My father, Major Glen McEwan, was promoted to glory in August this year. Before he died, he requested that I submit the following story he wrote about a Christmas encounter he had many years ago to Salvationist.
This story begins in the summer of 1959, in Sherbrooke, Que. One day, a Salvation Army officer, walking in the city’s downtown area, was stopped by a man who claimed to be “just an old drunk.” He said, “Captain, can you do something for a man being held in jail? I deserve to be there, but this man should not be there.”
The captain listened and wondered, “What can I do? I do not speak French, and I’m not a corrections officer.” But he made up his mind he would go and see what he could do. Little did the captain realize what he would get himself into by making that first visit.
The captain went to the jail, knowing only the man’s name—Francis. To his surprise, he learned that the man had already been in there for six months. He was a recent immigrant from London, England and had come to Quebec to seek work. Somehow, he had been hit over the head and lost his memory. He ended up in the local hospital, but he escaped and was later found by the river bank.
That’s where the police picked him up and put him in jail under “protective custody.” Things went from bad to worse as he battled with the language, culture, religion and mistreatment.
The captain knew he must do something, so he got in touch with government, immigration authorities and the health department. It took another five months before the man was released into the care of the Salvation Army and the officer.
It was just three weeks until Christmas. Francis could not have been happier. To show how grateful he was, he was willing to help however he could. He was completely reliable and trustworthy, so the captain kept him busy standing by a kettles, ringing bells, and also helping with Christmas hampers.
Christmas Eve came. The captain had not had time to get a tree for his family. So he and Francis went out and found a tree, and, late on Christmas Eve, they set it up and decorated it, with the help of the captain’s wife.
It was a happy Christmas, especially for Francis, as he rejoiced in his freedom and his newfound faith in Jesus Christ. It was happy for the captain and his family, too, as they thanked God for working out a wonderful Christmas miracle.