Sometimes life’s journeys are accompanied by strange parallels. I would like to tell you about one I consider fascinating. My good friend, Douglas Nesbit, as many of you know, is President of our sister organization in Toronto, Canada, “British-Israel-World Federation”. Douglas joined that organization 25 years ago when he was sought out to serve on the Board. Two years later, he was appointed President and he inherited a financial position which caused him apprehensions.
Now, it is to his credit that, with the help of some very fine board members, the financial structure of B.I.W.F was stabilized. It is also to his credit that he has been the editor and primary contributor to their monthly magazine, “The Prophetic Expositor,” also the voice of their radio ministry and the developer and administrator of their popular website. Perhaps it is to his greater credit that he fostered a much-needed co-operative spirit between his organization, the Canadian British-Israel Association and our association, The Association of the Covenant People. Yet, it is to his greatest credit that in all that he does, he recognizes that it is the Hand of the Lord who is leading him and only the Lord is entitled to credit.
A year ago, I was among many well wishers for his 80th birthday, which he celebrated at the B.I.W.F. annual conference. I remember thinking, “how did this remarkable man learn of the Israel message in the first place.” Well, it seems that Douglas grew up in the message and began studying it when he was but a boy of eight. His mother knew that her father, a well-respected Presbyterian Minister to have held attributes in the 1800’s which, would later be understood as British-Israel themes. Yet, there is a strange parallel here and very possibly a light on the indirect part The Association of the Covenant People played in this drama.
This Association was established over ninety-eight years ago as the British Israel Association (our name was changed to The Association of the Covenant People in 1967 to avoid confusion) and the driving force was Professor Edward Faraday Odlum. If you look at the minutes of the August 2nd, 1909 founding meeting, you will see Professor Odlum’s name, along with the names of three ministers who played a great part in spreading news of the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Israel message. One of these was Reverend Merton Smith, the minister of Vancouver’s Knox Congregational Church. Once he learned of the message early in the late 1900’s from Professor Odlum, he became a crusader and took every opportunity to bring others to the truth.
When the First World War broke out, Reverend Smith volunteered as Chaplain and was among the first to go overseas. We can only assume that just as he did in Vancouver, he extolled the message of True Israel to everyone with whom he came into contact. As an aside, he didn’t leave his Vancouver congregation without a like-minded believer and he was greatly responsible for the engagement of his successor, a man who subsequently became the leading voice for the Israel movement in Britain and the world, the Reverend Doctor Wm. Pascoe Goard.
In any event, back to Reverend Smith. He was first commissioned with the rank of captain, served in the Canadian camp in England, and then for two years and a half on the front lines in France and Flanders, a year of that time in the Ypres Salient. Another soldier, a Britisher from the East Kent Regiment (known as “The Buffs”) now comes into our drama. He was Captain Charles Henry Fletcher Nesbit, who at one point during the First World War was seconded as Liaison Officer to the Canadian forces fighting in the Ypres Salient. He suffered in the attack from German canisters of chlorine gas while with the Canadian forces in the Second Battle of Ypres, being gassed alongside the Canadians. It is almost certain that he and Chaplain Smith came into contact with one another during that momentous year. This much is certain. Captain Nesbit was familiar with the British-Israel message before he met and married Nursing Sister Constance Elspeth Bruce R.N. of Queen Alexandra’s Military Nursing Service in the Weslyan-Garrison-Church, Rawalpindi, on the North-West Frontier of British India following World War I. She once explained to Douglas, who at age four had lost his father to an airplane accident, that Captain Nesbit carried a book on the British Israel message, a book that was among his possessions before Douglas’s mother met and married him.
Putting “two and two together” Mr. Nesbit believes that the two Captains, one a Canadian Forestry Corps Padre, the other a Liaison Officer from a British Regiment, and neither assigned to a specific post in the line of battle, in all likelihood made contact, and conversed on the marvellous message and prospect of the British Israel theme! If so, we can put “two and two together” one more time and trace Douglas Nesbit’s enlightenment, in part, to his father, his father’s awakening to Captain Smith and Captain Smith’s awakening to the founder of The Association of the Covenant People, Professor Edward Faraday Odlum.
If so, do we dare speculate that way back in the early 1900’s, even before the formation of British-Israel-World Federation, Canada, God had set the stage for a leader for that organization when it was to need one most in its dark days of the 1980’s? Certainly, the LORD does work in strange ways and with many strange parallels.