With the sudden passing of Lead Pastor Leon Fontaine of Springs Church, many people are sharing their heartfelt thoughts on the impact he had on their lives.
On Saturday, November 19, Fontaine took his last breath on earth. His congregation in Winnipeg and Calgary were shocked by the news.
Fontaine and his wife stepped into leadership roles at Springs and have been there since 1994.
School and Beyond
Danica Charrière-Boux spent her entire childhood at Springs Church as she attended Springs Christian Academy from kindergarten until grade 12. She also attended their Masters' program after high school and went to church almost every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening.
"My mom was a part of the children's ministry there so every time there was a service we were there," says Charrière-Boux. "I remember having arm-wrestling competitions with Zach [Leon's son] because all the staff/volunteer parents would stay later."
While Charrière-Boux no longer attends Springs Church, she can see the positive impact it has had on her life.
"One of the biggest things I still see and notice in my business life is the spirit of excellence that Leon always taught. I feel very privileged to have grown up with the guidance that he had because I've had quite a beautiful life. Leon led the congregation to believe that nothing is impossible with God. I guarantee you that I wouldn't be where I am today in both my businesses without his leadership."
Charrière-Boux, along with so many, is still in shock at the news of his passing, just before his 60th birthday.
"It was very evident that he had eternity in mind because he set things up so that the church is still going to thrive. He wasn't a selfish man."
Before Springs Church
Clare Braun, a former pastor and former mayor of Niverville, knew Fontaine before he started as head pastor of Springs.
"I got to know him when he was just beginning in ministry in Selkirk with his dad," says Braun. "I met with him on quite a few occasions just me and him. He had this really enthusiastic way of loving people. The thing that I knew from him early on was that he had a vision for outreach and ministry, something in him that was called to something bigger in terms of impact and influence."
Braun recalls how Fontaine wanted to reach the broader community past the four walls of the church building.
"The growth of the church, it was apparent early on that was significant. He managed to envision people around him but in his heart, he wasn't done yet."
Fontaine became the CEO of The Miracle Channel in 2010 on top of leading two churches in different provinces.
"He started to bring in people from the political realm to share what they saw happening," says Braun. "He was stepping outside of his own comfort zone but maybe coming into his comfort zone as he saw things happening in the world around him that he felt needed to be questioned."
During the COVID-19 pandemic especially, Fontaine became outspoken about what he said was government overreach when it came to restrictions on church services. While Fontaine had critics of his theology, there were thousands of people with whom his messages resonated.
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"This COVID thing stirred up something in him to a position that I didn't necessarily agree with. He felt like he needed to speak up and he was passionate about it but didn't get personal about it. He was prepared for what would be said about it, but passionate about it to be willing to go there."
Faith and Wonders
One of the congregants of Springs Church in Winnipeg, Lexie, shares a story about her daughter's progress.
"My daughter was born with autism and she wasn't speaking. We learned through Leon how to pray. At that time as my friends and I were praying, I felt like God was saying, 'Drop your classes and spend time in prayer.'"
Without knowing what might happen, Lexie followed God's lead during that time. What she saw amazed her.
"I would wrap her up in her little Winnie the Pooh blanket and within 30 days she had 30 words. Within 40 days she had 40 words and she just took off from there."
Switching to Springs
Wanda Berard and her family switched churches and started attending Springs two years ago. While previously each year they attended 'Word of Faith' teaching in Texas, they found similar teaching right here in Winnipeg through Fontaine.
"When we found Springs, we found here it was, that same kind of teaching in our own backyard," says Berard. "Where we were going [to church] we got good teaching, but it wasn't the kind that I would call 'meat,' that challenged us to live our daily lives exactly the way God wanted us to. To always have that faith that God is good and for us, not against us."
While Berard hadn't personally met Pastor Leon, she observed his character on and off stage.
"After each service and before, he wasn't the type of pastor that kept himself distant from the congregation. If he passed you in the hallway, if you caught his eye, he always looked you right in the eye and would have a smile for you. I noticed anyone who wanted to talk to him, he was willing to talk to them."