It was the fall of 1970 when I had my first encounter with Portage and Main, driving one of those despicable Volkswagen beetles, thinking there should be a spray to take care of such pests. But for the time being it was my only means of getting to Otterburne, which I had been able to locate on a finely detailed Manitoba map. My arrival at the campus on the Rat River and the railroad track was about the same time Winnipeg Bible College itself arrived in Otterburne. It was a grand experience for both of us, reviving old coal furnaces and daily finding new leaky pipes.
Facilities I knew were a means to an end. These were sufficient, under the capable guidance of professors such as Al Hiebert and Gary Inrig, to stimulate my docile brain to thrive on logic, philosophy, and koine Greek. The year ended with my being engaged in a pastorate at Haskett, where I began to learn about what I had come to discover was my Mennonite heritage. My mother’s language was everywhere.
Mercy for me was that Winnipeg Theological Seminary began offering courses in the fall of 1971. It was the dream of Dr. Eichhorst to provide a seminary between Vancouver and Toronto. The Seminary kept me in the pastorate, it was the essential resource I needed to develop in what became a God given calling.
The pastorate ended in Ph.D. studies, followed by an invitation from Dr. Eichhorst to teach Old Testament at the Seminary where I had graduated. I arrived back on campus at the same time the very first students were moving into Bergen Hall. My time at Providence would continue for 28 years.
The riches of a small school cannot be overstated. One of the more influential students of hundreds in my life was Sokreaksa Himm. One morning in my office he told me how he escaped a mass grave of the Cambodian killing fields under the Khmer Rouge, having witnessed the execution of his entire family. His mission became a return to Cambodia to forgive his killers. Later, as president at Providence, I watched through the studio glass as Marilyn Maki of CBC interviewed him. I can still hear her incredulous voice asking how he could forgive. His answer was consistent: I found Jesus Christ and learned about forgiveness. The world is not the same because of Providence, a school that educates for the one thing Canadian society needs to learn today: a concept of forgiveness.
Indelibly etched in my memory is the eleven-year process of having Providence education recognized by Canadian Universities. As president leading that process I learned two things. The liberal ethos of Canada is hostile to the fundamental values of Christianity. It is not forgiveness but zero tolerance that matters to this ethos, though it gets a little awkward at times, confession is not in its psyche. I also learned that in the University system are influential people who understand the importance of Judeo-Christian values that will be the basis of a stable society long after current liberal fads are jaded, faded, and quaint.
Christian students need a place to learn Christian values, in business, in education, in every human endeavor. By God’s mercy, Providence will continue to be that place, guided by the strength of a board that remains committed to the fundamentals on which Winnipeg Bible Institute was founded in 1925. I cannot say enough about the influential work of the Providence board. These men and women have committed their lives and resources to the goals of the kingdom of God in Canada. The necessity and current success of Impact 2020 is their challenge to the rest of us to declare our Christian witness in Canada. Especially for Canadian citizens, a sacrificial contribution to Impact 2020 is the best possible testimony that can be made for the kingdom of God.
President Emeritus August H. Konkel