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Rev. Robert Gould passed away April 13, 2021 after a lengthy battle with cancer.
His wife, Louella wrote:
Celebrating over fifty years in ministry, Robert Gould has served The Christian and Missionary Alliance Canada as Pastor, District Superintendent, Administrator, Consultant, International Worker, Conference Speaker, Interim Pastor, and Minister-at-Large, Personally, he has been a husband, devoted father, and our wonderful friend.
Recently, Bob was featured in a solo chapter called, “A Tap on the Shoulder” summarizing his life work and ministry. Like the Apostle John, falling before Christ (Revelation 1:17-18), he felt the Lord “touch his shoulder”—followed by an assignment to write to the seven churches, its messages continue to influence the Church today. Bob describes feeling his own “shoulder tap” too while waiting in line at his theological graduation. From a leader, it came with a pronouncement he was being sent to pastor a certain church in B.C. It was the start of God’s method of leading him throughout his future. The chapter is in a book called, “Making God Known – To least reached people in extraordinary ways” by editors Ronald Brown and Charles Cook.
Rev. Robert Gould is survived by his wife, Louella. They have three children and seven grandchildren: Eldest son, Darrell (deceased) and granddaughter Nicole; Son, Reverend Gerald Robert, presently lead pastor of Summit Community Church, Richmond Hill, Ontario married to Leah Foster. They have four children, Caleb, Amanda, Dylan and Ashley Victoria (deceased). Daughter, Joanne, is National Director of Compassion and Justice for the C&MA in Canada. She is married to Dr. Lee Beach, former pastor and presently professor at McMaster Divinity School, Hamilton, Ont. They have two children, Joshua and Alexandra (married to Gerrit Vander Meulen).
Bob and Louella Gould: A Tap on the Shoulder
By Robert Gould
While in line wearing cap and gown waiting to enter Canadian Bible College’s graduation ceremony in 1960, District Superintendent Roy McIntyre tapped my shoulder and said, “Bob, I am appointing you as the pastor at Lake Windermere Alliance Church in Invermere, British Columbia.”
Being “tapped on the shoulder” with such a deliberate move to ministry is an awesome call, like John’s touch in Revelation 1:17-18. It seemed beyond me—growing up in an unobscured non-religious family where alcohol and physical violence prevailed; however, such a motif in receiving direction winds its way through my life and ministry.
My sister’s tragic death motivated my parents to seek a church, and they found The Christian and Missionary Alliance. My father never consumed alcohol after encountering Christ although his temper remained.
The church atmosphere inspired a similar change for me. Learning God’s persistence with Moses, Gideon, and others found me walking down the church aisle, not only as a brand-new believer but with a sense of “God tapping my shoulder” to serve Him with my life, even suspending my promising athletic goals.
Invermere, B.C. (1960-1962)
It was hard to focus on the graduation ceremony after that tap on the shoulder. Questions filled my mind. Where is Invermere? How will I get there with no car, no money, and parents with little income? After the ceremony, one of the college professors shocked me with the keys to a 1939 car that cost fifty dollars! Winter salt had eaten holes through the floor, but the motor worked. Although grateful for the trust, I had little to buy gas.
I was excited to tell the congregation at my home church, Moose Jaw Alliance, of my first appointment. The people promised to pray for me and our pastor, Alf Orthner, announced there would be a love offering. I was overwhelmed to receive $350.
I arrived in Windermere Valley at the home of the board chairman to find they weren’t expecting me. Having waited for three years, the congregation didn’t expect a pastor and nearly half the congregation started another church. This was devastating to the remaining congregation and to me!
Another alarm was learning the church was in a building program. The congregation met in the basement with the upper level in unfinished construction. My first reaction was that I couldn’t handle this and needed to go back home; however, after prayer, I decided not to leave these dear people in such despair, nor would I run from the “tap on the shoulder.”
The board formed a plan: a $100 monthly salary, an elderly lady gave me a basement room with breakfast, and church families would rotate supplying dinners. Lunch was mostly bread, peanut butter, and jam. As summer approached, meals became less and I felt alone.
Windermere Valley had many tourist motels, so I asked the district office to print a brochure promoting our church and schedules. Distributing these brought visitors to our Sunday services. One motel owner asked if this church was like Beulah Alliance Church in Edmonton. Assuring him it was, he replied, “See you Sunday.” He later provided a complimentary unit as well as a used car—with no holes.
Gradually, church friendships developed, attendance grew, church construction resumed, ministries flourished, and two nearby towns also received ministry throughout the summer. A Queen Scout, I was appointed Commissioner for East Kootenay, which helped develop community relationships. My confidence in God’s call strengthened.
Marriage and Ministry Partner (1962)
I married Louella Branstrom following her graduation. She had come to know Christ through a high school friend and later had a life-changing encounter concerning missions. Her parents were dismayed that she changed her music plans for ministry. Over time, her psychiatric nursing studies, Biblical Studies degree, leadership master classes, and on-going Bible and music education opened many doors for ministry.
Ordination at the Calgary District Conference was a particularly moving experience, as was witnessing the birth of our first child—a son we named Darrell.
Assiniboia, Saskatchewan (1962-1968)
Another “shoulder tap” from a district superintendent came when we were asked to pastor a church in Saskatchewan. Although it seemed too soon to leave my congregation after building a new church, I knew I must obey. It was difficult leaving my first church surrounded by its stately mountains.
I liked the new church building in Saskatchewan. A new parsonage provided a lovely place for our growing family, with Gerald and Joanne being welcomed into our household.
Together, we strengthened existing church programs, provided creative mission conventions and seasonal events, introduced new ministries, a Vacation Bible School which spilled over into the nearby public school, and a weekly Bible study held in the nearby town of Limerick. These all contributed to our church growth.
A medical emergency saw Louella admitted to the hospital. In a psychotic state, the head psychiatrist warned she may never recover. I drove home to our three pre-school children and quickly realized the importance of the ministry Louella had within the home, church, and community. Her illness also meant our dream for overseas missions had to be cancelled.
Louella returned home after extensive treatment, contrary to her specialists’ counsel. We saw God’s restoring power aided by a caring congregation.
Our six years in this community were life-altering before another tap on the shoulder led us to the Morden Alliance Church.
Morden, Manitoba (1968-1972)
The church was well respected in the community and we created additional ministries, enlarged the congregation, and extended its impact. I also became director of the Christian Education Program for the Canadian Midwest, extending my district vision with church communications and trips to the district office in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Morden had a family-oriented population, which opened various evangelistic and discipleship opportunities. Louella developed the Pioneer Girls program and taught in various capacities including a Winkler Bible School class. Our passion for the church and district grew.
Canadian Midwest District: Assistant to the District Superintendent (1974-1975)
A surprise call came from Rev. Orthner, who invited me to move from pastor to administration to cover all of Saskatchewan through to Thunder Bay, Ontario. Trusting this “shoulder tap,” the affirming Morden congregation gave us a new car to handle all the driving this position would demand.
We felt blessed under the tutorship of Alf and Arlene Orthner who provided us both with teaching and experiences that helped us through future ministries. When appointed first Canadian Ministries Director, his district position opened. Humbled, I was elected the new district superintendent, then one of three in Canada.
Canadian Midwest District: District Superintendent (1975-1981)
I revisited the Canadian Midwest District (CMD) leaders and shared my heart for this tenure and in turn, heard their hopes. Reinforced were the panoramic responsibilities of district leadership and partnerships. A new initiative, we mandated a CMD minimum wage for pastors with churches establishing respective maximums.
Added to this was implementing decisions pertaining to the U.S. national Alliance goals, and later, Canadian national decisions affecting the cooperation of district and local churches. Ministry was never merely a profession, but part of the heart and calling of God upon me.
We engaged First Nations and Inuit workers, appreciating their ministry challenges and successes. Good results from these respective ministries added to the diversity that made serving this district so positive.
The district growth of the Women’s Missionary Prayer Fellowship was noteworthy. Louella, assisted by quality women, enlarged its involvements and resources. A member of the North American Executive, and later the Canadian Alliance Women General Committee, she continued expanding ministry to women. She also wrote The Elder’s Spouse: Exploring their public ministry opportunities.
The successful district quizzing team in a Regina church was travelling to a tournament in Brandon, Manitoba, when their car was hit by a truck, killing the team leader and two young quizzers. The effects motivated remaining members to reach the international finals in the USA. Our son and daughter, both on the team, claim its impact on changing their life goals.
Unexpectedly, I was diagnosed with acoustic neuroma requiring lengthy surgery. Left with permanent hearing loss in one ear and a slight interior mouth paralysis, I returned to ministry with these impediments. Divine healing, coming in many guises, remains in my preaching Christ’s sufficiency.
The pain of a wayward child is universal. Our son Darrell chose a life path different from his siblings. Remaining in ministry was a hard but necessary choice for us. This experience provided empathy when attending pastoral families facing similar challenges.
A happy involvement in Canadian autonomy was being a member of the Canadian Study Commission (1977) and of the Fraternal Committee (1978-79). Other chapters in this book tell of prominent steps taken when the C&MA in Canada became autonomous in 1981.
This historical event saw the superintendent role vacant in the Eastern and Central Canadian District (ECCD). Unexpectedly, the new board of directors requested I fill this unexpired position by appointment.
Eastern Canada: District Superintendent (1981-1995)
Leading this district placed me in the most populated portion of Canada, spreading across Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritime Provinces. Along with faithful district office personnel, DEXCOM members, and pastors, significant goals for the Eastern provinces were set. Growth within the district was obviously God-directed.
Early pioneer work took place in Quebec with faithful Canadian home workers along with Chinese pastors and national leaders combining creative efforts to expand in this province. Jess Jespersen was director of French Ministries in the district. After two years together, I gave oversight to the organization of the St. Lawrence District (SLD) with Jess as its first district superintendent. Ann Jespersen has chronicled the steps Jess and Quebec workers took towards this and the SLD’s continuing development.1
Chinese churches existed and operated under the district constitution. The next decade’s church-planting opportunities increased, especially with 10,000 people annually immigrating to Toronto from Hong Kong. District partnership, the Canadian Chinese Alliance Churches Association, and existing Chinese churches saw 10 new Chinese churches in four years. At least 22 Chinese churches existed in the ECCD by 1995.
Other cultural start-ups (e.g. Vietnamese, Filipino churches), along with Caucasian groups, expanded the ECCD in the 1980s-90s with churches applying for district financial approvals for land purchases and building programs. With rising pastoral personnel, our district credential and ordination activities increased too.
Previously, the district inherited a 17-acre property in West Burlington, Ontario, containing a small nursing home subject to continuing its function while family residents lived there. Former leadership had constructed a home for the existing nursing home administrator and another for the district superintendent with a district office (later becoming a seniors’ residence).
The district expanded this ministry. With the expertise and partnership of Stu Gillis, we took oversight of constructing and administrating a 64-bed CAMA Woodlands Nursing Home complex. Leaders later enlarged this to 128 beds, continuing its comprehensive community care. Renovating the former nursing home still provides a spacious district office.
District sponsored activities for men, women, youth, camps, children, pastoral in-service training, retreats, and specialty events (e.g. an annual youth music festival), etc. encouraged inter-church fellowship. ECCD also hosted two Canadian General Assemblies.
Now called “Alliance Women”, Louella and her executive provided resourceful oversight of area and local church women leaders, seeing district retreats reaching 1,000.
Seventy-two churches existed in Eastern Canada (Thunder Bay to Newfoundland) in 1981. In Ontario and the Atlantic Provinces, 57 churches remained, after forming the St. Lawrence District in July 1983. By July 1995, this total grew to 111 churches. Seeing 54 new churches—nearly doubling church numbers in 12 years—was a numerical highlight of my 15 years as district superintendent.
David Lewis (and Janie) was elected to lead the Central Canadian District and Doug Wiebe (and Judy) led the Eastern Canadian District. I am humbled with these leadership positions including being a member of the Canadian Bible College / Canadian Theological Seminary Board of Governors for 25 years, the Canadian Corporation of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, the Canadian Board of Directors for eight years, and as Moderator at two Canadian General Assemblies. Serving with many Canadian colleagues and my gifted district assistants, David Freeman and Gordon Bucek, has been a great privilege. God’s “tap on the shoulder” comes with shared grace and blessing.
Throughout our years of ministry, we were involved with missions. I was speaker at various international General Assemblies, Field Forum Conferences and other overseas involvements. Some eighty countries fanned our mission concern. Following a sabbatical, we received a “tap on the shoulder” to pastor a church in Thailand. Becoming international workers was a desire fulfilled.
International Church Ministry (1996-2004)
The Evangelical Church of Bangkok (ECB), the largest evangelical English-speaking church in Bangkok, targeted some 250,000 resident multi-nationals and saw 54 nationalities in attendance. I applaud past and future leaders whose planting and watering continue experiencing God-given growth (I Corinthians 3:7-8).
By 1998, growth required building another floor to the existing Christian Education building as well as enlarging the church sanctuary.
In four terms, we increased substantially; increased ministry and quadrupled budgets provided ministry to all ages with regular and special events, including hotel services with luncheons attracting 800-1,000.
As Director of Women’s Ministries, Louella and her teams influenced hundreds of English-speaking women through programs focused on their needs, fellowship, outreach, and leadership opportunities. Such involvement flourished in each department led by assisting international workers with board members, volunteers, and Thai staff contributing.
ECB contributed to national Allliance church projects including seminary and Bible college scholarships for Thai students; sharing facilities with a Thai congregation and a Vietnamese pastors’ Master Degree program with thirty-four graduating. Other mission organizations received offerings and volunteers, and we reimbursed allowance costs for ECB international workers to Canadian and American global offices.
With hundreds of people filling our church services, we had to look at enlarging our premises. In 2002, we launched a building plan with a public fundraising campaign. Along with the reserve fund, millions of baht were raised, which was important in a cash society.
In 2004, an adjoining property, long prayed over, was purchased. For me, holding that deed was a significant step toward my eight-year “dream” while serving this strategic church.
Overriding all the ministry growth were multiple conversions, regular baptisms, and spiritual growth. The transformation stories and interactions were abundant.
In 2004, an unusual “tap” came to me when a heart problem emerged. Ongoing lung issues for Louella emphasized that it was time to go. It wasn’t easy leaving, but with a quality board and congregants already embracing the ongoing development plan, the following leadership saw it to completion.
Return to Canada (2004)
Our return saw medical help and healing. By 2005, itinerant conventions through Ontario helped promote our C&MA work abroad. We found missions “alive and well” in our district churches and thanked them for their prayer support through those eight years abroad.
In 2005, our son Darrell died from AIDS contacted through a needle. Through conversion, professional counselling, studies, and an encouraging marriage, his last years made a positive impact. This family journey prompted Louella to write A Stone Heart Softens focusing on principles through prodigal trauma.
In 2006, our Bayview Glen home church in Toronto invited me to interim as lead pastor. The six-month arrangement stretched into two years. With the new pastor, he and the board asked that I remain in an assisting pastoral capacity for another two years. Louella took an active role in volunteering and leading in various local church ministries as well as being the speaker at off-site conferences and special events.
In 2008, I was invited back to Bangkok and was honoured to open the new ECB complex which now has an attendance of over one thousand.
Return to Missions (2010-2012)
In 2010, another surprise “tap” signaled a return to the international church ministry in an interim capacity. We accepted a position at the International Christian Fellowship Church in Warsaw, Poland. Following a successful interim, we left overwhelmed at the realities overcome in this country where many centres are seeing revival.
From 2011-2012, we accepted an interim position to the Gateway Christian Fellowship Church in Bali, Indonesia, financed in part by First Alliance Church in Calgary. This ancient Hindu island saw God blessing our efforts in Sunday service attendance and baptisms. A highlight for Louella was leading a weekly Bible study for over 25 multi-national women from various religious backgrounds.
All these ministries resulted from the same Gospel that ignited the early Canadian missionary Robert Jaffray, who first arranged for the C&MA’s entry in Bali. Louella wrote Bali – Bleak and Beautiful, which briefly chronicles C&MA history as well as a review of our ministry there.
District Ministry Opportunities Continued (2012-present)
When I’m asked, “When will you retire?” I respond, “When God stops tapping my shoulder!” Despite various physical challenges, we continue to accept opportunities He gives us. After 60 years of ministry, memories of His “taps on my shoulder” continue to evoke praise to God.
1 Jespersen, Jess and Ann. (2018). How We Learned to Depend on God. The God Made Known: Through Ordinary People Leading Extraordinary Lives (pp. 182-184). Toronto, ON: The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada.