Report: Listowel Bible Chapel (Waiting on the Lord)

July 1, 2021
Seleda Frey

The establishment of Listowel Bible Chapel originated from a vision of John Martin, a full-time worker from the Hawkesville, ON assembly. In 1945, he had a desire to plant an assembly in Listowel, a village 35 km west of Hawkesville. Mr. Martin and another brother, Mr. Murray set up a tent in Listowel Park where they conducted DVBS and evening meetings for several years. However, nothing came of it at that time.

Many years later, in the early 1970’s, Mr. Martin began praying again about Listowel. Around 1972, he started a Bible study in the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Geurkink, who lived about 14 km south of Listowel. For two or three winters these Bible studies were held in their home. Then Mr. and Mrs. Dave Dunlop, who had moved their business from Waterloo to Listowel, started to attend the Bible studies and invited those attending to come to their home the next winter. After 2 years, the study moved to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Lyle Bender, in another part of town. Most who attended were in fellowship at Wallenstein Bible Chapel, which had replaced the Hawkesville assembly. By this time, John Martin was a bit discouraged, thinking that once again nothing would come of it. But it was the Lord’s work, and when His timing was right things would happen.

Early in 1978, some people of Dutch background began attending the Bible studies. Soon there were so many attending, that the Bender house was too small. A room in the local high school was rented and the Bible studies continued there until the end of school. Plans were then made to rent the Orange Hall for meetings.

The first official meeting of Listowel Bible Chapel (LBC) was on July 2, 1978, when the believers met at the Orange Hall to break bread with 70 to 80 in attendance. Meetings were held there for 2 years and soon they began looking for land to build a chapel. Several lots were considered and finally one was chosen, at the end of a street in a residential neighbourhood. The chapel was built in 1980 and on the first Sunday in July, the assembly moved into their own building. The first elders were John Martin, Dave Dunlop, Lyle Bender, Bob McEachern, and Mervin Martin with Henry Weber as the first Sunday School superintendent.

There have been some happy times and some hard times. In the 1990’s, there was a time of dissension with some of the families leaving the fellowship. In 2008, a car accident took the lives of two young people and a 2-month-old baby. These were difficult times, yet through it the Lord’s people learned that He does indeed “work all things together for good” (Rom. 8:28). Shortly after the accident, six young people were convicted to obey the Lord in baptism.

From the beginning, the assembly has had a keen interest in missions. They support many full-time missionaries and many, of all ages, have taken part in short term mission trips to many parts of the world.

Through the years, they have used many different ways to reach out to the community with the gospel: children’s meetings; ladies’ coffee hours; men’s breakfasts; and door to door visitation. One summer Jabe Nicholson came and set up a display of classic cars. Volunteers visited homes in Listowel to invite people to the park where they could see the cars. Gospel tracts were handed out and a gospel message given. Another opportunity for outreach was that for several years the churches in Listowel held summer Sunday evening services in the park, with LBC taking their turn. When the other churches decided to discontinue the meetings, LBC took the opportunity to continue this outreach four times each summer. People can sit on lawn chairs or in their cars and listen to music, followed by a gospel message.

In 2011, a website was set up so people can listen to sermons, find links to several reliable Christian organizations, as well as get free Bibles or audio downloads. Many Bibles have been sent out to various parts of the world. “So, shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa. 55:11).

Each week an article, taken from the adult weekly Sunday School paper (published by Gospel Folio Press), is printed in local papers. Readers are invited to contact the assembly. There have been some responses and even though there are no known conversions, believers have been blessed and there may be those that only the Lord knows about. In addition, Hope Reidt, a young woman in the assembly, writes a weekly column of encouragement and hope from God’s Word, which is also published in a local paper. 

For the past five years the youth group has built a snow sculpture in a local park. Their enthusiasm and imagination are evident as they have fashioned things like the ark, a train, a castle, and so on. Children and their families are invited to attend on Family Day in February, a statutory holiday in Ontario. The children can climb around and through the snow sculpture, and then hear a presentation of the gospel, explained so children can understand, but also heard by the adults. Gospel tracts are handed out, as well as cookies donated by the assembly. Believers from the assembly are available to talk with or answer any questions visitors may have.

In recent years, the assembly has grown as believers looking for good Bible teaching, have started to attend and come into fellowship. There are about 30 families in the assembly, with many more attending as visitors. Many who have grown up in the assembly have been baptized and are seeking to serve the Lord. The Lord has blessed with an abundance of spiritual gifts, which are being used to edify and build up the church. Quite a few of the younger men have taken advantage of courses offered at general conferences and men’s conferences, which has resulted in further developing their knowledge of the Scriptures and their ability to expound God’s Word. 

There are approximately 40 children in the Sunday School. Many who were part of it as children are now teaching. Each year they enjoy doing a Christmas program, telling not only the Christmas story, but also telling about Jesus “in all the Scriptures.” Several times other Bible characters, such as Joseph (a type of Christ) or stories of missionaries are acted out. Another highlight is the Sunday School picnic, which can more accurately be described as a church picnic, as everyone enjoys a fun time together. Currently, Rick Weber and Steve Vandenbrink are the superintendents.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, meetings have been held by conference calls on the telephone. Each week about 15 different brothers take part, either on Sunday morning for the breaking of bread and a short time of teaching or on Wednesday night for prayer. This has been an unforeseen blessing, proving again that God can bring good out of seeming hardship.

At this time, the elders are Nelson Weber, Jake Kraayenbrink, Dan van Veen and Rob Weber. Their desire is that the assembly will grow, not just in numbers, but that the Lord’s people will mature in their faith, so they may be a faithful witness in their homes and in the community.  “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Eph. 1:4). by Seleda Frey