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Itinerant Miner Is “Rock Solid” in Witnessing
Mining contractor Glen MacPherson says his Bible is as essential on the job as his oilskins, hard hat and lamp.

When you’re working underground, the roar of the drill often makes conversation impossible. It’s also amazingly dangerous: the vibrations can break loose a chunk of rock weighing thousands of pounds, a chunk that can separate from an underground roof or wall without anyone hearing and instantly crush the life out of a 200-pound driller.

Glen MacPherson, a mining contractor based in Northern Ontario, refers to all of this when he says, “My faith has helped get me through many long shifts over the years.” Since 1965 his career has taken him as far afield as Saudi Arabia, Canada’s Yukon and Northwest Territories, and nearly two miles underground at the giant Kidd Creek operation at Timmins, Ontario. 

And since he became a Christian in 1973, he has witnessed wherever he has gone.  It’s evident even on the job that MacPherson finds comfort in his faith. An example comes up as he talks about the early 1980s when he was working for a mining development company at the 1,000-foot level of the Camlaren Mine at Gordon Lake in the Northwest Territories. His partner was an affable mining professional named McPhail. “We were up in a raise [a tunnel connecting two different levels of a mine] and conversation was impossible because of the noise,” recalls MacPherson. “My partner kept looking back at me as if something were wrong, as if he were wondering why my lips were always moving.”

When the drill stopped, McPhail had his answer. MacPherson’s deep, rich baritone was still bouncing off the rock walls. He had been singing hymns and other songs of praise throughout the entire drilling procedure. Later, back on the surface, McPhail was heard to say, “When the drill stopped, for a minute I didn’t know if I was down there with MacPherson drilling in a raise or whether I was in a Pentecostal church.”

Although MacPherson didn’t particularly influence his partner in spiritual matters, neither was he ostracized or even criticized for carrying his faith around as easily as he carried the lunch in his tin pail, he says. 

Co-workers in many places know MacPherson’s faith is a key part of who he is, whether he’s close to 10,000 feet underground at the giant Xstrata Kidd Creek Deep Mine project at Timmins, Ontario, or two miles in the air flying to a gold producer near Yellowknife.

Criticism is not something MacPherson hears often. Perhaps that’s due in part to his size – at six foot five he physically dominates a workspace, a church pew or the driver’s seat of a pickup truck. But within his towering frame is a gentle demeanour, an aspect that makes his witnessing attractive rather than threatening.

“Glen is probably the most gentle person I’ve ever met in my life,” says former diamond driller Don Deering of Kirkland Lake, Ontario. “We worked together back in the 1980s at the Lake Shore Mine in Kirkland Lake before it closed. He showed me how to lay track underground and taught me a lot about the industry, but he also taught me a lot about accepting people for who they are.  “To this day he never stops telling me about his faith. I’m nowhere near where he is in a relationship with God, but it’s comforting to me that I can watch Glen live what he believes rather than having his faith forced on me. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody say anything bad about Glen. He’s a friend I’d trust with my life in any environment, mining or otherwise.”

MacPherson doesn’t see himself as remarkably saintly. “I was always a believer, but in my youth I don’t think I really grasped the importance of God and what He could do in my life – giving me the peace, serenity and security of knowing my problems are His problems.”

In his early working years he struggled to find his way in the rough-and-tumble world of hard-boiled miners.

“Things began to change for me when I married Emmaline,” he says. “We were living in a small Northern Ontario town and I had a job as a truck driver in the open pit of an asbestos mine. It was a good job and I enjoyed being around my fellow workers, but it was pretty unchristian stuff much of the time.”

MacPherson felt he was at a crossroads and he didn’t hesitate. On September 7, 1973, two weeks after Emma had accepted Jesus, MacPherson confessed his sins and accepted Christ himself.

“I practically wore out a Bible over the next few months,” he says. “One afternoon I was sitting in the cab of my Euclid, listening to the boulders crash into the dump box from the bucket of the shovel, and I reached for a cigarette. At the same time I was reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, the verses that talked about my body being a temple where God’s Spirit lives.

“Here I was ready to light another cigarette and I was being told God’s Spirit was living inside me. I was about to pollute it with cigarette smoke. I was defiling His temple. I threw the cigarettes out the window and I’ve never missed them.

“It didn’t take me long to learn the difference between casual questions and searching questions about God….”

”When the cigarettes went out the window, a willingness to witness took their place.

“I just love to talk about the Lord,” he says today. “It didn’t take me long to learn the difference between casual questions and searching questions about God. I could sense when people wanted to reach out for the same peace of mind I was enjoying.”

Once, up at Gordon Lake, one of the other contractors asked MacPherson if he could speak a bit in private about the Bible. MacPherson readily agreed and the one-on-one Bible study began in MacPherson’s bunkhouse room.

“By the time it was over there were 14 people – not only in the room but also sitting on the floor up against the walls of the corridor outside my room,” he says.

Life becomes less complicated for a mining contractor as more experience is gained. Whether he’s flying off to a contract up at Gordon Lake or driving to projects in Timmins or Sudbury from his home in Larder Lake, Ontario, MacPherson has learned to carry with him only what he needs. He wouldn’t think of leaving home without his necessary mining gear – the yellow oilskins, the hard hat with the front lamp attachment, the orange tool bag – the ever-present cognizance of the inherent dangers in mining, the love of Emmaline (his wife of nearly 40 years) and the most important safety tool of all – his Bible.

Richard Buell is a freelance writer in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, and owner/editor of Frosted Forest Christian Publishing.

Originally published in Faith Today, January/February 2008.

 

 
 
 
 

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