“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely.”—Proverbs 10:9

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

Photo of CSM Bert VincentBert Vincent was the CSM at the corps in Triton, N.L., for 30 years
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

Photo of Bert Vincent and Lt-Col Morris Vincenbt Photo of Mjr Vaden Vincent Photo of Cpt Kristian Simms Photo of Cdt Courtney Kelly

Bert's influence spans three generations of Salvation Army officers. From top, Bert with son Lt-Col Morris Vincent, son Mjr Vaden Vincent, grandson Cpt Kristian Simms and great-granddaughter Cdt Courtney Kelly
Of the many convincing proofs of Bert’s influence is the impact he made on his family. His children testify to attending church together, sharing family devotions at the meal table and knowing where their dad would be early in the morning—praying at the kitchen table, his journal and Bible close at hand.

Today, many of them are serving Christ. And in just a few weeks, there will be four Salvation Army officers in the Vincent clan, spanning three generations and four ranks, and giving leadership in corps, social services, youth ministry and overseas.

“My dad was a person of deep faith and strong convictions,” says his son, Lt-Colonel Morris Vincent, chief secretary of the Kenya West Territory. “He freely shared the source of his faith with his family and his community. He elevated the standard of spiritual living for me.”

Another son, Major Vaden Vincent, executive director of the Centre of Hope in Halifax, agrees. “Dad loved to talk to me about spiritual things. I could always confide in him when something was bothering me. His advice was helpful and God honouring. He had a great influence on my spiritual journey, particularly in responding to God’s call to officership.”

Bert’s influence has borne fruit in succeeding generations, as well. “He would often share stories with me about how his faith had been challenged as a young man, and how he overcame it through a consistent prayer life,” says his grandson, Captain Kristian Simms, divisional youth secretary in the Prairie Division. “From an early age, he would check on me to see how I was doing in my spiritual walk.”

Bert’s great-granddaughter, Cadet Courtney Kelly—who will be commissioned on July 1—also bears witness to his impact on her life. “Pop was my prayer warrior,” she says. “I am now a spiritual leader because of his consistent encouragement and example.”

His influence includes many family members who are active in lay leadership in various corps across the country and beyond in youth ministry, corps finance, music and social ministries, as well as an international project in Zimbabwe.

A Legacy of Service

For many years, Bert kept a journal and would often write about his family and his faith. In 2013, just before his promotion to glory, his spiritual musings reflected an honest humility as he considered the prospect of his eternal home.

“I have had ups and downs in my life, but my heavenly Father has seen me through,” he wrote. “I have failed my God many times, but my God has never failed me. Thank you, Lord, for your blessings on all my family. I love them all. Be happy knowing Dad is going home to be with Jesus, not of my goodness lest I should boast, but by the shed blood of my Lord.”

The Triton-Brighton Corps building is currently undergoing a major renovation. Part of this project includes a designated room where people will gather for prayer and small group ministry. This room will be named the Bert Vincent Memorial Chapel, in honour of his legacy and faithful service.

How do I measure influence? By a man I call Dad.

Lt-Colonel Wanda Vincent is the territorial secretary for women’s ministries in the Kenya West Territory.

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