To plow and plant for harvest in
By Adam Miller
In Canada, you can drive a thousand miles without finding an
evangelical presence, National Missionary Gary Smith says. Gary and his
11-year-old son, Caleb, were on a 12-hour road trip from Quebec to Prince
Edward Island when reality hit the 41-year-old missionary. He started to
“What’s going on, daddy? What’s happening?” asked an alarmed Caleb.
Through the tears, Gary asked his son, “Do you realize that in all of these
towns, cities and villages we’re passing there’s no Christian church? No Sunday
school classes. There’s nobody telling these people about Jesus.”
Gary stopped the car and he and Caleb prayed together for the towns they’d
These are the realities in a region where the church is cursed by most
“In eastern Canada, there’s a spiritual void,” says Gary. “If you’re under 40
and in Quebec you probably don’t know who Jesus Christ is.”
As Montreal and Toronto grow ever more diverse, so expand the
obstacles and the opportunities for the gospel.
“It can be a hard place, although it also gives us incredible opportunities,”
Gary says. “You can imagine the sweetness of sharing Christ with someone for
the very first time. They have no concept of Jesus.”
In Montreal evangelical Christians makeup only half of one percent of the
While Montreal is filled with people with wrong ideas about the church or no
idea about Christ, Toronto grows into a hustle and bustle of international
infusion and of economic boom and Asian descent.
“Toronto could be the most strategic city in Canada,” Gary says. “All the
transit flows in and out of Toronto. Most of the corporations are now in
Toronto along with the Canada Stock Exchange.
“If you touch the lostness in Toronto,” he adds, “you not only touch Canada you
touch the world, because of its ethnic diversity—particularly in the Chinese
and the Muslim worlds. The Muslim population is growing here
As a church planting strategist, Gary’s job is to strengthen churches through
resourcing, strategy and partnership with other churches in the region—a job
particularly important in so widespread an area as eastern Canada.
Church planters are catching a vision for this. Just outside Toronto, Jarret
Hamilton and Affinity Baptist Church in Oshawa, Ontario, are reaching the lost
Paul An and Westside Church in Mississauga, Ontario, are reaching Koreans and
other people groups.
And Shon Sun is reaching the Mandarin-speaking population of Toronto.
Gary works with all three of these men and many more church planters throughout
the region. He knows the spiritual soil in Canada is hard. But he believes that
reflecting Jesus’ compassion in any lost place can make the mission field ready
to plow and harvest.
“On an airplane recently, I met a social worker from Trois Rivierre, Quebec,
one of the most unreached cities per capita in all of North America,” says
Gary. “As we talked I found out that she had a caseload of 50 unwed pregnant
“I asked if she’d ever heard of Jesus Christ. Her reply was typical: ‘Yes.
Jesus is a curse word.’ I told her ‘No. He’s more than that. He loves moms and
With the help of some Florida Baptist churches, Gary was able to provide boxes
of baby items and clothes. Smith personally delivered the baby items to the
social worker and her colleagues.
They were amazed.
“I told them, ‘Jesus Christ provided these things for you today. This is who He
is.’ That was their introduction to the gospel.
“The key to reaching lost places is not my strategy or your strategy—it’s the
Lord of the harvest’s strategy,” Smith says. “And He told us to ask Him for it.
And the Lord of the harvest has given us leaders like Paul An and Shon Sun to
get the job done. And through us, we pray He will.” OMAdam Miller is associate editor of On
Gary Smith – North American Missions Emphasis Worship
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