Letter from Marvel D. Dunbar
Evangel – Fall 2015
Marvel is the oldest surviving alumnus of Alberta Bible College. He graduated in 1941. He and his family have had a great impact on the life and legacy of ABC and the churches they have served over the years. We know that several would appreciate having the text of this letter so we have made it available here.
August 22, 2015
Greetings in His name,
As I read the invitation for your reunion weekend, many thoughts and memories came to mind. What an inspirational gathering from the installation of a new President, Dr. Stanley Helton, to the shared memories of the first 35 years of ABC.
God has blessed me with 99 wonderful years and I’ve been informed I am the last remaining alumnus of the first graduating class. The picture shown of the seven of us took me back in time. We were young then, full of vigor with passion to serve the Lord. I still feel honored to have stood with them and privileged to share their names. From left to right: Melvin Breakenridge, Mary Champman, Ed Benoit, my wife Marie Gonyea, her brother Robert Gonyea, my twin sister Marie Dunbar and myself.
This first class was so close, not only brothers and sisters in Christ but part family as well. I will conclude this note with some of the highlights of their services to the Lord. Allow me to start from the beginning.
My twin sister and I enrolled in ABC September 1936 at Lethbridge, a town 600 miles south of our home in Grande Prairie, Canada. We met in the basement of the First Christian Church (editor: that is, Central Church of Christ). The small group of us grew as our professor, Dr. C.H. Phillips, was an inspiration to all of us. His dream along with his friend, Dr. J. Merlin Hill, was to establish a Bible College more centrally located. Ultimately, they decided on Calgary.
Our first years at the second location were held at an old school house on 4th Street, connected to the Tuxedo Park Church.
The day I graduated in 1941, Marie Gonyea and I were married. We were overjoyed as we accepted our first call to the ministry. We knew it could be a challenge as we were placed in the oil fields of Canada called Black Diamond. This area was known to be the home of hard working, hard living men and their families.
When we arrived to the old church at Black Diamond, we found it had been vacant for many years. Our first Sunday service attendance was 12, four adults and eight children. At that first service, I preached Jesus so hard to them that I forgot to take up the offering, which made me a very popular minister thereafter. We worked hard and long hours going from camp to camp on our bicycles, encouraging all to come to the church and hear God’s word. It was a joyous time for us as we saw the congregation grow and we knew He was blessing us. With each conversion we thanked the Lord for sending us there. We spent four great years at Black Diamond.
In 1945, after a two-year ministry in Regina, Saskatchewan, we moved to Prince Edward Island to serve a church in Charlottetown. Our new home was a parsonage at the Central Christian Church. These years were busy for us: a growing church with a broadcast many Sunday mornings, speaking at organizations and serving as a Chaplin at several institutions. Our added blessings from the Lord, was our home was filling up. Our first child was born in Calgary and four more were born at PEI!
In 1957, we left the island for a new ministry at the McKinley Park Christian Church in Tacoma, WA. While en route to Washington, we dropped off our eldest son, Allan, in Calgary to begin his studies at ABC! During our ministry, a new church building was erected as a worship center. We were there for six years when I received a call to pastor a church in Ceres, CA.
The Ceres Christian Church was a strong church, well organized and ready to grow. After 10 years and with a heavy heart, I felt it was time to retire. However, the Lord felt my work wasn’t done and had other plans for me.
I served 18 more years as a Chaplin for Memorial Hospital and Lakewood Memorial Park. I know God knew at 82 years of age it was my time to retire. I suffered a stroke in 1998, which finally brought me to retirement.
In closing, life has its ups and downs. God always knew what was best for me. We don’t know the paths God has for us, but with Him by our side life is good.
Praise God for all his mercies and blessings! And to God be the glory for great things he has done!
Marvel D. Dunbar