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Jun16FriThis Father’s Day, paying tribute to the lasting legacy of Corps Sergeant-Major Bert Vincent. June 16, 2017 by Lt-Colonel Wanda Vincent
“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely.”—Proverbs 10:9
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How do you measure influence? Is it tangible or theoretical? In my opinion, it is measured by visibly changed lives, especially when they span family and community, generations and geography. My father-in-law, Bert Vincent, had this kind of influence. From within the family circle and beyond, his legacy is one of evangelism, encouragement, passion and prayer. He inspired many to be active in the kingdom of God.
For many years, Bert worked as a cook in remote Newfoundland logging camps. It required long hours of hard work, with limited culinary equipment, but his cooking and baking skills were renowned.
Dwight Ball, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, recalls visiting his uncles at Bowaters Logging Company in the 1970s, and hearing about the incredible reputation of the cook. He describes Bert as a man who loved his family and his vocation, but it was his faith that was outstanding.
“Bert was a man with a consistently broad smile, a kind heart and a strong witness of faith,” says Premier Ball. “He was a man who walked the walk—his actions spoke louder than words, and that says a lot because he loved a good chat.”
Passion and Compassion
Growing up in Triton, N.L., a rural outport town, Bert’s life was deeply shaped by his mother’s faith. In the spring of 1953, he and his father shared the joy of coming to Christ, and kneeled together at the mercy seat in the old Salvation Army citadel on Gravel Hill. This propelled Bert to a lifetime of spiritual growth and service.
In 1957, he was commissioned as the corps sergeant-major (CSM), a role he held for the next 30 years. Along with the traditional CSM duties on Sunday, he accompanied many corps officers in their visitation ministry during the week, and made countless phone calls to Salvationists and others in the community who needed pastoral care.
He always seemed alert to human need and ready to respond. On one occasion, a young man in the community tragically drowned, and Bert was among the first to visit the family and provide spiritual support.
Many others were the recipients of this compassion, including a young mother named Valerie, who was battling cancer. When Valerie’s medical condition progressed to needing a stem cell transplant in Halifax, the man she knew as Uncle Bert called her every day at noon for seven weeks while she was hospitalized.
“He provided me with such heartfelt encouragement as I fought for my life,” she says. “He prayed with me and my husband every day over the telephone. He is a man we miss greatly in our town and our church.”
Bert also motivated others to serve God faithfully, even during times of personal struggle. One friend, Milton Fudge, remembers the impact he made on his life.
When Fudge moved to Triton in 2011, he was battling a serious illness. Bert immediately came alongside him with prayer and concern for his physical wellness, but at the same time, he encouraged Fudge to lead others in prayer to keep his own spiritual life healthy. “It was exactly what I needed,” says Fudge. “Bert’s compassionate, gentle spirit and genuine concern for me was an example of Christlikeness.”
Bert was also a soul winner. He unashamedly invited many to accept Christ as Saviour, including an older gentleman named Norman who never attended church. Bert regularly led prayer meetings and attended Bible study.
Howard Bridger, former CSM of the corps in Triton, says, “Those of us who have been privileged to observe Bert’s life, hear his powerful testimony, see him worship, hear him pray and sense his passion for the spiritually lost, have been immeasurably impacted by this great man of God.” Bert was a mentor to Bridger, sharing words of wisdom and encouragement, and they prayed together often.
Faith and Family