Tuesday, March 02, 2010

By Belinda

The memories of the past shared here have been narrowly focused on our lives as a couple, but there was a bigger story unfolding along with ours during the 70's.

Paul's father died in 1986 at age 62, but if he was alive, today would have been his 86th birthday.

In 1969, at age 45, he emigrated from England to Canada with his family, including Paul and I who were married just five weeks when we left. 45 is far from old, but still, it takes a certain courage to leave everything behind and start over in a new and untried land.

But courage was a quality that the Rev. Ronald F.T. Burston had in abundance; and faith; vision; passion and drive. These qualities live on in the man I married.

He left behind the church that he had founded in Redditch, England, and immediately set about getting his Canadian credentials in ministry, while working to support his family of five. By 1976, just 7 years after arriving in Canada, he, with a small group of committed believers, founded and built Tottenham Evangelical Centre (now Hillside Community Church.)

School buses painted orange (it was the 70's!) picked up children throughout the surrounding area each Sunday, and one family whose children came to the church, were the Garvey girls: Joanne, Cindy, and their youngest sister, Susan.

Pastor Burston visited the families of the children who came to Sunday school, during the week. His style was to get out and know everyone in his community. It was on one of those visits that R.J. Garvey, the girls' father, prayed with Pastor Burston, and turned over his life to Christ. A marriage was healed, an addiction broken, and a family kept together. R.J. became a faithful Sunday School teacher for many years, who visited the families in the community. In 1994, Susan Garvey became our much loved daughter-in-law.

Today I honour the memory of my father-in-law; a poet; artist; gifted orator and fully devoted follower of Christ.

In this photo, on the left are Rev. Howard Honsinger and his wife and daughter; board members Ross Jones, Arthur Campbell and Don Rowe and in the foreground on the right, are Paul's parents: Brenda and Ron Burston.
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Marilyn said...

Oh my. You made me homesick for a church of old and the memories of people with stories similar to this. I miss it dearly.

This was a sweet and encouraging tale....the long view of things.

Susan said...

Paul's dad will always define "pastor" for me in so many ways... We loved him too, as you well know. We were one of the families who sent their kids on the bus to Sunday School. That simple act would always be followed by a visit from "Pastor" and our family was no exception... It wasn't long before we were regular members and sitting in the pew across and a few rows back from you and Paul. There began one of the most delightful relationships of our lives... I was in charge of the church bulletin back then, and Pastor would drop off each week's prototype at the door, his pockets bursting with chocolate bars or ice-lollies or some other delectable treat for our young family. And we would stand at the door and talk. And talk and talk. I can still see him there of a summer's day... me holding the screen door open, he standing down a step or two, ALWAYS in suit and tie, invariably the wind ruffling his remarkably thick, perfectly groomed white hair. It didn't matter how the conversation started, it would always end up centred on the Lord and by the time he left, often ending with prayer, I would always feel uplifted and encouraged. And loved.

Your remembering him this morning brought a tear to my eye. I remember the phone ringing that Mother's Day morning early. You were on the other end and told me how he was now absent from the body and present from the Lord. I turned and gave Ron the news as gently as I could. It was the one and only time I have ever seen my husband break down and sob.

Later that morning, as a member of the Board, it was his job to tell the congregation. I can still see him walking up to the front of the church, taking his place in Pastor's pulpit, telling the congregation he was gone, and then opening his Bible to read these words...

"...we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord."

My Ron paused there, looked up at the congregation, and with an authority that was gentle, he finished the passage... "Therefore comfort one another with these words."

Pastor would have loved it, I'm sure.

Sometimes, I stop at that grassy knoll near Beeton, where lies the earthly remains of this man we loved, who, though afflicted like the rest of us with human frailty, still almost always and it every circumstance pointed me to Jesus. And he still does, with the words he had directed to be put on the stone that marks his grave...

Those three words at the bottom kind of sum up his life, and still puts it all into perspective for me sometimes when I need to pray, and to think something through...

"Unil He comes..."

Indeed, dear Pastor. Until He comes... I'll be seeing you again. In the air.

Belinda said...

Thank you, Susan, for this wonderful added memory. You added a perspective that is so unique to you, yet so typical too, of him. It was a gift to add this.

Marilyn, I am glad a memory was triggered for you. Those memories are sweet and precious.