On 10 October 1958, John Blanchard was in Ebenezer Methodist Church, St Peter Port, Guernsey, acting as General Secretary of the ‘Guernsey for God’ campaign, which was by that date coming to an end. Fifty years later – on 10 October 2008 he was back in his native island, being interviewed on BBC Guernsey Radio and speaking at a special evangelistic dinner held at La Grande Mare Hotel to celebrate the anniversary.
John Blanchard and his wife Joyce were two of the six founder members of the Guernsey Branch of the National Young Life Campaign, which God was to bless in a remarkable way.
The branch was founded in 1955, and by 1962 some 25 of its members had been called into full-time Christian service. From its inception the branch had a dynamic evangelistic ethos and soon had the vision of holding an evangelistic event to reach the entire island. Soundings were taken and eventually the idea had the support of virtually all the island’s Protestant churches. ‘Guernsey for God’ was launched and the campaign ran from 27 September to 14 October 1958.
The preachers were NYLC evangelists Frank Farley and Raymond Castro, assisted by the Gospel Witness Trio: singers Reg and Grace Tomlinson (both later murdered in Canada) and the gifted blind pianist Peter Jackson. Over 1000 people from around the world registered as prayer partners and regular united prayer meetings were well supported.
The largest church in the island, seating some 1100 people, was hired for 17 nights and at times was packed to capacity. An afternoon ladies’ meeting attracted 900 people and a united Sunday School rally about 800. WEC missionary Len Moules spoke on the missionary night and evangelist Tom Rees on the closing night of the campaign.
Total attendance at the campaign services was about 15,000 – roughly equivalent to one-third of the island’s population at that time. ‘Guernsey for God’ was a landmark in Guernsey’s spiritual history; the only record of similar crowds attending Christian services was during a ‘gracious awakening’ in 1864.
Speaking in Guernsey on 10 October 2008, John pointed out the biblical mandate for looking back; firstly to thank God for all that he had graciously done, secondly to see whether any lessons could be learned, and thirdly to commit ourselves to the ongoing work of evangelism.
William Carey’s words remain true: ‘Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God’. May the Lord bless all true gospel witness in Guernsey in the coming days!