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Spring 2001 · Vol. 30 No. 1 · pp. 114–15 

Book Review

When God Opens the Door

Gladys Blyth. Bellville, ON: Essence, 2001. 437 pages.

Reviewed by Jacob A. Loewen

This book deals with the development of the outreach of the Menno-nite Brethren to the coastal communities of Port Edward and Prince Rupert on the British Columbia coast. It is a year-by-year chronicle of this church effort from 1945 to 1990.

Gladys Blyth, the author, is of Lutheran/Christian Missionary Alliance church background. She came into the area in 1951 when her husband became an executive with Nelson Brothers, a fish cannery, and the family settled in Port Edward. Gladys, a fervent believer and a supporter of the church, was greatly surprised to find herself in a community without any church whatsoever. Thus she actively participated in all existing outreach efforts to correct this. At that time such efforts were geared mainly toward children and young people. Since then she has been a very active participant in all these efforts which eventually culminated in the establishment of the Cornerstone Mennonite Brethren Church in Prince Rupert. She is now part of that church.

Her coverage of the years 1945-1951 is only spotty, but beginning in 1952 through 1987 there is full year-by-year coverage. She always allows the various workers each year to give their personal reports, either orally (by interview) or in writing. This becomes a little tedious, but it remains instructive.

The Mennonite Brethren work there began with the “two Annes”—Anne Neufeld and Anne Isaak, later Anne Isaak Peterson—who applied to teach together in a two-room school in nearby Port Essington where they would also have the privilege of teaching Sunday school. These two women thus began an outreach toward children and young people. Their reports—Anne Neufeld’s in prose and Anne Isaak’s in poetry—provide the backbone of the early coverage.

There actually were some antecedents to the Mennonite Brethren church effort. William Duncan, early in the nineteenth century, began an Anglican mission in the area. This mission at Port Simpson concentrated {115} largely on First Nations people. The Anglicans were then joined by the Roman Catholics, the Salvation Army, and the Methodist Church, all of whom tried to start churches in various settled areas of northern British Columbia. Still later, Marine Medical Mission, which in time became the North American Indian Mission, joined the effort.

When the Mennonite Brethren Church came to the area in the 1940s, it was largely with Sunday school and vacation Bible schools. The earliest of such efforts actually was by the Canada Inland Mission of the MB Church. About the same time the B.C. MBs, with the West Coast Children’s Mission, moved in. Soon they took over. Eventually, when believer groups began to emerge, the whole MB effort was taken over by the Church Extension Committee which then developed churches in various places in the northern region. The list of MB church workers, missionaries, and mission executives mentioned in the book reads like a veritable who’s who among MB church workers.

The book concludes with a short review of what Anabaptist/Mennonites in general stand for, and the MBs in particular. It is a worthwhile read for MB church extension workers, missionaries, mission executives, and all people interested in the vicissitudes of church outreach in multiethnic communities.

Jacob A. Loewen
Abbotsford, British Columbia

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