lion handbook to The World's Religions. I got Alan Bulley to scan it for a digital edition on my web site which still gets accesses each month. Using a post-modern approach to comparative religion I later wrote God of Many Names: An Introduction to Dialogue Among Religions, 1996. And by then I had decided to put anything I wrote straight up on the web site instead of trying to persuade publishers to consider it for a paperback book. "The deep freeze had been unplugged as we cleared up to go on holiday, and the food was a soggy nauseating foul mess. It took me a long time to clean up the unbearable smell. I drove back to the Percys' cottage the next day after mowing the lawn and clearing up around the house." This celebrated the end of our first year of "becoming Canadian." I had agreed to function as North American Director of BMMF for two years, but I was unable to find a replacement till 1967. Dr. Mario di Gangi, Chairman of the American BMMF board in Philadelphia, had been the minister of Tenth Avenue Presbyterian Church. To our surprise and great joy he offered to come to Toronto, and bring his tremendous energy and gifts to develop the work for the next few years. That freed us to go back overseas.

At the 1966 international conference I had understood that Mollie and I were to locate somewhere in the Middle East and facilitate the location of workers in areas to the west of the original BMMF fields in India and Pakistan. I had hoped to open up doors of service for the new workers coming forward from American BMMF.

By February 1967 I could see that the BMMF leaders in London felt I had been hasty in establishing the International Aghan Mission and recruiting the Blumhagens and the Fribergs to go to Kabul under our American Board. When I was asked to consider teaching at the Lebanon Bible Institute in Beirut, I was very uneasy about this change in direction. After a long struggle we agreed to go if a clear appointment was arranged and we could begin arranging our support to go overseas. After four months of frustrating delay, the Six Day war changed the face of the Middle East. And immediately we knew that was not the time for me to begin learning Arabic at the age of 43, and a new career teaching in Beirut without sensing the full confidence of our mission leadership. Having already handed over to Dr. Mariano di Gangi as North America Director, I did not want to be around stepping on his toes. So we went on leave of absence from the mission and, apart from sending regular financial support and keeping in touch with old friends, have not been directly involved in the work to this day. But twenty-eight years later we are still enthusiastic about Interserve, and pray for the Canadian partners regularly. As I write, the monthly Kingston Interserve prayer group led by Elizabeth Capon meets in our home at 116 Rideau Street, Kingston.

My cousin, James Brow, was an anthropologist. On a visit to Toronto he had told me that if I studied modern linguistic philosophy I would have to give up my faith in God. So I decided to do just that in the Graduate School of Philosophy at the University of Toronto. They gave me credit for previous work and I was able to complete the course work, examinations in French and German, and pass the comprehensives by the end of my second year.

At that time my mother lived in Old Lyme, Connecticut. We would drive down in July and camp in a state park by the sea for a week or two every summer. She did not approve of my going back to school to study philosophy at the age of forty three with four children to support. Although she was an atheist, she thought I should pursue the profession I was trained for as an Anglican minister. But when she saw that our family finances had run out by the end of second year at the University of Toronto she sent me a cheque for $10,000, which I could repay in due course. It was paid off within eighteen months, from two penny mining stocks that soared and I managed to sell before they crashed. I can't think how I was talked into investing in such stupidity, but with the help of student loans it carried us into the third and fourth year of studies. In September 1969 I began teaching philosophy at Glendon College of York University. It was only a part time appointment, but it was welcome because by then there were already more Ph.D. students in philosophy than places for them to teach. The reason I was hired was because Glendon was set up as a bilingual college, and they were trying to offer all courses in French as well as in English. The course was called Raisonnement et Logique. It had been taught with a heavy emphasis on symbolic logic, but I suggested that in view of the new linguistic philosophy derived from Wittgenstein this was quite useless for most purposes other than computer science. That impressed them, and the Dean graciously gave me permission to rename the course "Argument Analysis." I told the thirty students that the final examination required them to evaluate articles from Le Devoir. They would learn to use language games to analyze the premises of each argument, set out the logic of the argument, and then see if the conclusion followed logically. If it didn't, they had to be able to show what would be needed to make the argument work. If they could do that successfully they would get an A.

One of the students did brilliantly learning the methods for argument analysis by Christmas and then disappeared for three months. "Where have you been?" I asked him. "I have been using what you taught me to write for a Separatist magazine in Quebec." I asked him to show me what he had done, and it was so good I gave him an A on the spot. That didn't please the other professors who couldn't see how you could get an A by being absent from lectures for three months. I pointed out that he could do what the course was designed to teach, and that was what the grade was meant to indicate.

Another A student was Andy Donaldson from Timmins. His brother Terry Donaldson went on to do his Ph.D. in New Testament at Wycliffe College. Instead of taking that academic route, Andy gave up philosophy to teach classical guitar. Later he composed many beautiful songs for kids to learn French in immersion programmes.

The second year at Glendon College I also taught a bilingual course in the Humanities Department. I called it "Religions and Ideologies." The students had to be able to set out the inner logic of the explanations given by people of other faiths in the city of Toronto. One Jewish woman, who had come out of the Holocaust in Europe, wrote me a wonderfully rich analysis of the various forms of Judaism in the city.

That course set me firmly in the direction of working at the Model Theology which is now the focus of all my writing on this web site. But for us as a family it was a very hard year. Mollie bravely took a nurse's refresher course, and helped pay the bills working shifts at Centennial Hospital. She enjoyed the contact with patients, but she was torn between her work and the needs of our four children at home.

I had presented my thesis on Wittgenstein's Language Games to Professor Canfield a year before. It was written in the usual philosophical style, but he said I had missed the point, and must rework it in the light of Wittgenstein's totally different approach. I told him it was ridiculous for me at my age to go on, and I was withdrawing from the programme. But he pleaded with me to try once more, which I did.  During that final year with Professor Canfield's help I began to understand the implications of the revolution in philosophy which had occurred. He liked my thesis, and told me to have it typed up and bound for final presentation. He assumed it would be accepted, but it had to go to two other thesis advisers. Three weeks later Professors Evans and Hunter sent me a letter saying my work would have to be redone in the academic style I had used a year before. That was obviously not acceptable, and I knew it was financially impossible to go on another year.

My first week at Tormore School I was teased for being a Froggie, and I settled I would never be a cry baby again. So I never shed a tear in 38 years. That night I sobbed like a little child in the arms of God. By morning I knew I had to withdraw from my studies in the Philosophy Department of the University of Toronto. Professor Canfield again pleaded with me to continue, and he was sure that over the next year we could work things out to satisfy the other two examiners. I told him I had very much appreciated learning what I felt I needed for what I wanted to do. But it was time to move on, and I have never regretted that decision.

By temperament I am not an academic. I had no desire to narrow down to doing research in one narrow field, and work at writing papers which a dozen other scholars in the world might understand. I am a communicator, and since my conversion to this day I have longed to preach and teach and write for the world-wide Church. In the next week Mollie and I spent much time praying together to see what God might have in mind for us. We both longed to be involved in a parish ministry, and in the next chapter I will describe how we went to the Anglican parish of Cavan in September of that year. But meanwhile finances had just about run out. I had closed off my teaching for York University, so that left the five months of summer free.
Impatient to do something, I had the bright idea of trying to go out to work and earn some money. I quickly got a job selling cars at Markham Volkswagen. I believed in the VW Beetle, and the new VW 410, and within a week I knew all their specifications. I could point out the selling points when I took people out for a test drive. The problem was I did not know how to close. The salesman I worked with was getting satisfied customers coming back after two years to buy their next car. He seemed to know and care about exactly what each person needed, and he sold two or three cars a week. I never sold one. So I had to quit six weeks later.

Mollie was working as a nurse at Scarborough Centennial Hospital, and the children came out with me distributing flyers all over Scarborough. The end of our seventh year in Canada looked very dismal indeed.  But then suddenly I got a call from World Vision saying they had money pouring in for the starving refugees from the Bangla Desh famine. Would I go out for them immediately?   I arrived in Calcutta and stayed at the Great Eastern Hotel which still retained some signs of its former glory. Next morning I discovered that the big aid organizations were flying in plane loads of food. They suggested I put the $100,000 I had into their common pool, but I decided I would go and meet the missionaries who knew the language and were in direct contact with the refugee camps. That afternoon I met a pastor and a nurse from a Lutheran mission on the border to the north. I asked them what they needed. "The people are dying like flies from cholera, and a saline solution drip would cure them immediately."  I asked them how many bottles they could use?  They said there was a used jeep for sale, and they could fill that. "How much would that jeep cost?"  To their astonishment I paid them in cash, and they were on their way the next morning. I could imagine them rushing to the refugee camp, the saline drip going in, and dying men, women, and children would perk up and walk around the same day.

I also met a couple of fellows from the Operation Mobilization team in Bengal. They said they were driving their battered old literature trucks loaded with supplies into the camps. I asked them what they needed. "Well there is a big three ton Mercedes for sale . . ." I told them they could buy it there and then, drive it till the end of the emergency, and take it on into Bangla Desh. I had never given out money like that, and I felt awed at being given such a happy task. The OM fellows used to come back and report what had happened. Two or three of their Indian brothers drove the truck into a camp, where people had given up and would not even come to unload the food supplies. So they prayed and asked God for help. They decided to sit down and begin singing bhajans (songs of praise) in the Bengali language. To their amazement the starving people came and joined in the songs and the prayers, and then unloaded the truck and took the food all over the camp. That was even more wonderful than the saline drip.

I was very moved by the work of a Salvation Army nurse, Major den Harzog from Holland. She took me into the refugee camps, and she would say  "I have to go back to my house exhausted for the night, but when I come in the morning fifteen or twenty of these children will be dead. There is nothing we can do to save them."  I decided she needed a break, and I persuaded her to come out for dinner with me. I asked about her previous assignment in the civil war in the Congo. She said there people would come in terribly wounded, and if they survived the operation they got better very quickly. "Here most of them don't survive." Before I left Calcutta she told me the evening in the fancy restaurant had given her the courage to go on.

From my previous work with the Union of Evangelical Students of India I had contacts with university students who wanted to help the refugees. So I asked them to produce a plan. What they proposed was to visit the refugee camps and find any university students from Bangla Desh. They would offer to help them with medicines, take them to a dentist, buy text books, etc.  and at the same time give them the good news of the Gospel. That sounded brilliant, and I backed them to the full.

Eight years before I had visited Mother Theresa's work which was still in its infancy, and hadn't become internationally known. This time I had no time for sight seeing. But by the end of that tough and wonderful assignment I was renewed, and ready for the next stage in our journey. By comparison with Calcutta and the starving Bangla Desh refugees, Toronto seemed like heaven on earth, and I was glad our family had become Canadians.

Chapter 9 ...