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Whose faith follow: Mr Robert McClurkin (1904-1980)

J G Hutchinson, Belfast

Mr McClurkin was born in Belfast and brought up in a part of that city where a strong "Orange" spirit prevailed; he imbibed a fair measure of it! When he was eighteen he was saved at meetings in Belfast, conducted by Mr W P Nicholson. Many who were saved at that time became active in assembly life, some becoming preachers and teachers. After conversion Bob said to Mr Nicholson that he wanted to know more of the Scriptures; Mr Nicholson answered, "Join the 'brethren'". Some weeks later Bob was baptised and received into Joseph Street assembly; after another year he was in fellowship in Victoria Hall assembly.

Mr David Wylie, a gifted student of Holy Scripture, was leader of the Bible Class in which Bob became a pupil. In any examinations Bob was always first. He won the first prize for doing an essay on the Roman epistle. It was evident from early days that he was a keen student of the Bible; this marked him to the last days of life.

In his early twenties, he emigrated to Canada, going first of all to work on a farm in Peace River Country, Manitoba. While there he became very homesick and would have returned to Ireland had he not been persuaded by some believers to stay, as possibly God had a work for him to do in Canada. Many would thank God that he stayed. For a short time he worked on another farm at Treherne, Manitoba, where his employer was a believer. Later he obtained work at the hospital in Portage-La-Prairie. In all these places his free time was occupied studying and preaching the Word to saint and sinner. His holiday periods were spent in meetings at Fortier, Oakville, Mill Creek etc.

In 1932 he confided in a friend that he could no longer do his daily work, as he believed that God was calling him to preach. The need of the vast areas around was a constant burden, and many doors were opening. In early 1933 the assembly in Ebenezer Gospel Hall, Winnipeg, commended him to the grace of God to full time work for the Lord. He laboured diligently and with blessing in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, in school houses, halls, tents, and in the open air. Only eternity will reveal how many heard the gospel and were blessed.

In 1934 he was united in marriage to Miss Evelyne Harrison of Maryville. She was a true helpmeet and shared his convictions and burden about the many places of the great prairie country that had not been reached with the gospel.

There were difficult days, with poor roads, few cars, and little money. Many a hardship was experienced and heartache felt as the young couple pioneered for God. On one occasion he walked for miles in the intense cold; weary, he sat down to rest and fell asleep. When he awoke he was face to face with a full-grown bear, sitting on the other end of the log on which he sat. On another trip, short of food, he asked God to help him find some. After shooting a grouse, he plucked its feathers off and stuffed them into his rubber boots to keep his feet from freezing. Always a writer, he had to carry his bottle of ink in his pocket to keep it from freezing. He was, indeed, "a good soldier, who endured hardness".

He had a concern for lonely and isolated Christians and would write to them, seeking in his letters to instruct and encourage. This written ministry developed as years passed, until his booklets, magazine contributions, and books became well-known and helpful in many parts of the globe.

In the late thirties he left Saskatoon and came to reside in Ontario, from where he travelled widely in the United States and Canada, as well as making visits to England, Ireland, and Barbados. While greatly in demand for conferences and teaching the Word of God, he retained a love for sinners and the preaching of the gospel. In 1947 he accompanied R Booth to Manitoulin Island, where people were saved and an assembly formed. He was a faithful steward and he corresponded with other younger men with a pioneer spirit, encouraging them and seeking to help in a variety of ways.

The end came unexpectedly. He had just completed his work on the book of the Revelation, had spent the whole day in his study, and had retired at 9.30pm, apparently in usual health. At 12.30am he was "at home with the Lord". The very large funeral attended by saints from all over North America was an indication of the esteem in which he was held. A preacher colleague writing after his homecall, summed up in a few words what really described the man: "Ability, fidelity, stability, and humility". Well might we add, "Whose faith follow".


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