Early in the spring word reached Mr. McClure that his favorite sister, Caroline, was dying in Belfast, Ireland. This news was a shock to him, and he longed to see her again, but ordinarily it seemed impossible. Pioneer preachers had usually very little money, but just then a cheap excursion fare was advertized by a Canadian Company—only a few dollars return traveling third class. After waiting on the Lord in prayer the way was opened, and the cheap fare became within his reach. Willing to avail himself of the accommodations such a trip afforded, he made arrangements to sail from New York.
Mr. Robert Telfer, who had also been commended by the assembly in Chicago, at that time came along to visit the brethren who were holding forth the Word of life in Kirkfield. Writing from that address on May 9, 1885 brother Telfer said: “Yesterday morning we bade good-bye to our dear brother W. J. McClure who left here for New York enroute for Belfast. For family reasons he decided to go home, purposing, if the Lord will, to come back again.” Thus amid the prayers of fellowlaborers, fellowsaints and his children in the faith, he left to take that long journey by land and sea.
The ship left New York a few days later and sailed direct to Belfast. During the voyage his constant thought seemed to be, Shall I be in time to see dear Caroline alive?
When the ship dropped anchor in Belfast Lough the tender was there to bring the passengers ashore. It was only then a short distance to the home, and he found his sister still alive and he spent much time with her to cheer and comfort her. It also gave the dying girl great joy to know that her beloved brother had traveled all those miles to see her in her last days, and their fellowship in the things of God was very sweet. But her work was done, the Lord had come down into His garden to gather lilies, and she was absent from the body and present with the Lord. Her brother followed the remains to the cemetery and then he laid away the precious body to await that fair resurrection morning; so while his sorrow was great, yet it was not like that of those who have no hope.
He then returned to Canada. Three months later he learned that his eldest sister Mary Ann, that he refers to as the means of his awakening, was also called home to glory leaving behind her a little girl and boy to miss a mother’s love and care.
During the absence of Mr. McClure from Kirkfield, the work of the Lord went on. Mr. Douglas and Mr. Telfer pitched the tent in Victoria Road in the early summer and found a very good interest. The young converts were taught the truth of believers’ baptism and many of them became anxious to follow the Lord in this ordinance. Arrangements were made to have their first baptism in Balsom Lake on July 1st, Dominion Day. This was something entirely new in that part of the country and long before the time appointed for the baptism crowds of people from all over, some in wagons and many walking were making their way to that part of the lake. The Gospel was preached to the assembled crowd that summer day and they listened with rapt attention and afterwards the baptism took place. Mr. Telfer writing of this event a few days later said, “We baptized most of the young Christians who professed during the winter work. There were thirty-one ‘buried with Christ’ all of whom, I trust, have died with Him.”
These were the firstfruits from the labors of brethren McClure and Douglas during that year of labor for the Lord. Mr James Law, afterwards Dr. Law of New York, paid a visit to Kirkfield during that summer when they had special all-day meetings and he wrote: “I had the privilege of being present. The greater part of those that attended were but babes in Christ. I rejoiced to see the grace of God in those parts where our brethren Douglas and McClure have labored so arduously for about a year, and truly their labor in the Lord has not been in vain. It was very refreshing to hear some of the converts tell what God had done for them.”
On August 14th Mr. McClure was back again in Kirkfield, and joined Mr. Douglas in the tent while Mr. Telfer left to labor in Uphill. In September the “Fellowship Hall” was rented. An assembly was formed, and the believers began to remember the Lord in breaking bread on the first day of the week. From that day Victoria Road also became a center for Gospel activity.