I first met Marcel Cotnoir sometime in the early 1980s. He had a powerful determination to bring the teaching of John MacArthur and the ministry of Grace to You to Canada—especially French Canada. Marcel’s original plan was not only to produce a Canadian version of our daily radio broadcast and to duplicate John MacArthur’s cassette tapes for Canadian distribution, but also to translate as much of John’s published material into French as possible.
I loved Marcel’s enthusiasm—but candidly, I thought he was overreaching. I was well aware that translation work is arduous, time consuming, and expensive if done right. I worried that Marcel might lose heart when he learned how difficult it is to get published material translated and printed in French. Anyone who knows Marcel understands what a ridiculous concern that was. Nothing ever seemed to discourage him. In retrospect I think it would have been utterly impossible to dissuade him from pursuing the fulfillment of what God had laid on his heart to do.
So we started GTY Canada, and the ministry flourished beyond anything we ever envisioned. English-speaking Canadians devoured the broadcasts and sermon recordings—in numbers that were frankly hard to keep up with. Just trying to stay abreast of the response from Canadians who listened to our English radio broadcasts taxed our personnel and resources for the first decade or so.
But then Marcel engaged Doug Virgint and Publications Chrétiennes to translate and publish books in French, and in less than twenty years they had skillfully translated and published the entire MacArthur New Testament Commentary series in French—along with most of John MacArthur’s best-selling topical works. The number of John’s books now available in French constitutes a significant library. Countless volumes have been distributed worldwide—across Europe, French-speaking Africa, and (of course) Quebec.
Meanwhile, Grace to You Canada soon grew into a thriving, self-sustaining ministry with its own staff and volunteers, mirroring everything we do in the home office—but serving listeners all across Canada. Marcel provided exemplary leadership to Grace to You Canada for decades, and he leaves a legacy of faithful, joyful, effective service to the Lord. Our Canadian staff and board of directors today include several of Marcel’s sons, nephews, and grandsons—three generations of the Cotnoir family, all devoted to fulfilling the burden that first brought Marcel into partnership with John MacArthur and Grace to You more than thirty-five years ago.
Someday when I look back on a lifetime of ministry, I know Grace to You’s partnership with Marcel and the rest of our Canadian staff will be one of the brightest highlights in several decades—and those decades are replete with an incalculable multitude of remarkable blessings.
John MacArthur echoes that assessment. He recently remarked that he has never had a more faithful friend and fellow laborer than Marcel Cotnoir—a true friend and godly soul in whom there was no hint of guile or selfishness. “He was a sweet man. Full of love and kindness,” John says.
Marcel went to heaven late last month at the age of eighty-eight. He was old enough to be my father, but so thoroughly like-minded that it was inevitable we would be close friends. We shared a number of common interests (in addition to our common love for John MacArthur and the GTY ministry). He loved opera as much as I love Bach cantatas, and I think we expanded one another’s musical horizons. His lively sense of humor and his unflagging optimism always resonated with me, too. I never spent time with him without being energized and edified, and I loved him for that.
I will miss him profoundly. (All of us at Grace to You will miss him.) But our prayer is that the fruits of his labor will continue to multiply and produce an abundant harvest for many generations to come.