It was a typical chilly, breezy, maybe foggy day along the North Atlantic coast. It was 1936. The Canadian economy was struggling. There were signs of war in Europe.
As gentle waves splashed the beach, an anxious, unassuming young man sat on a rock contemplating his uncertain future. Then God showed up. Sensing the divine presence, the young man prayed. He asked God to guide his life, to help him to find a job and a wife. This is his story of a blessed life as God answered his prayer through the next 80 years.
Seventy-five years after the prayer on the beach, that teenager was 91 years old and my father-in-law. I had arrived to spend the night and the next day to move him and his wife of more than 60 years to an independent living seniors’ facility several hours away. We had enjoyed a simple evening meal, the table had been cleared, and Grandma was finishing up in the kitchen. My father-in-law and I were sitting quietly at the empty table.
Quentin Covey was never much for chitchat. He was generally quiet and unassuming, a man of few words. That evening he seemed ready to talk. For him to open up and talk, you had to be quiet and give him time to think and speak when he was ready.
Eventually he spoke: “I first talked to God when I was 16, sitting on a rock on the beach near Indian Harbour, Nova Scotia, on St. Margarets Bay.”
Quentin grew up in a humble Christian family that attended a small Baptist church every Sunday. He had a Seventh-day Adventist neighbor who attended church on Saturday and the Baptist prayer meetings during the week. Occasionally this neighbor talked about the Sabbath being Saturday, not Sunday. Quentin was persuaded that his neighbor was right, but he decided that he was unable to change denominations because his parents were opposed to the idea and he still lived at home.
At the table that January evening, Quentin began to tell parts of the story unknown to his family.
“I had known for some time that I could not make a living as a fisherman because I got seasick. I knew that soon I would need to leave for Halifax and look for work. Sitting on that rock, I asked God to take care of me, to guide me in finding a good job and a wife, and to show me how I could keep the Sabbath according to the Bible.”
I had known this man for more than 35 years, but he had spoken very little about his early faith. Looking back, he wanted to share how God had faithfully answered this prayer of his youth.
Quentin’s fisherman family lived for a time on Flint Island off the coast of Cape Breton, where his dad took care of the lighthouse. On his first day at school a fellow student punched him in the stomach, and he almost died. He was living with his grandmother at the time, and there were limited medical services available. Someone told his grandmother to read Psalm 91 to Quentin every day and that God would heal him. This she did, and Quentin eventually got well and lived to age 96 with relatively good health.
Quentin revealed that shortly after his talk with God on the beach, he went to Halifax and found a job at the shipyards and trained as a plumber. He later joined the Canadian Army, and after basic training spent several years in British Columbia monitoring the Japanese. He served the last year of World War II as a medic in Holland and Germany.
Returning from Europe, Quentin resumed work at the shipyards until he retired at age 56. As he told me this story, he had been retired for more than 35 years.
“I now had a good job and began thinking about a wife,” he continued. “As the right woman had not yet arrived, I had another talk with God. I thanked Him for safety during the war and for my work. Seeing that I was getting close to 30 years old, I suggested that if He was going to find me a wife, He had better get at it. A few days later I met Marguerite. I knew she was the one, and we were married in June 1950.”
About three years later Quentin and Marguerite were living in Dartmouth when a Pastor Matthews began a radio program that Marguerite listened to occasionally. The pastor offered to give them Bible studies. Marguerite signed them up, and one day the pastor arrived at their door offering home Bible studies. Once a week he came and studied with them.
“After a few weeks the topic was on the change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday,” Quentin said. “The pastor showed us in the Bible that we should be keeping the seventh-day Sabbath on Saturday, not Sunday. This was a new teaching for my wife, who had been raised in a Sundaykeeping denomination. She was shocked and became quite upset. I watched as God was answering another part of my prayer.”
One time the pastor asked Quentin what he thought about Saturday being the Sabbath. Quentin had largely been quiet during the Bible studies, with Marguerite doing most of the talking and asking the questions. Quentin responded that he had known for years that Saturday was the Sabbath and that he should be keeping it.
“Again, Marguerite was shocked. I told her about my neighbor. We eventually joined the Dartmouth Seventh-day Adventist Church and have kept Saturday as the Sabbath ever since.”
Quentin finished: “God answered my prayer on that beach. He took care of me, found me a good job, and gave me a loving family. I have been blessed.”
Five years later, as a pastor and Quentin’s son-in-law, I led out at the final celebration of his life. His wife, two daughters, their husbands, all six grandchildren, and one of his four great-grandchildren were present and enjoyed reliving some of their best memories of Granddad. Quentin enjoyed a special and unique relationship with all his grandchildren.
Quentin’s story is a humble one of a divinely blessed life. The Lord was his protector and provider and met all his needs beyond expectation. Quentin now awaits the great resurrection morning, when he will see his Lord face to face and worship Him eternally.
Cameron Johnston is a retired pastor from the British Columbia Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, headquartered in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada.