The Welland Canal Mission
Arthur Taylor, St. Catharines, Canada
It is repeated 4 times in Psalm 107, ‘Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men’. One of these acts of ‘goodness’ and one ‘work’ of the Lord are found in Luke 19. 10, ‘For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost’.
The Lord knew before the foundation of the earth that many sailors would be ‘reeling to and fro’ because of ‘stormy winds’, Ps. 107. 27. He also knew that they would ‘cry out in their troubles’, v. 28, and be saved by the glorious gospel of Christ. Therefore, God gave a burden for sailors to some brethren back in 1868 and they formed the Welland Canal Mission. The Welland Canal is a twentyseven- mile, man-made channel dug to by-pass the Niagara Falls and to lift (or lower) ships 327 ft. Ships can be up to 740 ft. long and 78 ft. wide and an average of nine ships per day make the journey. This waterway, with its eight locks, allows ships from all over the world to navigate the St. Lawrence Seaway System. The sailors come from many different countries and between them speak over sixty languages.
The Lord saved four men in four succeeding generations who all had ties to the UK and who made Romans chapter 12 verse 1 their life’s verse, and, not accepting retirement, gave their lives as living sacrifices. They covered nearly 140 years of preaching to the seafarers. To assist in this ministry, the Lord also raised up people in the local area who published literature in various languages and made it available. These include Gospel Folio Press, Everyday Publications, OM, SGM, International Recordings, and Christian Transportation. These all supply materials free of charge to this nondenominational, independent mission that presents only Jesus Christ and the Bible. One encouragement is that of a foreign sailor who accepted a leaflet entitled Titanic. He took it after being given the opportunity to make a phone call home to his wife. Months later, while his ship was weathering a cyclone in the China Sea, this tract fell onto his bedroom floor. He read it and accepted Christ as Saviour, right there and then!
The Mission never asks for funds, nor charges for services rendered, such as weddings, funerals, transportation, food, or crisis counselling. The Lord has always provided: just in time in many situations. Another way the Lord has blessed the Welland Canal Mission is in safety. It is very dangerous boarding a ship in a lock as one must jump from the lock wall to the deck of the ship as much as 5 ft. below. In my own case, safety has also been experienced on the highways as I drive an average of 65,000 km. per year travelling to ports in Ontario and northeastern New York state.
To help with the language barrier, the Lord worked to bring about a law that requires every ship to have a radio officer who can speak English as well as the language of the crew. While in the canal system, which takes about twelve hours to transit, these officers are basically off duty so 99 % of them graciously agree to be the chaplain’s interpreter. After repeating a little 5–10 minute sermon in various places throughout the ship they have it memorized and are usually the first ones to get saved! After showing love to these officers, and other crew members, all will readily accept Christian literature and Bibles to take home as Canadian souvenirs for their families. Since these are classified as souvenirs, customs allow them through. In this way, the Lord uses lost sailors to get His word to their lost families around the world, and some get wonderfully saved. This proves the truth of God’s word, ‘My word shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please’, Isa. 55. 11.
Please read the Book Review section for Bob Cretney’s book on the life of Arthur Taylor, Lost at Sea; Found in Heaven.