Hooping Harbor, Newfoundland.

A Witness to God's Faithfulness

April 01, 2016

A retired Newfoundland pastor describes how God’s hand has been over his life from his earliest childhood.

By Rene Cassell

Growing up in the remote fishing village of Hooping Harbor, Newfoundland, made for challenging times, particularly during the winter. There was no transportation other than dog teams, no medical assistance, and a shortage of certain foods. However, our family was blessed to attend a small Apostolic Faith Church, which was heated by a wood-burning stove and illuminated by oil lamps. Our entire family walked three quarters of a mile twice each Sunday to attend.

My blessings began when I was just one month old, when my mother was saved. Shortly after that, my dad was saved as well, so from my earliest remembrance, my upbringing was Christian oriented. Nevertheless, like every person, I was born with a sinful nature. As I grew to the age of accountability, I began to do things I knew were not right.

One night when I was eight years old, as I was sitting in a Gospel meeting, the Lord began dealing with my heart. I did not know what the word “conviction” meant, but I knew that a drawing force was urging me to pray. At the same time, though, another voice said, “If you pray, the other boys will laugh at you.” This created a war in my heart. When that service was over and I went outside, the drawing force seemed to leave. I felt all right again, but that did not last long.

A few months later, a disease came upon my face, gradually spreading to other parts of my head and hands. Eventually I had to be taken out of school and isolated to a degree, because it was not certain whether or not my condition was contagious. As time went by, the affliction grew worse. The only part of my face that looked natural was my eyes.

On Christmas night, after I had been out of school for several weeks, my parents wrapped me warmly and brought me to the church to be anointed and prayed for. As I sat on a chair placed in the center aisle, the pastor anointed my head with oil according to the instructions in the Word of God. As the people of God gathered around and prayed for me, it was like they were taking me to Calvary. And while they were praying, in a childlike way, I gave my heart to the Lord.

The next morning, instead of using medications, my mother said she would use only clean water to wash my face. As I was washed, it became apparent that the Lord had touched and healed me. After the Christmas recess, I was able to go back to school, with my face clear of that disease, and it never came back.

From then on, something registered in my heart that I wanted to serve God. I knew what it was like to feel the presence of the Lord, and my heart was blessed many times during my school years. When I was eleven years old, I was asked to play a twelve-bass piano accordion in church services. I had no knowledge of how to read music notes, but God gave me an ear for it. As time went by, playing the accordion led to playing an organ, and then to helping with the choir.

The Lord helped me through high school and on to teaching school for three years. At the age of twenty-one, I went to the capital city of our province, St. John’s, to help with the music in the Apostolic Faith Church there, and began seeking employment. One day, after putting resumes at various locations, I received a call offering me a job. However, when I went to the place, I found the position was with the Newfoundland Board of Liquor Control. I refused the job because I felt that it conflicted with my religious principles. The man became upset and told me he would place my name at the bottom of the list. Since there were about forty other people seeking employment, it would be months before my name would come up again. I just thanked him for his help and left his office. I knew that God could still provide employment for me.

I went back to the home where I was staying and prayed, asking the Lord to provide employment for me if it were His will for me to stay in St. John’s at that time. The next day the same gentleman called me back and said he had another job for me in a different department. However, before I had an opportunity to accept, I had a call from an insurance company. They, too, were prepared to hire me. So as a result of refusing a position that was not of God, the Lord provided two job offers for me within twenty-four hours! I ended up accepting the position as an insurance adjuster, and I stayed in that field until God called me into the ministry.

God gave me a Christian wife and blessed us with three brilliant sons. The Gospel work was the main focal point in our home. I kept active in church duties, assisting with the music and Sunday school. I really enjoyed salvation and became somewhat relaxed about what I had spiritually. However, one night while attending special meetings at our Birchy Bay church, my heart was stirred by a sermon, and I realized my need for the experience of sanctification. I went forward to the altar of prayer with my three-year-old son sleeping in my arms, and as I consecrated my life to the Lord, He sanctified me.

This experience enhanced my Christian walk, but I failed to go on and seek for the baptism of the Holy Ghost until 1978 when I decided to attend the church’s annual camp meeting in Portland, Oregon—a trip that would take me away from all the activities I was involved in. In addition to my church responsibilities and a full time job, I was also the mayor of our community, operated a retail store, was president of a company, and chaired a roads committee. By going to Portland I was able to leave all those aspects of my life behind and concentrate on seeking for the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

He gave me a picture of an empty pulpit and the unsaved people of my community, many of whom I recognized.

As I spent time in prayer at the camp meeting, the Lord showed me what He required. He gave me a picture of an empty pulpit and the unsaved people of my community, many of whom I recognized. On the other side of the pulpit, He was holding out a white garment. The message was that to wear that garment, I had to be willing to help those unsaved people. I knew He was calling me to the ministry, and my first response was, “I cannot do that.” I tried to bargain with God, telling Him I would do a lot of other things in the church, but I did not want to be a minister. My job and the benefits it brought were important to me, and I loved the work I was doing. However, I found that God would not bargain with me.

The struggle that ensued went on for over two years, and I did not make any further progress in the Gospel. Sometimes I would seek earnestly and feel that I was close to receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. At times I said yes with my lips, but there were still reservations in my heart and God knew it. However, in October of 1980, my desperation grew to the point where I felt that whatever the Lord required of me, I was willing to give. He showed me the same vision of the empty pulpit and the unsaved people as He had shown me in Portland, and this time I said yes to God without reservation. My heart opened, and He poured in His Spirit. It was about 9:30 that night when I went to pray, and it was about 2:00 the next morning when we left the church. When I realized what was happening, I was praising God but not in my native language. The power of God that flooded through me had such effect that I was incapable of driving my car home. Many times since then I have looked back on that night as a source of encouragement and strength as I have striven to fulfill God’s calling.

I had not revealed to anyone the call that God had placed upon my life, but the following Wednesday, the District Overseer for our church asked me to come to her office. Having sensed that the Lord was calling me to the ministry, she inquired if I had felt the call of God. I acknowledged that I had, and she asked me to preach that Sunday night—just one week after I had received my baptism.

For the next couple of years, I assisted with the preaching in Bide Arm, and then I was asked to take on the pastor’s responsibilities there. My first response was that it would take about six months for me to taper off from my job, but I found it to be otherwise. One week later, I felt the urge to resign at once from my position. From that day to this, I have had no more love for that job, nor any intention of going back. I want to continue doing what the Lord has called me to do.

Throughout the years, the Holy Spirit has been my Helper. In addition to preaching in Newfoundland and across Canada, I have been blessed to help share the Gospel in some of the eastern and western states of the United States, Norway, Nigeria, Zambia, South Africa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Despite the pressure and responsibility, it is always rewarding to see people respond to the Gospel call.

Often my faith has been tested, but I am so thankful that God does not call us to work for Him and then forsake us.

In the midst of those blessings, there were also trying times. Frequently the burdens as a pastor have not been light, but the Lord has been there. Often my faith has been tested, but I am so thankful that God does not call us to work for Him and then forsake us.

One of my greatest trials began in 1986 when my assistant minister became ill. After only a few weeks, the Lord took her home. A short time later, our seven-year-old son was diagnosed with diabetes. Later that same year, my brother, who was a musician and Sunday school teacher, was accidentally electrocuted while on the job. That night after sharing the sad news with his family and mine, I lay awake going over the incident in my mind. The enemy tackled me with the thought that I should not have accepted the pastor role, but stayed in my position as an insurance adjuster. For a few hours my nervous system was shattered.

The next morning at daybreak, I found myself on my knees in my study, but with no words to pray. I knew God had promised never to give us more than we could bear, and I felt I could not bear any more. I reached for my Bible on the desk, and it fell open to Isaiah 40. The first word I saw was “comfort,” and I realized that I needed to read on. As I did so, strength began coming back into my body. When I came to the latter part of the chapter, it said, “He giveth strength to the faint.” When reading the verse, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,” Heaven opened and the Lord took my heavy load.

How grateful I am to the Lord for the many times He has helped our family. I recall one year when our two-and-one-half-year-old son was supposed to do the welcome greeting in our church Christmas program. Two days before, he became very ill and was unable to get his breath. We took him to the hospital at Roddickton, and they sent him by ambulance to a bigger hospital where he was put into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). We were told later that the medical staff was unsure if he would pull through, but many people were praying. On the Sunday morning of the program, after examining our son, the doctor marveled at the change that had occurred. He said to us, “You may take him home. He is okay to perform in the program.” He was actually discharged directly from the ICU, which the doctor told us they normally do not do. We took our son home, and that night he played his part in the Christmas program.

In 1988, when I was asked to assume the responsibility of District Superintendent for Canada, we had just one church in Eastern Canada outside of Newfoundland: in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The Lord laid the burden on me to do whatever possible to spread the Gospel westward across Canada. Today with the help of the ministry, prayers, and support of the saints and the leading of the Holy Spirit, we now have churches in six of the ten Canadian provinces. Many times I have marveled at how the Lord helps. I realize that I do not have the personal knowledge or wisdom to deal with many of the situations that arise in a work of this size, but when we wait upon God, He supplies every need.

God has been with me in personal challenges as well. After a busy 1993, which included the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the Roddickton church, special meetings at different locations, plus the duties of District Superintendent, I developed a mental tiredness. Dictating a letter became a struggle; even hearing the phone ring bothered me. After preaching one Sunday night, I knelt before God, feeling drained of any strength. Then my attention was drawn to a sister who needed prayer because of a health problem. In my weakness, I anointed her with oil as the saints gathered around to pray. With my eyes closed, it seemed I saw Jesus coming toward us. After saying the words, “Sister, hold on, Jesus is coming!” I became lost in prayer and was led by the Spirit to another part of the sanctuary. Sometime later, I realized the Holy Spirit was speaking through me in a language unknown to me. The sister was moving around the church praising the Lord—she had been healed of her infirmity. The next day I felt up to whatever the challenge might be. God had healed me as well. How I thank God for His faithfulness!

In the sixty years since my first encounter with Jesus, I have proven that He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. Late in 2014, I was diagnosed with cancer. The news brought me no concern or worry because my hope was in God. The best that could happen would be that I would die and go to Heaven. Many years ago I consecrated everything to the Lord, including my future. The year of 2015 proved to be a time of recalling that consecration, resting in God, exercising patience, and taking the step of courage. Thank God that I had the Prince of Peace living within! With the prayers and encouragement of saints far and near, support of my family, efforts of medical professionals, and the supporting hand of God, I recently was told that I am presently cancer free. My heart is filled with gratitude and praise as I take one day at a time. I give Him the honor, and I want to serve Him the rest of my days.

About the author

Rene Cassell has retired as District Superintendent of Canada and is now on the ministerial staff at our church in Rodickton, Canada.