GANDER, NL – As shells dropped all around him in the Second World War, Wes Oake made a promise to God that he would begin a life of ministry.
“It was at Christmas 1944 – we were up in the Monte Sole position fighting, and it was winter, snow and it was cold. That Christmas we were there,” Oake said.
He closed his eyes, shook his head, unwilling to bring back those memories, but decided that the story was worth telling.
“I don’t want to talk about it, but I will.”
“We were fighting, and shells dropped around us and there was a pause. Our padre took some of us into an old bombed church for prayer, and that was Christmas Eve.”
It was an emotional time for all the soldiers. Thoughts of being at home with their families or making it out alive to see them were close to their hearts.
The prayer service comforted these men.
As the service ended, Oake recalled a fellow soldier, Sergeant Gallagher from St. John’s, sang “Silent Night” as shells dropped around the church.
A stirring of emotions was felt in all the soldiers as they sang the song.
“That’s when the holy spirit fell on all of us. We were all emotional and stirred. At that time, we were thinking about home and wondering, of course, whether we will see home again.
“And that is when God spoke to me and that is when I got my strong call of going to the ministry. I promised him there and then, that when I get back – if I ever get back – I would answer his call and go into ministry.
“And that is one Christmas that I can think of that is very special.”
Oake did not act on this promise after military service.
But eventually – 19 years late r – he did.
Although he acknowledged his relationship with God was always there, “it was not one of commitment,” he said.
A couple of turning points in his life steered him back to God.
The observation of his three-year-old daughter, Sandra, as she was tucked into bed pierced his soul.
“Sandra said, ‘mummy, daddy don’t say prayers, do they?’,” Oake said.
“I just about dropped dead in the bed. My darling daughter, child, who I was responsible for, said that her daddy don’t say prayers.”
It troubled him greatly, and through a series of events that took place the next day, the family went to church and Oake committed his life to Jesus.
“That was the most important moment, as you know, of my life,” he said.
The second turning point took place when his oldest son was accidentally killed on a highway. Oake shuttered multiple successful businesses after this tragic event.
“The bottom fell out of my world. I closed the business and lost hundreds of thousands of dollars and went to ministry.”
His wife, Myrtle, played a vital role in raising their three young children in addition to helping him with his studies.
“I only had a Grade 8 education when I went to university, and I hardly knew a verb from a noun. People told me I wouldn’t get through,” said Oake.
“If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be here today.”
He got through theological studies, and was ordained as minister in 1965.
As Oake reflects on life, his thoughts always come back to his relationship with God.
“As soon as I open my eyes in the morning, I commit myself again afresh to Jesus and I ask him to lead me today, and guide me in all that I think, do and say.
“Every day of my life – I do that.”