1961: Doubt in the year before Trinity Junior College
“Don’t doubt in the dark what God has told you in the light!” Every student at Trinity Junior College knew that expression by the time they’d graduated. President Calvin Hanson could be heard saying it often, and with great conviction. But in October, 1961, Hanson wrote in his book, On The Raw Edge of Faith, that he came very close to giving into doubt and giving up on the dream of a Christian college in Canada.
When Hanson was first invited to be the founding president, he wasn’t sure what to do. He was an American, which he thought might complicate getting Canadian support. On top of that, he was a missionary who’d recently returned from Japan after a serious accident nearly claimed the lives of his wife and children. He did not feel qualified, nor prepared, to take on this role. But after prayerfully considering the offer, he felt confident that God was in fact directing him to step out in faith and leading him to Canada.
Everything was exciting in the beginning. There was a lot of expressed support from the Evangelical Free denomination. But things quickly took a discouraging turn. When Hanson arrived in Canada and sought support from various churches in the area, he was met with disinterest, doubt, and even resistance in some cases!
He was right about his concerns regarding citizenship – many churches in the Lower Mainland had difficulty understanding why an American was trying to start a college in Canada. There was also a lot of confusion about why a Christian college should be started in the first place, as there were plenty of Bible schools available. No one at that time in Canada understood the idea of a 2-year college (which is what Trinity Western was in the beginning.)
This was a difficult season, and Hanson was deeply discouraged.
“Had God really called me to this?” Hanson wrote. “How could one explain what I met in British Columbia?”
On his first trip, Hanson visited ten churches in total within thirty miles of the location where the college was planned to be. At the first church, only four people showed up – and two of them were the pastor and his wife!
“They had questions, all right,” Hanson wrote. “Not hasty ones, but, as I recall, every single question that night very clearly reflected the deep conviction of those dear people that we had bitten off more than we could chew and the sooner we admitted that fact and forgot the whole thing the better off we would be!”
Not every experience at those ten churches was entirely discouraging, but none were particularly positive. One man even approached Hanson after a Sunday service and told him that he was going to fail. Hanson was beyond discouraged by the end of his first visit.
Things became even more complicated when he was offered the job of senior pastor at a quaint, country church in Minneapolis, the place he’d recently been serving as interim pastor. It was in every way a dream job, with a loving, supportive congregation. After the negative response in Canada, Hanson started to doubt whether he’d heard God right when he’d turned down the pastor position to be the inaugural president of a college.
Those were discouraging and uncertain times, but Hanson was resolute in his faith and chose to trust God even in the darkest moments of uncertainty.
“It was this kind of experience which would fuel me in days to come to encourage our students not to ‘doubt in the dark what God told them in the light.’” wrote Hanson. “I have looked back and thanked God many times that I did not succumb to this temptation in that period of darkness. Had I done so, I would have missed the greatest adventure of my life!”
In spite of great times of uncertainty and struggle, Hanson led Trinity Junior College for twelve years. In that time, the school grew from a mere 17 students to 375. The hard work and sacrifices he and his family made during those delicate, uncertain years will never be forgotten.