On 21 March this year, John Blanchard was the guest on ‘Before they leave the stage’, a YouTube series from Heath Church in Cardiff interviewing older men who have served the Lord faithfully in their generation.
Approaching his 89th birthday, John was as clear as ever: recalling his childhood, his conversion, and the Lord’s faithfulness to him through 67 years as a Christian.
It was his last speaking engagement: just eight weeks later, on 14 May, the Lord took him home to glory after a short illness.
John came to faith on his home island of Guernsey in 1954. Three years later, he married Joyce McKane, the young lady who had invited him to the evangelistic meeting at which he had been converted. Their long and happy marriage produced five boys: Christopher, Timothy, Andrew, Stephen, and Michael.
In 1962 the Blanchard family moved from Guernsey to England as John took up his responsibilities as a full-time worker with the National Young Life Campaign.
He spoke at the Albert Hall in 1963 and then led evangelistic campaigns, mainly in the southwest of England. These were not easy times: Joyce cared for the boys at home, coping with a constrained financial situation daily.
In 1965 John joined the Movement for World Evangelisation, and then in 1966 his first book appeared: Read Mark Learn – still in print today and a popular gift to new Christians. In the same year he began a long association with gospel work in Northern Ireland.
In 1967 he visited Greece for evangelistic meetings; this proved to be the first of many visits to various countries in Europe. He was soon involved in work in eastern Europe (at that time ‘behind the Iron Curtain’), a work that was to generate a life-long interest in those then little-visited countries.
John’s fascination with golf began in 1971 and continued until recent years, his evangelistic tours giving him opportunity to play in many countries. The game was a great pleasure to him, but also gave him evangelistic opportunities and provided a means of keeping him fit.
His long association with Peter Anderson and Derek Cleave in Christian Ministries began in 1980. John began an even longer association with Evangelical Press as his publishers in 1982.
Ultimate Questions went to press in English in 1987; since then it has been translated into some 60 languages.
It provides one example of John’s generosity and love for the spread of the gospel: he took no royalties on the non-English versions of this or any other of his forty-plus titles that were translated into foreign languages.
In February 2010 Joyce Blanchard went to be with the Lord after a battle with cancer. She was much loved and much missed. John accepted without question the Lord’s will, enduring loneliness without complaint, but the Lord had not forgotten his servant.
In April 2015, John married Pamela Robertson in Guildford, an old friend whose husband had died sometime before. John and Pam enjoyed great happiness – his beloved Pam cared for him in his final years.
Perhaps the last word is best left to Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church, California, who wrote a commendation for a biography of John published in 2012:
‘No one in our generation has done more than John Blanchard to explain the gospel with winsome clarity and biblical accuracy. He has a wonderful gift for communicating even the hardest biblical truths in simple terms… I thank God for John’s faithfulness and his influence.’