At the age of 15, shocked by the indecent life which led certain Parisian priests, for whom he worked, he broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. One year later, disillusioned, incredulous and dreaming about freedom, Lanctin left France for America where he joined his brother Paul who lived in New York. He later moved in Paterson, New Jersey, a city where resided numerous Frenchmen and Belgians who worked principally in linen and silk factories. He worked as a gardener in a splendid domain. It is there, in the summer of 1909, that Lanctin accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. Soon after his new birth, he was baptized by immersion in obedience to the word of God.
Lanctin went studying afterwards at the Feller Institute in Grande Ligne, Quebec, from 1910 to 1914. During his summer vacations, he visited from door to door with the Gospel, first in Hull, Quebec, where he was subjected to deep opposition; then in Lac Long, Quebec, where he suffered two murder attempts.
In July 1914, he went back to France to visit his parents. He had barely arrived at La-Chapelle-des-Prés that the First World War commenced. Mobilized in the French army, Henri Lanctin was seriously injured to his right lung in Vimy. Unable to go back to the front, he continued his military service in the French auxiliary forces in Possonière. It is there, in 1917, that he met Eugénie Meslet whom he married three years later, on April 10, 1920.
Back in Canada, Henri Lanctin became pastor in Lac Long, then in Connors, New Brunswick, where he contracted tuberculosis in 1931. Hospitalized in Saint John New Brunswick, his doctors foresaw no hope of recovery for him. Nevertheless, restored miraculously, Henri Lanctin founded the Mission and Bookshop La Bonne Nouvelle in Moncton, in 1934.
In spite of a constant and sometimes violent opposition against his preaching of the Gospel, Henri Lanctin announced for more than 60 years salvation by grace to French Canadians, particularly to the Acadians of the Maritime provinces. He founded the very first French Baptist Church in New Brunswick, in Moncton, in the spring of 1935. Besides that, he hosted the very first French evangelical radio broadcast in North America and probably in the world, on November 17, 1935, on CKCW in Moncton. The program "La Bonne Nouvelle" quickly attracted the curiosity of the French Acadians, but also provoked discontentment among members of the Catholic clergy which, having no power to prevent their parishioners from listening to his program, resolved to have this "disturbing preacher" expelled from the air waves.
His opponents accused Henri Lanctin of holding insulting remarks towards the Catholics. Without any proof, and without the right to defend himself, he was banished from the air during nine months by the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission and that in spite of the support he had from evangelical circles. The affair caught the attention of the Canadian Parliament and the office of the Prime Minister. After an inquiry, the Radio Commission allowed Henri Lanctin to resume his functions as host of the program "La Bonne Nouvelle" in December 1936. The program was eventually broadcast by numerous radio stations in the Maritime provinces, but also in Quebec, New-England, Louisiana and Haiti.
Henri Lanctin was also, in 1938, in Alexandrina, near Moncton, the object of one of the only religious riots to occur in New Brunswick. Hundreds of Catholic demonstrators gathered on June 29 in front of the tent in which he was preaching the Gospel. After the police officers escorted Henri Lanctin and those who attended the meeting in a sure place, the crowd raged and set fire to the tent. Then, with the intention of burning it down, they poured some gasoline on the home of the owner of the ground on which the tent was set up. The police officers then intervened and several persons were hurt in the scuffle, among which were two policemen. Accusations of instigating a riot and hindering the work of the policemen were later made against a dozen individuals who were all found guilty.
In December 1936, his beloved spouse, Eugénie Meslet, 40 year old, died quietly shortly after doctors detected a sprawling cancer. Henri became therefore widowed at the age 45, with responsibility to look after the care of six boys. The eldest, Maurice, was 18 years old, while Eugene, the youngest son, was only 16 months old. His other sons, Henri, Yvon, George and Raymond were respectively 13, 11,9 and 3 years old.
On June 8, 1940 the Lanctin married Marjorie Mae MacKenzie.
Henri felt another hard blow in 1943 when he learned that his adopted son Maurice had died in action. The bombardier in which he acted as back gunner was shot down by the German anti-aircraft system of defense above Schenefeld, Hamburg, on March 3, 1943. Nevertheless, the unshakeable trust that Henri had the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1 : 3) allowed him, once again, to weather the storm of adversity.
Having been endowed with a great courage, a deep love for human beings and with an unfaltering faith in his God, Rev. Henri Lanctin died peacefully in Campbellton, New-Brunswick, at the age of 93, on February 26, 1986. He left an important spiritual inheritance. The Christians will celebrate in 2009 the 75th anniversary of the Mission and Bookshop La Bonne Nouvelle.[needs update]
His mission work, as well as the radio program and the biblical camp l'Allée Verte, founded by Henri Lanctin in 1938, lead to the formation of several French Baptist Churches in New-Brunswick. Two of his sons, Henri, who died in 2004, and Eugene, followed the footsteps of their father in evangelical and pastoral work. The Christians remain profoundly attached to this man of God who marked favorably all those who met him.
- Arsenault, Robert, Henri Lanctin, Messenger of Grace, Moncton, NB,Canada, 2007, 242 pages.
- Bauman, W.P., Book Report, Henri Lanctin, Messenger of Grace, The Protestant Challennge, winter 2007-2008, p. 6.
- Dreyer, Amanda, Comptes rendus : Robert Arsenault, Henri Lanctin Messager de la grâce, Études d'histoire religieuse, volume 75, 2009, p. 125.