From atheist to elder | Adventist Review


Yvon Gauthier tells the story of a family in the cold far north. As the icy wind slammed against the walls of their home and the need for warmth quickly became a necessity, the family members huddled together, each with their knees to their chests. The cold was unbearable. The family’s survival depended on four men hired to provide heating.

A man provided a van; his colleague brought a chainsaw; another friend carried an axe. The fourth friend was supposed to carry the matches. The three men walked outside the cabin into the snowy forest looking for the last colleague. With lowered heads and heavy hearts, they accepted the absence of their friend, who had not shown up for the games.

Despite this, the three men were determined to provide warmth to the family. For hours they worked hard, cutting logs until the wood fit snugly into the hearth. To their dismay, when it came time to light the fire, they realized that all their hard work had been in vain. Without matches – such a small and simple object – it would be impossible for them to start a fire.

“This story teaches us that every talent counts and that we must use what we are given,” says Yvon Gauthier. “The gift God gave me is the gift of stewardship, and that’s what I do.”

Gauthier is an elder in a Seventh-day Adventist church in northern Ontario, Canada. His duties include the preparation and supervision of the religious service in addition to organizing the live broadcast.

He lets out a chuckle as he recounts the intense journey God has traveled in his journey of faith. Every experience, trial and adversity brought him closer to God. A long time ago, God chose Gauthier, and in 2016 he accepted the call.

“If you had told me five years ago that I would be what I am today, I would have burst out laughing,” says Gauthier. “I didn’t even believe in God… not even a little bit.”

Hungry for truth

Gauthier grew up with his parents and two brothers in a small mining town in Quebec, Canada. He was brought up in a strict religious household, where religion was placed at the center of his life. At a young age, he viewed his religious beliefs as an obligation rather than a personal conviction. After attending elementary and high school, Gauthier decided to leave the family home in Quebec and move to North Bay in northern Ontario.

“I was homeless because I made the choice to be homeless. I had a house [return] at. I wanted to see more than the city I grew up in. I felt like a prisoner in my city for many years,” says Gauthier.

One day he found himself lingering outside the steps of a neighborhood church as he repeated the words over and over again, trying to perfect the English pronunciation. With shaking hands, he knocked on the church door and said, “I’m really hungry. Can I have a can? The answer he received was the door closing in front of him. Turning his face away from the church, Gauthier wearily walked away in search of a trash can he could eat from.

Yvon Gauthier at work. “God used me, and I can’t begin to say how grateful I am,” he says. [Photo: courtesy of Yvon Gauthier, Canadian Adventist Messenger]

“That was my impression of the churches,” says Gauthier. “To me, religion seemed like just a way to control people.” This was the main reason why he stopped believing in God and became an atheist.

Eventually, Gauthier’s life began to look more promising and hopeful. He obtained an engineering degree. But as soon as her life took this positive turn, tragedy struck. Gauthier’s mother was dying of cancer.

Gauthier quit his job and rushed to Quebec, where he lived with his mother until her death. Shortly after, two people very close to him also died. These losses hit Gauthier hard.

“I didn’t want to kill myself, but I didn’t want to live anymore,” says Gauthier. “I got down on my knees and said, ‘If there is, help me, because I have no purpose and life has no meaning.’ ”

Videos to life

In December 2016, God answered Gauthier’s prayer. His love for history led him to a 13 episode series about the creation and destruction of Rome. After each video, Gauthier would research the emperors he had just learned about. When he got to Constantine he investigated further and came across another video explaining the subject. Intrigued by the power and simplicity of the sermons he watched, Gauthier spent the next eight months studying his videos. In September 2017, Gauthier found out about the North Bay Seventh-day Adventist Church, and four months later decided to get baptized.

“I went from knowing what my purpose was, why I was here, who I was, and why I didn’t feel part of this world to finding a new purpose that completely changed my life,” says Gautier.

Gauthier is convinced that God led him to the Seventh-day Adventist Church which met his needs perfectly. When he first entered the church, he immediately felt welcomed and loved. It was a new experience for him.

Now this new believer clings firmly to his faith and regards it as his most precious possession. Yvon is eager to take the next step in his Christian journey and share his testimony with others.

“God is not working on your watch; He works in his spare time,” says Gauthier. “Our real job as Adventists is to plant seeds and then to trust.”

Every Sunday, Gauthier helps out at a local food bank, where he serves with his time, his hands and his words. As a former atheist, he understands how to deal with non-believers. Sometimes just saying “Jesus loves you” isn’t enough; they need to see God through your actions.

“I am the glove, not the hand. I am the tool, not the operator,” says Gauthier. “God used me, and I can’t begin to say how grateful I am.”

God has given everyone talents. Some talents can seem small and insignificant, like lighting a match. However, it only takes one spark to ignite the fire.

the original version of this story was published in the January 2022 issue of Canadian Adventist messenger.


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