John Vaudry is the minister of St. Andrew's Church, in Wingham, Ontario.
Recently, I received word that a friend of mine, a professor at the Peace River Bible Institute, had died of cancer. Ian McPhee was a big man — well over six feet and solidly built, the kind of man who enjoyed being part of the volunteer fire department in his village in northern Alberta.
Ian was a big man in more ways than one. He had a big heart. He loved the Lord and he loved his students. He delighted in studying and teaching the Word of God. He had a real compassion for people and a desire to help them, especially in spiritual things.
I first knew Ian in Montreal where he had grown up and where we were both students at McGill in the late 1970s. His father, the Rev. Ted McPhee, was minister of Cote des Neiges Presbyterian Church, a remarkable congregation noted for its evangelicalism and its inter-racial character (25 different ethnic groups at last count!). Ted was my supervisor during my final year at Presbyterian College. I worked with him in the parish during the week and assisted in the Sunday services. Invariably, I would be invited to the manse for dinner and enjoyed conversation through the afternoon with the family, Ian particularly. I admired (or envied) his skill in languages. If I remember correctly, he took not only Hebrew and Greek but Arabic as well!
After McGill, Ian married and moved to Ottawa where he directed the downtown Union Mission for Men, a very challenging ministry to the homeless. About ten years later, the McPhees (now with two children) moved to Alberta to work with PRBI in Sexsmith.
Ian's passing (in September 1999) has saddened me, although I am sure he would want me to take comfort in the promises of Scripture: "to live is Christ and to die is gain." It has made me more aware of my own mortality. It is a reminder that we don't have forever here on earth and are called to seize the opportunities we are given to serve God well and faithfully. We have only one life and need to use it wisely for Kingdom values.
"Reflections After the Tree Came Down" reveals the deep faith and biblical inderstanding that sustained Ian throughout his illness. We thank God that though healing was not granted, he is now "with Christ which is better by far" (Phil. 1:23).