In Memory of Jim Reese

In Memory of Rev.Jim Reese 1934-2019

Christian Horizons is deeply saddened by the loss of our founder, Rev. Jim Reese, on July 5th, 2019. His vision and dedicated work towards a ministry for people with disabilities has changed the lives of people across Canada and around the world. So many of us have been inspired by his legacy.

Jim graduated from Bryan College in Tennessee and Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and pastored in Michigan for four years. He met the love of his life, Adrienne, in 1952 and they were married five years later. Jim and Adrienne were blessed with five children.

Moving to Canada in 1961, Jim served with Ken Campbell for 17 years with the Campbell-Reese Evangelistic Association, conducting about 500 evangelistic missions across North America and overseas. In 1978 he became a pastor at Benton Street Baptist Church in Kitchener and served in this role for 25 years.

In 1963, Jim and Adrienne gave birth to their son Steven, who was born with developmental disabilities. And, two years later, with a group of families, founded the organization that we know today as Christian Horizons.

The birth of Christian Horizons and Jim Reese’s vision is best told through Jim’s own words (taken from a previous publication):

March 5, 1963, 4:00 a.m. ‘Congratulations! It’s a boy!’

11 :00 a.m. ‘Jim, we’ve discovered several physical problems which point as well to [intellectual disability].’

From exhilaration to despair in one morning! It seemed as though all my hopes and expectations for my son had been shattered. With the doctor’s words still ringing in my ears, I drove back home, stunned and dry-eyed. But when I was alone in my bedroom, the tears began to flow as my heart broke.

My mind raced back to my childhood. I could see my mother as she tearfully but tenderly revealed to my brother and me, as we knelt for bedtime prayer, that our little brother would never be regarded as ‘normal.’ A nasty fall had caused brain damage.

Then, a brother - now, a son. ‘O Lord, what are you trying to say to me?’ I wept and I listened… and He spoke.

‘Jim, I’ve brought this experience to you not to hurt you, but to bless you and to make you a blessing.’

I replied, ‘Dear Lord, I can’t understand how that would be, but I’ll try to believe it.’ ”

Several months after Steven’s birth, Adrienne and Jim felt that God was calling them to respond…not only to their son, but to others like Steven. As Jim said:

“ ‘Why don’t Christians make themselves more visible in ministry with people with disabilities?’ This burning question prompted a scouting of what Christian ministries were currently available. I became aware of the loving service of a few private or denominational programs and institutions. But I looked in vain for an inter-denominational evangelical community which would provide a full spectrum of ministry with people with developmental disabilities and their families.”

How It All Began

As Jim realized the need for a Christian organization to provide services for people with developmental disabilities, he enlisted the help of other families to create a Christian ministry to serve people with disabilities. With its first board meeting in 1965, the Ontario Christian Association for Exceptional Children was born.

Driven by the desire to positively impact the lives of children with developmental disabilities and their families, in 1967, the organization hosted the first two-week camp for children with developmental disabilities in the Haliburton Highlands. During the first eight years of camp Jim acted as camp coordinator.

While Camp Horizon continued to expand to meet the growing needs of that ministry, Jim and the leadership had a goal to establish residential homes and programs for people with developmental disabilities.

Growth of Christian Horizons

Trusting that God would provide the funds needed, in 1974 Jim and the board of directors decided to purchase the first Christian Horizons home in Waterloo for ten adults with developmental disabilities. Its opening in November 1976 marked the beginning of our residential services.

Since our foundation in 1965, the ministry had been governed by a board of directors led by Jim Reese. By 1973, the organization had grown to such an extent that Jim and the board felt it was time reorganize the leadership structure. After a thorough search, Jim hired Noel Churchman as the first Executive Director. Then, in 1976, after two name changes in its first eight years, and aligning with the opening of its first residence, the board adopted “Christian Horizons” as the new name for this young organization. As Jim Reese explained, the word “horizons” symbolizes the horizontal line where heavenly blessings touch earth’s needs.

His Legacy Continues

In 1991, Christian Horizons defined our distinct faith-based approach to serving people with disabilities as follows: It is the conviction of Christian Horizons that the pursuit of physical, intellectual, social and spiritual development is best realized with recognition of the guidance of God, as revealed in the Holy Bible and the life of Jesus who said, in Luke 22:26, “let him who is greatest among you become the youngest and him who is the chief and leader as one who serves.”

Christian Horizons has undergone four different name changes over the years, yet the one word that always remained was “Christian.” To this day, Christianity has remained at the heart of the ministry birthed in 1965. Christian Horizons was born on the knowledge that God created all people in His image and that all are loved and valued by Him.

Janet Noel-Annable, Chief Executive Officer, comments:

“Jim and Adrienne founded the ministry of Christian Horizons, which today provides supports and services to thousands of people in Ontario and Saskatchewan, and partners with organizations in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Haiti. Our vision is that people who experience disabilities belong to communities in which their God-given gifts are valued and respected. As a testament to the life of Jim Reese, today Christian Horizons strives to be an example of God’s love for this world. Thank you, Jim, for your life of faithful service, your example, and your legacy.”

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

If you would like to share your memories of Rev. Jim Reese or you condolences for the families, click below to access our In Memoriam page.


Memorial gifts to Christian Horizons or Benton Street Baptist Church would be appreciated by the family.

For funeral and visitation details, click here.