Come Find Grace in the Heart of Penticton

Are you looking for a loving community to be a part of?  Come find Grace in the Heart of Penticton!

We are a close knit community of Christ followers who are passionate about sharing the gospel in Word and deed.  We are a caring and compassionate people who live out the good news wherever God places us both in the marketplace and throughout the Okanagan.   We’re not a mega church in the traditional sense of that word though through our ministries we have helped thousands of people come to know and follow Jesus Christ around the globe.  Because of this we are known as the small church that could.    Continue reading

My Friend Walter Goerzen

Prelude  by Chad Goerzen on Piano.

“It is Well With My Soul” – Written and arranged by Chad Goerzen.   (Thanks to Graeme Duncan for the video clip he shot from a cell phone)

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I had the privilege of being Walter’s pastor for the past 13 years and right up to the moment when his faith became sight.   To say that Walter was a close friend would certainly be an understatement!  He was a trusted mentor who’s heart and passion for Jesus Christ through sacred music not only changed my pallet but reshaped my understanding of music’s profound effect on us humans.  To say I’m going to miss having him around would also be a huge understatement.  So forgive me if I’m a little choked up at times today.  And know too that I give you full permission to do what best helps you to grieve the loss you feel …for that is what this day was created for.Continue reading

My Friend Rudy

Let’s pause for moment and pray.  Would you pray along with me the Lord’s Prayer?  I’m sure most of you know it but if not you can listen to your neighbor or read it from the wall.Rudy1

 “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.  Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, Amen”

(Matt. 6:9-13 KJV).

My friend Rudy knew this prayer well and intellectually could recite it at will.  He likely learned it a very young age as many in his generation spoke it as a daily prayer in school.  Long gone are those days.  But Rudy, especially in these last years, as he prayed, you could tell it was no longer just words memorized in his youth but that he was growing in a relationship with the Father to whom he spoke.  Rudy was on a lifelong journey to get to know his heavenly Father.

At our weekly Bible studies Rudy occasionally brought forth questions that showed that he struggled on this journey.   He wasn’t afraid to admit it nor was he unwilling to raise a question when something didn’t sit quite right with him.  And we would go down side roads through the Word looking for the answers.

But there was one question, that was really bugging him, that finally came to a head last summer.  He often heard people talking about encountering God or hearing God’s voice and as he put it, he was pretty sure he hadn’t experienced God in these ways.  This bugged him so much that one night he and Laura came over and what he said to me nearly knocked me off my chair.  “Pastor I’m not sure that I have Jesus in my heart!”

How could this be I questioned?  How is it possible that a man who has dedicated thousands of hours to Gleaners, who led our church quite often in the hymns we sang, who has prayed the Lord’s Prayer and took communion among us, how is it possible for Rudy to feel as though the Lord was not with him?

I thought to myself, “Was he just baiting me?”  Or was he facing a crisis of faith?  There was no doubt in my mind that Rudy was a man of God!  Not a perfect saint but just the real deal.  And yet here he was asking me to lead him in the sinner’s prayer.

It was like he knew his name was called up yonder and so he needed some assurance and directions before answering the call.

I of course reminded him that the Bible says, “…everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13).   And we talked about how he had done that.  How he had been baptized and had gone to church for a long time now.  Certainly in the 13 plus years that I’ve known him, Rudy walked as a believer walks, again not sinlessly perfect just real.

For a trucker he had a pretty clean vocabulary.  In fact I couldn’t remember a time when I ever heard him swear.  He was genuinely interested in helping people come to faith in Christ and enjoyed his ministry with the Gracemen singing his heart out for Jesus.  His passion for Gleaners and for his church and his love for his family, especially his bride of more than 60 years showed he was committed to Christian ideals.

I can’t remember if he brought it up or I was just reminded later of what Jesus words in Matthew chapter 7, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

It seemed as though Rudy felt like he had missed something along the way and was in danger of missing heaven’s narrow gate on the journey home.   But I did remind Rudy of what the rest of what that passage says.

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Yes Rudy struggled with the same things that every Christian struggles with.  The passions of the flesh, the pride of life, doing things that caused rifts in his earthly relationships but frankly I reminded him, that those very things that we call sin are exactly why Christ died on the cross for us. 

The Bible says, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.  … God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.  For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.  So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” (Rom. 5:8).  

I reminded Rudy that the Bible says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:9).     And I asked Rudy if he had repented of his sins and called upon the name of the Lord to be saved?  He said something to the effect of, “that’s exactly the point, he’s not sure that he has”.  And then he asked if I would help him do exactly that. 

So there in my living room, with his bride of more than 60 years by his side I led this man of God in the sinner’s prayer and I prayed and asked God to reveal to Rudy just how visibly active He has been in Rudy’s life. 

Folks sometimes we don’t recognise God’s still voice or experience the hand of providence in our lives the same way others do.   But I can say for sure that Rudy was a Christian long before he prayed that prayer in my living room.  As Jesus told us in that passage of Matthew that I read to you, you can recognize His disciples by His fruit in their lives.

Rudy3Now in our valley we harvest much fruit.  But I’ve noticed something that kind of startled me to begin with and still does bug me a bit.  When I’m out picking for my friend Graeme the fruit that goes into the bin must be without blemish and of the highest quality or he goes behind me and pulls it from the bin and chucks it on the ground.  “Those are culls”, he says. “Not fit for market.” 

But God isn’t like Graeme in that regard.  He doesn’t look for perfect specimens plucking only the finest fruit and tossing all the others aside as worthless.  ‘Cause if he did, not one of us would make that cut.  We’d all be culled. 

Like Rudy we all have fallen short of mark.  But my friend Rudy learned something that assured him he was chosen of God, holy and acceptable in God’s sight.  Rudy learned that God’s perfect Son enabled all who call upon His name to be chosen and kept by the Master as his very own.   

I suppose that’s why Rudy was as passionate about Gleaners as he was.  He recognized that together with thousands of volunteers he could be part of God’s plan to feed millions in Christ’s name.  Rudy found that God can use what man rejects for the glory of His Kingdom if only we are willing to be used. And he worked hard for Gleaners.  Much harder than a man his age ought to at times.  But he loved what he did and knew it was worthwhile.  Love and generosity, the giving of one’s time, for the glory of God and to help the needy, these are fruit of the Spirit, the real evidence of Christ within.  Even if others don’t see it.

The Bible says of Jesus, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isiah 53:3-6).

As Rudy’s health failed I think one thing that really bugged him a lot was not being able to serve the Lord as he once had.  He couldn’t sing, he couldn’t drive… in his eyes he was becoming useless to all around him. 

Rudy wanted to give God his all but he realized that the journey this side of heaven was coming to an end.  So he wrestled and fought the good fight as best he could not losing his faith but he sure was grappling with such great loss.  Looking back I can see he was grieving that loss much like we are grieving his loss today.

At times he got pretty down but then he was so blessed by how all his family came together and showed their love to him and support for he and Laura.  I remember one day, after a surprising visit by a family member, Rudy phoned me up from his hospital bed with in tears in his voice as he realized that God had done a mighty miracle for him, a real answer to prayers.  He was so excited about it that when I saw him two days later, he again cried and we prayed to his Heavenly Father and gave thanks for such a tender and timely mercy. 

It was so hard to watch my friend fade away losing over 50 pounds and unable to hardly speak.  But he and I knew this would not be the end of the story.   Jesus had already made that very clear to him through God’s Holy Word. 

Though we don’t understand the reasons God does what He does, we must accept by faith that God has a divine purpose beyond our understanding for all things.  And most of all, we must never forget that He knows the tears we have shed… for God himself put on flesh and walked amongst us. 

Jesus knows the grief in our hearts because He experienced it in ways we fail to comprehend.  He had friends and relatives who dearly enjoyed his company.  He had to look down from the cross at His mother who with tears streaming from her eyes gazed up upon her beloved Son as he was breathing His last.  Jesus knows those strong emotions, that we call grief, that often come in waves when someone we love is taken away.

We see this so clearly in the book of John 11th chapter.

There we find that a friend of Jesus, named Lazarus, had died and had been in the tomb four days by the time Jesus arrived. When Jesus found two disciples, the sisters of Lazarus, overwhelmed with grief and his reaction was not a stoic disconnected high priest. 

He tenderly reminded one of the sisters, “Your brother will rise again.”  And Martha “answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? 

“Yes, Lord,” she told him…” (John 11:23-25).

Martha understood that death is not the end.  And so she called her sister Mary and they walked to tomb of Lazarus with Jesus at their side.  The mourners were wailing and the sisters continued weeping, as they grieved the loss of their brother. 

As they got closer to the tomb, John 11:35 records the shortest verse in the Bible, just two words, “Jesus wept”

Did you know it’s only the shortest verse in our English translations?  In the original language there is no punctuation, the thought of that short sentence began with, “When Jesus saw Mary weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”    John was telling us that Jesus felt their pain, he knows what it means for us to lose a loved one.  For when:  “Jesus wept.  Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” John 11:33-36 (NIV).   They saw a man hurting just as they were.    

Jesus is the God of compassion.  His tears were genuine expressions of the sorrow he felt.  He entered into their sorrow and began to carry their burden.

And Jesus is moved by your sorrow today, He loves you even as He loved them! And He wants you to know His compassion for you.  He is walking with you through this deep loss you’re facing, and if you’ll let Him he’ll carry you when grief threatens to overwhelm you. 

Grief and loss are unavoidable in this life but understand this, Jesus has overcome this life and His Word declares Rudy has too. 

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In the same book of the Bible, Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going. (John 14:2-3).

Rudy knew the way, and now so do you.  I know it is Rudy’s desire to see every one of his family and friends reuniting at our Father’s house. And the way is clear.

The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved” (Roman 10:9-10).

Rudy fought the fight of faith, battling with all the doubts and questions that each of us face, hurting deeply at times but through Jesus he won the victory!  This trucker truly found his way to his Father’s house and now what once grieved him has been swallowed up by inexpressible joy and peace. 

My Friend Steve

Steve

Lynda, Steve’s partner in Christ, along with Auntie Madge and Uncle Ken held a memorial service to celebrate Steve’s life.

The Memorial Service was held in Keremeos, Jan. 31, 2015 at Keremeos Community Church.
(click this link for the full audio of the service as posted on their site.) 

 

The service was filled with much praise for our Lord Jesus Christ.  And it truly was a celebration of Steve’s life in Christ. 

Order of Service

Pastor Dwayne  Trelenberg opened  the service and was followed immediately by Congregational Singing lead by Vera and Sylvia:

Then Pastor Blake Wagner gave a Brief Message:

Lorna Mugwe sang a beautiful song.  Copyright prevents us from posting it in full, but here is a snip of the clip:

Then Lynda choked back tears of love and shared with us Steve’s earthly journey:

Lynda was followed by Pastor Jason Weibe who recounted the final days of Steve’s earthly journey and the blessings he bestowed upon his children.

There was a special song by a fine young lad named Levi.  Again I would loved to have posted it here….

Auntie Madge came and shared both some of her memories and a special poem that was written for this day.

Others were invited forward and several did come even though Steve had only briefly been in this area.    His humour and gentle spirit warmed many hearts.  

 Little Rily, (4 years old)  even sang a song for Steve.   

Pastor Dwayne Trelenberg gave a brief message:

 

And after a closing song we were all invited to enjoy a luncheon and a piece of this cake!

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 In Jesus you’ll find the same assurance and hope that Steve had ‘til the day his faith became sight.

May God bless you on your journey to our Father’s house and grant you the oil of joy for this time of mourning.

 

 

 

 

One Messy Christmas – 2014

Season’s Greetings and welcome to Grace in the Heart of Penticton.  You going to let me get away with that? Let me try that again…Merry Christmas!  We at Grace are all about Jesus Christ…no matter what time of year it may be.  But especially at Christmas.  So if you haven’t done so yet and even if you have, turn to your neighbor on each side and wish them a Merry Christmas.

As I was planning this evening’s service I was feeling a bit nostalgic.  You ever get that way?  Remembering Christmas past?  Maybe the ghost of Christmas past came visiting you in the middle of the night?  I hope not for the same reasons that it visited old Scrooge.  But regardless if you are human the likelihood is that you will take that trip down memory lane and stop at a few places long enough to tug on your heart strings or have a good laugh and maybe even smile a bit.

In tonight’s service along with the live performances of Christmas Present that we are blessed to have I’ve done some of my multimedia memory searches and found a few clips of Christmas Eve and Grace Past.  In some of the clips you’ll be invited to sing along with those who lead a Christmas Eve portion in the past tens years or so.  If the word’s appear on the screen sing heartily…if they don’t then take the trip down memory lane with me and see if you can guess why I might of included that particular clip.

By the way…I had more than 15 hours divided into 2-3 minute segments to go through.  Needless to say there were far more clips than time would allow for this evening.

Our first clip takes us back to 2007 where Don and Walter opened the service with a duet of O Come O Come Emmanuel.

One year I was permitted to sing along with these two amazing singers. A Goerzen on the left another on my right… I had stereo Goerzens to sing with.  What an amazing treat that was for me.

Walter & Don Goerzen – O Come O Come Emanual

Scripture – Mt. 1:18-25 (Mike Alcock)

I’ll never forget this next performance, Beth Young & my daughter Lorna wanted to be a part of the Christmas Eve service and sung their hearts out for Jesus!  And they did so A-Capella.   I think there were two fathers beaming in the audience that night.   It is an amazing thing to watch your children step out in faith and grow in Jesus isn’t it Scott?  What a blessing! 

Beth Young & Lorna Mugwe – Christmas Eve. 2007

 

Scripture – Luke 1:57-80 (Harold Goerzen)

I ccouldn’t help but put this next clip in.  It is so cute.  It’s what we love about children at Christmas, their child like faith.  Anna Young was very young but still very willing and excited to play a part in the Discoveryland Christmas Pageant in 2006.  Here she is singing her own rendition of Away in a Manger.  If you look hard you’ll see some other familiar faces around her.  Children of Grace who are out impacting their world for Christ but also who grew in their faith and knowledge of him through the opportunities they were given right here. 

Anna Young – Away in a Manger  Christmas Eve. 2006

Christmas Eve. In 2003 was a musical extravaganza at Grace.  The Dycks played piano and violin and the Gracemen accompanied by Irene Goerzen took center stage.  They lead us in both traditional hymns and sang for us special arrangements like the next clip I have for you.   This clip is actually two in one and I invite you to sing along with Go Tell it on the Mountain during the second clip.   

Scripture Reader: Luke 2: 8-39 Pastor Peter Harris

Though Simeon was  an old man by their standards and had seen a lot of messy things in his lifetime he still held out to the hope he had in meeting Christ.  And God kept him in his waiting!  His eyes saw the essence of his faith and his longing was fulfilled.  God is good!

For some here this year brings the added pull of losing someone very dear to them.  The first Christmas after is generally the hardest in that regard but each year thereafter the heart strings tug pretty dearly.  In fact for some people the grief overwhelms them to the point that they are unable to celebrate Christmas because it’s so messy for them.

If you are having one of those blue messy Christmases this year you are in good company.   And if celebrating is not possible at this time it’s ok to let the emotions flow here.   We understand grief and loss and share a common hope for the future.

This next clip is from last year when Beth and Emily chose a song for Christmas Eve… it was somewhat prophetic in nature.  It was a beautiful song that speaks to the reality that Christmas isn’t just the season of joy and gladness that we often make it out to be.  It’s complicated and really messy at times. But even in the mess of Christmas, Christ is here.

This next clip is part one of my message for Christmas Eve 2014 entitled  ‘One Messy Christmas’.

After part one I used a video clip in the service from the skitguys with permission.  The link is below to it.

He Came To Get Messy – Skitguys

I  would recommend viewing the above clip before continuing on to Part two of my Christmas Eve Message.

I have just one more stroll down memory lane to leave you with this Christmas even and then we will end as we traditionally do. This year we’ll ask Chad to come lead us in Silent Night and that will be followed by Gail praying for us and of course those wonderful goodie bags that Joanne loves to give out to the kids and those who still have a little child left in them.

Back in 2004 Susan Martens told us the story of how Silent Night came to be.  

 

Pure Love Now – 1 Jn. 4:11

11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 Jn. 4:11-12).

Sunday Oct. 5th, James & Lorna Mugwe, Kenyan Directors of Pure Love Now, – Grace’s outreach to Kenya, shared on how a small church in Penticton has made a huge difference in the lives of people half a world away over the last 3 1/2 years.

My Friend Len

Have you noticed that some people have a more profound effect on your life than others?  My friend Len is one of those folks for me.  Just before we got to Grace 13 years ago Len and his wife Lillian had moved to Penticton.  And as the call came for us to Pastor Grace MB Church Len was one of the first to welcome us to the family with his usual greeting, “g..mornin”.    It didn’t matter what time of day it was, Len always said, “g..mornin”.  It was always a good morning for him.  Len is about 35 years my senior.  And as Lillian will outline for you we had little in common in our lives.  About two things really…Jesus and we both love to worship the Lord.  But over the years we found a lot more in common than we first thought.

They say that pastors need to keep a professional distance from their congregation.  A quick look in Google and you’ll see this philosophy clearly espoused.    Our friendships should be found outside of our current posting according to those who teach at seminary and Bible Colleges.  And there is some very good reasoning that goes long with that advice.

Yet somehow I can’t reconcile their advice with the promise that Jesus gave when “Peter said, “Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You.”  And He said to them, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Luke 18:28-30).  I know this to be true because of Grace MB Church and the family I have found here.

Len quickly became a friend and dare I say more than a friend to me.  I think he kind of considered me one of his kids.  And to be honest over the years he became  a wonderful father figure in my life.   He is a straight shooter yet never harsh when something isn’t right.  He would always find a way to be positive when troubles were at hand.  Ask him how he was doing and he always used to answer, “never better”.   He’s a man of grace with tons of mercy mixed in.  

Len reminds me of the friend we have in Jesus.   So when he started to shows signs of aging it was like watching my father go through what each of us will one day face.  And that came with all the emotional issues that a parental love relationship carries.  I just couldn’t bear seeing him slow down, and wouldn’t accept what everyone knew was happening to him.  I finally realized this when I was at a conference in Edmonton and spoke to one of Len’s sons as though I was his brother talking about our father.  It was in that moment that I understood what the profs at college were getting at.

For a time I had to pull away emotionally because it was getting too hard to be Len’s pastor.  Yet I’m not built for metered love.  I’m a all in sort of guy.  My friend Len will always be my friend!  The relationships we form on this side of eternity were never meant to be temporary. Perhaps that makes me a poor pastor at times.

Yet for Len and I it’s been 13 great years of serving Jesus together in song and in the word.  I will miss those times sorrily in the time between now and eternity. I will cherish them and I am thankful that along the way we recorded some of those moments for days when I want to reminisce and remember that I have something to look forward to.  But as Len and I sang many times we have “so many million years that we can’t count them” to enjoy being in God’s presence singing to the Lord.

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Some time ago Lillian blessed me with a booklet she had made detailing Leonard’s life.  She entitled it “The Last of  the Locusts”.  I asked her and Len’s permission to post it here and they gracefully granted it.   That was about five years ago and I’m finally getting around to it. …Such is a pastor’s life…hurry up and wait.
Sister Lillian is a fine writer and I suspect you’ll enjoy her sometimes humorist account.   I’ll be putting in some of the music clips that I’ve got along with pictures that  Lillian had collected for the booklet.   And I want to say to Len’s family members you are free to send me any that you would enjoy seeing in this collection.

LR001Gusts of brisk, wintry winds whistled around the eaves, sending showers of soft, feathery snowflakes swirling against the frosty window panes of the old hospital in the little northern town of Radway, Alberta. The date was March 31, 1928, and it was on this day that Leonard Sydney Rempel made his lusty debut into the world.

“He certainly does have a remarkable pair of lungs, “Dr. Holibisky said to the happy mother. “I’m sure he will become a fine singer someday.'”

Baby Lenny’s parents, Bill and Alice Rempel lived on a small parcel of land along the railroad tracks in the center of LR002-1Radway. They were a hardworking, dedicated couple who laboured faithfully to overcome the struggles of hardships of the depression that was mercilessly closing in around them. The era of the “Hungry 30’s” lay dangerously around the corner and they were already experiencing some difficulty in providing a comfortable living for their family of seven.

Mr. Rempel owned a team of dray horses and with his grain crusher and wood saw equipment did custom work around the neighborhood.

His thrifty, competent wife with all her talents of homemaking made sure her family was well cared for. She was an excellent cook and her exceptional skills at the sewing machine kept her youngsters clad in the best of clothing throughout the seasons,

When Lenny came into the Rempel household the older children were quite grown up. In fact, a couple were old enough to have been parents to him themselves. It was no secret that Lenny was the joy of his parent’s latter years, and in turn, his siblings as well, vied for a prominent place in his little heart.

LR002-2Coming four years, as he did, after the last child, Lenny immediately became the darling of the family; was cherished and adored by all. From the very beginning it was evident that Lenny was an infant of peace and smiles. His angelic personality shone forth the moment his impish, grey—green eyes with their dark, curling lashes recognized and responded to his constant stream of admirers. They loved his sunny disposition and were only too anxious to gratify his slightest desire.

When Lenny reached the age of three or four years it was mutually decided that it was time for him to receive his first haircut.

They sat him on a chair in the middle of the kitchen and began this much dreaded task. It was later confessed that it was almost with tears that they snipped off his nearly shoulder—length golden curls and watched them cascading to the floor.

But Lenny was most elated, for he realized that he now presented his true identity as a brother in the Rempel household, for the first time in his life.

LR003-1It was at the Mizeppha School at Radway that Lenny first eagerly entered classes. He advanced quickly as he diligently applied ” himself to his lessons. In addition to his interest in competition for highest marks, he was overjoyed with the company of his many classmates. With his friendly, fun-loving nature he soon became a school favorite. On several occasions his loyal playmates were even willing to stand up and receive Lenny’s punishment when the teacher caught on to the mischievous activity taking place behind his back.

However, this very pleasant era that had been Lenny’s whole life came sadly and suddenly to an end when he was taken out of school just after he had passed into the 6th grade.

The Rempel family was being transferred to a remote area in northern Alberta where Lenny‘s father and older brothers would have steady employment in a newly formed sawmill company.

In a very short time Lenny found himself in a totally new environment with the town of Radway and all that he had ever known, left far behind, forever.

Now, a small frame house beside a dusty highway, overlooking the placid expanse of beautiful Lawrence Lake had become his home, where he settled in with his parents and his brothers. As he ambled aimlessly around the cluttered mill yard the future loomed exceedingly bleak for young Lenny with no children his age living in the woods around him.

Often, Lenny’s thoughts returned to days gone by, before they had moved to this place. How he missed those special hours he had once enjoyed with his beloved father; his Dad, who in the past always had time to tuck his Lenny onto the seat beside him as he made his rounds crushing grain or cutting huge piles of stove wood throughout the neighborhood for his customers. But that had all changed, now that his father was shackled to the mammoth, noisy steam engine that powered the sprawling sawmill, until late into the night.

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 Now, in the evening of the day, Lenny would wander down along the lake-shore, listening to the cry of the loons echoing across the waters. Perched atop a sawed—off tree stump, he realized how much he missed the friends he’d left behind in his childhood. Here, there was no school to attend, nor children living near-by with whom he could share all his youthful aspirations. Several men were hired to work at the mill but their families lived ‘ back home’, in faraway places.

Lenny’s older sisters had left home to pursue their own interests when the Rempels moved to Lawrence Lake; he missed all their fellowship and the hours of singing that had always filled their home.

Lenny’s brother Willie, was the sawyer of the saw mill operation, and his brother, Rod was also employed with the company. They loved their little brother, yet their worlds were far apart from the understanding and mental needs of young Lenny.

For some time he shared a cramped bedroom with his brothers, in the small house on the mill—site.  From his narrow cot in the corner of the room, Lenny often heard them in deep conversation as they played their endless games of cribbage during the long winter evenings. LR005-1To his ears came their boasting of arm wrestling victories, glowing highlights of house parties, the amusing antics of their inebriated fellow workers, their hushed discussions of girlfriends and their laughter at being referred to as ” those hot-blooded Rempel boys”, whatever that might have meant.

As Lenny drifted off to sleep night after night, his thoughts were in a jumble. It sounded like so much fun to be a grown-up, he reasoned. But for him that seemed to be a long way off.

The years dragged slowly along for young Lenny.  During the summer months he spent time riding his bicycle up and down the dusty highway that meandered past his home. All winter long he enjoyed sleighing or tobogganing down a steep hill where traffic had turned the snows to an icy runway. He was grateful for his little dog who was his constant companion. And he loved the horses that were used for skidding the logs up to the mill site. Whenever Lenny had a chance he would venture out to the barn where they were stabled and he spent many hours currying out their tangled manes and tails. It pleased him that they responded to his touch, as speaking softly, he patted their glossy sides and stroked their long, silky ears.

Occasionally, he was allowed to ride one of these spirited creatures in from the bush when the skidder had finished his work for the day.

Then, that very summer season Lenny’s youngest sister, Eva left her job in the city to come and visit her family.  With her, she brought along a small black guitar which she hoped she would learn how to play. Lenny was fascinated with the rhythmic tone of the guitar as the steel moved across the shining, strings.

At his request, his sister readily consented to allow him some time to practice on her guitar. Their mother had a lovely singing voice and had often been called upon to provide solos at weddings and funeral services. Now, sitting at her knee, Lenny slowly moved the steel bar across the stings of the guitar. When at last the proper tone was reached his mother would exclaim, “There Lenny, you’ve found the perfect chord!”

In an amazingly short time Lenny had memorized all the chord arrangements and very soon he was able to sing the songs his mother had taught him, with his own guitar accompaniment.

It has never been known as to whether Eva ever learned to play her guitar during her summer visit, but it is a fact that when she went back to the city that fall, she left empty handed. For a $5 dollar bill her guitar now belonged to brother Lenny.

With the mastering the art of learning to play the guitar and release his emotions in song; Lenny’s life was never in lacking in joy and fulfillment again. This was the beginning of a lifetime dream of his in music and Lenny has never been without a guitar of his own to this day.

In the usual natural course of time Lenny’s small, gangly frame was rapidly developing into a body of vigor, strength and brawn. His zeal for action and availability coupled with his comfortable success in working with horses caught the eye of the company boss.  Soon, he offered Lenny a job as skidder at the mill. This work entailed using one horse at a time to pull fallen logs from the bush to be decked conveniently for the sawyer who would then turn them into lumber. That Lenny was still not tall enough to heave those heavy harnesses onto the backs of the horses did not daunt his enthusiasm in the least. There was always someone at the barn who was willing to help him get his horse ready for the day’s work.

Lenny was twelve years old when he was put on the meager payroll of the R. Stelter Lumber Company and without his even realizing it his childhood was gone forever.

Life for Leonard Sydney Rempel became considerably more interesting now that he was a full-fledged employee of the lumber company. He soon adjusted to rising at an early hour every day to take his place on the job with all the other lumbermen. He loved working with the lively, spirited horses and he was in constant competition with the other skidders as to who could bring the most logs to the mill, by the end of the day.

When his hours of work were over for the day, during the hot months of summer Leonard and his friends would rush down for a refreshing swim in the cool, fresh waters of Lawrence Lake. Then, after a hearty supper they were more than ready for an evening of relaxation and recreation.

Though wages were very low in those days, it was reassuring for Leonard to have enough money in his pocket to enable him to take in the weekly western shows in the town of Athabasca. These were held in an upstairs room of the old Parker Building on the corner of Main. It was always very late when those old black and white films finally came to an end. But in spite of the hour, a stop at the Royal Cafe for a piping hot hamburger sandwich was a must, before facing the 30 mile drive back to camp. Then, after a few hours of rest, another long day on the job began, a routine that he took in his stride, with much enthusiasm.

LR007-1Leonard became an excellent ball player and was in demand at all the ballgames, around the country side, as their star player. His long arm rarely missed a whizzing fly ball, he was an accurate batter and he raced around the ball diamond with such speed that he scored many runs for his team.

It was a happy day for Leonard when he was able to buy his very own pony, a lively bay gelding named Tony.  He spent many hours in the saddle, presenting a dashing figure in his smart leather jacket and wide brimmed black Stetson with strings that dangled down on either side of his face.

It was this pony and his love for music that dominated Leonard’s life at this point in time. Leonard was becoming quite famous for his melodious singing voice, making him most popular at all the family house parties and local functions in the neighborhood.  As his teenage years lengthened his circle of companions widened, enabling him to enjoy a few brief romantic interludes, which not only helped him to pass the time of day but added greatly to his sense of self-esteem.

By now, Leonard had worked at the saw mill many years and he was a commendable asset to the company, being skillful in all aspects of the operation. His cheerful, sanguine disposition endeared him to all his fellow workers as he was always willing to lend a helping hand.

LR007-2Together with his father and brothers Leonard had part ownership in the family car. But without a doubt, Leonard managed to have more than his share of the automobile’s use. This was much to the dismay of his two brothers who were now married with wives of their own.

Very often they found they had to hire a neighbor’s vehicle, because theirs was nowhere to be found when they needed it.

 

It was the summer of 1946 that events began to come together that would reshape the destiny of Leonard Sydney Rempel forever.  And in a way that he least expected.  Lillian Mabel Olson emerged from the shadows of beyond like the dawning of a fresh, new day; a meeting that stirred Leonard’s heart in wonderment. Lillian was employed at a small country restaurant and that was many miles from his home in Smith, Alberta.  But Leonard had to admit that it was his curiosity and attraction to this tall, slim girl with intensely blue eyes that aroused his interest from the start.

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Often, when day was done, he found himself turning his car westward, for no apparent reason, and before he could change his mind the old ramshackle hotel loomed up in sight. There, he knew Lillian would soon be finished with her duties for the day.

It amazed him that he was willing to drive all those long miles over dusty, gravel roads after he had already completed his strenuous day of labor at the sawmill. But once he sauntered across the lobby floor and caught one glimpse of Lillian‘s beaming face at the counter all his thoughts of fatigue quickly faded. It surprised him that it became more and more easy for him to fit this routine into his schedule.  And with every meeting he and Lillian also became more and more comfortable in each other’s presence.

With his winning smile and sunny disposition it took Leonard no time at all to persuade Lillian to respond to his gentlemanly advances. As they took long car rides out in the country he was instinctively aware of her pleasure and appreciation of his rich, mellow voice as he sung to her the current songs of the day. He was pleased to discover that she shared his love for horses and that riding had always been an important part of her life.

One day Lillian invited Leonard to meet her family who lived in a remote community several miles in the country. The Olson’s home was located on a beautifully landscaped farm that held much interest for Leonard. There was livestock, cattle of all breeds and several quiet horses that doubled for farm work or riding pleasure. In the barnyard below the hill a goodly number of hogs were raised for market and flocks of white Leghorn hens provided a fair income for the family.

Leonard found himself welcomed into the Olson household at once. Lillian’s father, C.B., a rangy Norske received him with such a direct admiration for his sawmill knowledge and maturity that Leonard was deeply impressed. The friendly warmth and hospitality of Mrs. Olson won his heart from the start. He enjoyed the attention of her two sisters and her younger brother Don, who idolized Leonard, followed him around like a puppy.

Much to Leonard’s joy there was always music at the Olson household. As soon as the scrumptious Sunday dinner things were laid away the musical instruments would appear on the scene. Mrs. Olson would take her place at the old upright piano, while sister Irene strapped on her 120 bass accordion. With Leonard and little brother Don strumming their guitars many hours of playing and singing was enjoyed by them and the remaining family audience.

LR009-1For Leonard, the days flew by joyfully as he made frequent trips up to the Olson residence in the Rempel family car. He and Lillian spent many happy hours taking horseback rides along the winding Athabasca River, playing games or simply enjoying each other’s company.

After several weeks of a sublimely wonderful courtship Leonard came to the conclusion that he had indeed truly found his heart’s desire. It was at the celebration of their first Christmas together that Leonard asked Lillian to be his wife. Their wedding date was set for June, of the following year.

How they looked forward to the day when they could begin their life together and enjoy the many years of wedded bliss upon which their hearts were now centered. In the meantime, Lillian decided to remain in the home of her parents as she enthusiastically accumulated linens and useful items for her future household.

But until then there still remained several months of winter ahead when the snowdrifts settled deeper and the country roads were impassable for vehicles. Therefore, the lovers saw very little of each other throughout the winter and the months dragged slowly along.

Occasionally Leonard braved freezing temperatures when he borrowed a saddle pony to ride the 10 mile trip out from the highway to visit his Lillian. He would be stiff with cold and his pony covered in frost by the time he arrived, but what a warm welcome he received by Lillian and her whole family when he finally rode into the yard.

LR010-1When spring, at last arrived, in all its glory Leonard was once again able to drive his car all the way out to the Olson residence, non-stop. He could hardly wait to spend time with Lillian again and finalize the plans for their wedding that was now only weeks away.

It is no wonder then that Leonard was considerably taken back, on this very special occasion to hear his beloved approach him with this somber message:

“Leonard, there is something I have to tell you and I want you to listen very closely. It may make a difference in whether or not you will still want to marry me. “I am a Christian, and I want to live my life by God’s rules. There may be some things that you won’t understand about me, that I will not go along with, such as the question of liquor in our home, gambling or loose morals, as some of our families are engaged in.

“I love you very much but Jesus comes first in my life. You must know this now, before the wedding, so that you will have time to change your mind if this is more than you expected. For me, if we get married it will be for the rest of our lives and there won’t be any turning back.”

Living God’s way? This was something to which Leonard had never given any serious thought, nor considered it necessary.  It was true that his mother was very religious, everybody knew that. She didn’t drink liquor, smoke, swear or listen to off-color jokes.  On Sundays she didn’t do a lick of work, but rather went her quiet way singing her favorite hymns of praise to the Lord.  This was her testimony, she told her family.

Leonard recalled how she dressed in her best clothing and when summer came she always wore her neat white shoes. That was how it was with older women, he reasoned.  It had always been just fine with him and it hadn’t ‘ cramped his style a bit!  But now, as he sat across from Lillian with her serious blue eyes fastened on his own, he realized that their whole future hung in the balance of this moment, and that she would accept nothing except an honest answer from him.

Taking her hands in his, he spoke words straight from his heart. “I‘m glad you told me this, Lillian,” he said. “I too, want our marriage to last for our lifetime. If what you have told me is true I’m sure it will only make our lives together so much better. Please have patience with me. I think everything will work out just fine.”

 

June 9, 1947 dawned a day of sunshine and promise for Leonard and Lillian. At the home of C.B. and Ruby Olson, family and friends gathered to celebrate their beautiful, quiet wedding, with Archdeacon Little, Athabasca, officiating.LR011-2

Married life for Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Rempel got off to a fine start. They settled into their little honeymoon home on the mill site among the scattered houses of Leonard’s parents and siblings, after a fabulous honeymoon of a week in the city of Edmonton. Leonard continued his job at the saw mill and Lillian was ecstatic in setting her very first little home in order.

On weekends they made frequent trips up to Otter Creek to visit Lillian’s family and no young couple has ever been happier. To Leonard, life was just getting better than ever and his heart was bursting with song.

Leonard had just passed his twentieth birthday when he became a father for the first time. With the arrival of that beautiful baby daughter life for him took on a whole new dimension and focus. And as the years increased in number, likewise did his family. By the time Leonard and Lillian celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary they had been blessed with not one, but two beautiful daughters and three precious sons as well.

LR012-1LR012-2During this point in time life was moving swiftly for the young Rempel family. Almost too fast for Leonard to keep up. He found that he often had to work seven days a week to keep ahead of expenses, but this he did, faithfully, without a word of complaint. In addition to the farm and livestock he had now acquired, he also operated a small sawmill of his own during the months of winter.

But life was not all work for Leonard as there was many fun-times tucked in between his hours of labour. There were the ball games to be played and horseshoe games to be won during the warm summer months and many pleasant hours of card games when their friends called in at the end of the day.

Leonard’s rich, vibrant voice and rhythmic guitar continued to gain popularity in the neighborhood. Before long he organized a musical band with other local musicians where they provided entertainment at all the social gatherings.

Leonard’s five children were musically inclined, as well. They cut their teeth listening to their Daddy belting out his lively, western tunes and they followed in his footsteps. They quickly memorized the words to the songs he sang and at a very early age they were all joining him, gathered at his knee, harmonizing to the current hits of the day.



 

In the year of 1964 Leonard left his farm and sawmill life behind and brought his family to the province of British Columbia, where he became an employee of the instant village of Granisle Copper. As copper ore was being mined on a large scale the future looked promising and Leonard soon moved up the ladder of success to achieve the position of shift boss with many workers under his supervision.

Because there was yet no high school at Granisle Leonard settled his family in the sleepy little town of Houston, B.C. in order that his now teenage children could continue their education.

These were busy years for Leonard… working five days a week at the Granisle mine which was fifty miles from Houston where the family lived. Weekends at home were always a boisterous experience for Leonard. Before his very eyes he beheld his offspring becoming young adults with hopes and dreams too numerous to fathom.

The visions of these eager, enthusiastic youngsters far exceeded anything their doting parents had ever imagined. In addition, to their pursuit of success in the secular field, to Leonard’s amazement, each and every one of the children became Christians, with several of them attending a renowned bible college in Saskatchewan.

There now reigned a new depth and spirit in the Rempel household. Leonard found his home overflowing with young Christian students who gathered to share their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to pray together and spend long hours singing hymns until late into the night.

With his love for music and song, Leonard readily learned all these new songs and often accompanied the younger set with his own voice and guitar. Occasionally, he even attended church services with the family as he became more and more aware of Christ’s love and purpose for his life.

It was the year of 1974 when Leonard made the decision to give his heart to the Lord Jesus Christ. His life was never the same again as God continued to put a new song in his heart.

It is interesting to note that at this precise point in time the Granisle mine was forced to close due to the extreme drop in prices and demand for copper on the world market.

Leonard was concerned about his future as he realized that the source of security he had enjoyed for seventeen years was now a thing of the past.

However, without Leonard ever realizing it, at the time, God was in control and was about to reveal the plans he had for Leonard in the days ahead.

 After the closure of the Granisle copper mine Leonard found employment at the Decker Lake Lumber Company. For the first time in his life he worked shoulder to shoulder with Christian fellow workers whose faith in God was evident in their daily lives. This had a profound impact on Leonard as he graded the bush roads for the company. In a beautiful way he grew in the grace and knowledge of the Lord as he began to really see Him at work in his own life.

In obedience to the word of Jesus Christ Leonard was baptized March, 1985, in the newly built First Mennonite Church at Burns Lake, B.C.

When Brother Leonard discovered the following song he declared that it had been written especially for him, revealing the wonderful way that the Lord has changed his life. He continues to thank Him daily for the redeemed life he now enjoys and for the hope of eternity with Christ.

 

THE YEARS THE LOCUSTS HAVE EATEN:

 

As the years roll by, Leonard still considers the above song to be his testimony. With his gift of singing he has served the Lord in praise and worship in churches and bible study groups wherever he happens to be living.

After he retired from the work force he constantly gave of himself in helping others, whatever the task might have been. Much of his time was spent in helping ranchers tend their stock, repairing fences, making hay or doing field work. He was always available to provide transportation for the elderly, visit the ill or assisting his neighbor in moving his household possessions whenever it was necessary for him to relocate.

Now, in his late seventies Leonard is busier than ever, volunteering in the mission of providing food for the hungry at the “Okanagan Gleaners”, Oliver, B.C.  He arises with a new song in his heart each morning, as he ventures forth to join his Christian brothers and sisters, in answer to the call of God.  He is never happier than when he surrounded by his fellow men with whom he can share his love for Christ through song, as his testimony.

The following is a little song that he composed especially for the Gleaners which has become their theme song:LR015-1

THE GLEANER’S PRAYER

 Roll out the barrels,

We’re working here and it’s fun.

We’ll feed the hungry,

Start with a million and one.

We’ll send God’s blessing,

With every meal we’ll prepare.

Now it’s time fill up the barrels,

With God’s love and prayer!

(To the tune of the old wartime song: “ROLL OUT THE BARREL!”)

 A long time has passed since Leonard Sydney Rempel was a cuddly curly-haired little brother in the Rempel family. Many people have touched his life in a very special way which has contributed to shaping him into the extraordinary person he is today. Throughout his lifetime his zest for living, love for music and the genuine interest he has for people has continued to expand and has followed him in his relationship with those God has chosen to walk with him along life’s highway. But it is without a doubt that it is the love of Christ and the abundance of His Spirit that had the most profound effect on the heart of Brother Leonard.

He is no longer concerned about the years that the locusts have eaten in his life. Leonard is confident in this, that the One who began a good in him will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.

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LEONARD and LILLIAN REMPEL and their FAMILY

LEE, AUDREY, DELL, FRAN and KEN

~In the year of 2002 Leonard and Lillian celebrated their fifty-fifth wedding anniversary. They live in the beautiful city of in the heart of the Okanagan valley,

Penticton, the land of fruits and flowers, where the sun is always shining and the skies are always blue!

 Lillian M. Rempel

Penticton, B.C. June, 2005

 

 

~Ten years later Leonard and Lillian celebrated their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary.  They were joined by family and their many friends at Grace.  It was a joyful occasion and a celebration of how God had truly given Len the years that the locus had eaten. You can click on the image below to find out more about that remarkable event.
REMPEL CLAN (18)

In 2014 Leonard had to slow down a bit more.  He now lives in a wonderful care facility with his bride of 67 years, who patiently and lovingly cares for him.  Their eyes still twinkle when they see each other from across the room.  Though in their late eighties, they continue to enjoy special times with their family and friends singing around the table.  

Dianne – Saturation of Assurance

As I thought and prayed about what to say on this day many emotions overwhelmed me.  I was of course very sad…even mad for while…that Dianne was so quickly taken from  Tony and  his family.  Dianne was a fine Christian lady.  Not a perfect one but an authentic Christian woman.  One who leaves a huge hole in many hearts.

Why did it have to happen the way that it did I questioned out load to the Lord?  I suspect many of you here today joined in that question too.

I’m afraid I didn’t come up with a single good reason to give you.  I have no amazing insight for the “why question” to offer you this morning.  I firmly believe that in time you will understand but for now I can say with certainty this question poses no relief, gives no comfort, and has no hope.  From what I knew of Dianne, I know she was not worried about that question as she took her final breath.  In fact she was so saturated with assurance that she was ready to go home the moment the call came from the Lord.

So where did she get such assurance from?

Perhaps it was from reading and knowing and trusting in God’s Holy Word?  I suspect that was a major factor for sure but her assurance was deeper than simply knowing words from a book.

Several verses flooded my thoughts as I drove home from Camrose on the Monday before this family gathering.  Words that usually bring me some assurance yet in that sad and madden state of mind I found little comfort in them throughout the day.  Through the night as I wrestled with god over their meaning I began to feel that peace that rises above the uncertainties of life.

Allow me a few minutes to share with you the verses that I grappled with and the understanding I received.  Perhaps they can begin to fill the assurance voids that your heart needs in this time of turmoil and grief.

The first verse that came to mind was this one from Psalm 121:1-2 (NLT).

“I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!”

It was a beautiful day with blue sky and white glistening snow as we drove home on Monday.  When we got to Field, BC, I gazed into the town where I saw this small church sticking out like a beacon.  So I immediately turned into town and went to find it and it was then that this scripture went through my mind and I saw the picture therein before I actually took it. “I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!” Psalm 121:1-2 (NLT).

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Where does my help come from?

This was a Psalm of David that he wrote a little later in life.  He knew very well that help doesn’t come from stones or even beautiful scenery.   He learned that lesson as he wallowed at times in grief and despair.  He was a man that journeyed in the dark valley that you may find yourself in today but clearly David didn’t stay there for the rest of his days on earth.  Yet it was in those valleys that he became saturated in assurance.

One of those darker moments came when his infant son was as the Bible tells it, “sick unto death”.  David, the most powerful man in the kingdom, saw his son dying and dawned sack cloth and ashes and began fasting and praying that his son would live.  His heart was painfully burdened.  But when the news came that his son died something happened that caught David’s household by surprise.  David immediately got up and washed and went to eat.

“His servants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”  He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’  But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” 2 Samuel 12:21-23 (NIV)

David’s time in prayer and fasting had brought him to the point of saturation of assurance.  He knew that God could have healed his son and yet when that was not the outcome David reached the point of accepting God’s sovereignty,  not understanding it mind you…but accepting it.  He grieved and yet he was assured.  He knew that he could not bring his son back from the dead but was assured that this parting was temporary.  David said, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”(23).  Though the pain of separation was tremendous David’s assurance from God, that this was not the end, enabled him to carry on with his life and the purposes for it that laid ahead.

As I thought about that I struggled deep within with the “ya bits”.  You ever have those?  “ya buts?” Those nagging comparison questions that want to argue the obvious.   Mine, for this passage, was: “Ya but, David’s son was so young.  He hadn’t spent a lifetime with him as Tony, and the rest of you have with Dianne.  Surely it is not the same!  Your grief comes from more than 42 years of loving relationship with her, his from days.  Clearly your grief is so much more profound.  Can you possibly be over it in a day?   A week?  A month?  How long will it take?

I have an answer for that…it won’t satisfy your longing to feel normal again…the answer is:  As long as it takes.  And just when you think it is over…another wave of grief will come again and remind you, each one a little less intense than the previous.  You will never be completely over the loss of someone you love.  But you will in time accept it and live again.

Love so deep leaves holes so big,  I wouldn’t presume to tell you how long it should take to feel like getting on with life as “normal”.  Whatever that is. But know this  for David it seems shorter than it likely was.

I was also reminded of Mary and Martha’s journey.  They were friends of Jesus whose brother had gotten sick.  Theirs, like yours was a lifelong relationship shortened by sudden illness.

They sent word for Jesus to come at once to heal their dear brother for he too was “sick unto death”.  If Jesus didn’t come at once it would be too late.  The time was short indeed.  And before Jesus arrived, Lazarus died; his body was already in the tomb for four days.  The mourners had  gathered to weep and wail.  His sisters dawned the clothes of grief.  It was an emotionally distraught time.  And when Jesus got there, the Bible tells us that, he too wept.  His heart was overwhelmed for his friends, he knew their pain and the hopelessness that grief can bring.  But God had other plans in store for them for that day.

As Jesus was talking to Martha, “Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;  and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:23-26 (NIV)

Martha thought Jesus meant about the same as David meant when he said I will go to him he will not return to me”.  It had been four days in the tomb already!  One day…sometime in the future…there will be a resurrection.   Perhaps on that day Martha would be with Lazarus again.  Just like on that day David will be with his son again.

Dianne knew this passage well.  She knew what would come next for Martha and Mary.  Knew that Jesus would awaken the dead man and call him out of the grave.

We as Christians know that God can and sometimes still does raise people from the dead reuniting them, at least temporarily with their loved ones.  But you and I know that will not be the case with Dianne.  She is not coming back temporarily from the grave.  I do not want to provide you with false hope for today.  And even Jesus really didn’t mean for the temporary resurrection of Lazarus to be the promise that people cling to as they read through this passage of scripture.

Jesus wasn’t so interested in the temporary but rather He wanted to saturate us with assurance.  When He called Lazarus from the dead for Mary and Martha, it was to prove once and for all that He was sovereign…even over death.  He was and still is the resurrection and the life.

Jesus proved that physically, albeit temporarily, that day with Lazarus who of course died physically once again and like the rest of us had to await the full resurrection to come.  Yet in doing so Jesus showed us the marvelous truth that David clung to with his son.  There is indeed a resurrection from the dead, a real resurrection that awaits us who belong to Christ.  It wasn’t just hallow words that we have no proof of. Lazarus really, physically, rose from the dead that day.   And we shall rise again and so shall those whom we loved and who had fallen asleep in Christ be united with us.  It will be as real as it was for Mary, Martha and Lazarus the day he walked out of the tomb.

This I believe was the saturation of assurance that Dianne held to.  She knew that the parting would be painful for all who loved her but she also knew that the pain would be temporary because of what Jesus did.  Dianne knew it wasn’t just words on a page because she knew Jesus just like Mary and Martha knew him, as a loving friend and more so as her own Savior.

Dianne had such assurance that she told her family that she didn’t want to have a sad funeral service but rather that her ashes be scattered in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Her life proved her relationship and her faith in Christ has so saturated her with assurance that she saw no need for a funeral.

Dianne knew well the words that apostle Paul wrote, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.  According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15 (NIV)

Dianne knew these words well but more than that she knew this same Jesus who would unite her with those whom she loved that had gone before her.  And she now awaits those who are temporarily separated from her as they complete what God has given them to do on earth.

That’s why Dianne didn’t want this day to be about the “grief of men with no hope”(13).  She knows that her family has this same eternal hope and knows that this same Jesus will saturate them with that assurance.

Those who have not this assurance feel finality in her death.  It is that hopeless feeling that they will never see her again.  Whereas, Tony, Chris and Joanne, Daniel and Nathan, and the rest of your family who know Jesus already have that same assurance.

So as you sit around the tables today and grieve please remember that this is truly temporary.  Though Dianne cannot come back to you, you will indeed be united again on the resurrection day.  Swap some stories of how you enjoyed your time with her.  Shed some tears, its ok, when we lose someone we love it’s bound to happen more than once.  We’ll miss them but we know that this parting is for a short time at least for those who are believers in Christ.  We have the same assurance that David, Martha and Mary, Lazarus and even Dianne shared.  So as the memories leak out, let the tears flow and know also that joy comes in the morning.

Remember too, that when your assurance reaches saturation Dianne would want you to continue to do whatever is was that brings you great joy in service Jesus.

 

Blessings!

Pastor Blake

My friend Don Coull … going up!

It seems like people don’t care to think of nor be reminded of their mortality.

Yet we all know that one day our bodies like Don’s will fail and we will come to our last breath on this side of eternity.  As someone wisely said, “nobody gets out of life, physically alive”.  Perhaps that’s why Don wanted this time to focus more on eating, swapping stories and enjoying each other’s company.

One of Don’s favourite words as long as I’ve known him was “forgiveness“.  He had found true forgiveness and wanted everyone he knew to know about forgiveness before they leave this earthly existence, as there is so much joy to be found in it.

Don was of that mindset even though at times he got so depressed that he didn’t want to live anymore. I have known Don for about 10 years.  And all of that time I’ve known a man who was severely challenged by a body that was crippled up by pain and disease.  At times he was so hard to watch because all you could see was pain in motion.  So I can see why he might have been occasionally depressed and at times wanting to die.  He was a very broken man.

And yet Don still found ways to enjoy life.  He also found people that he was so very grateful for to enjoy life with.  I suppose that’s why he wanted you and me to have a laugh or two and enjoy one last good meal on him.

When I first met Don he had come into Grace with Lynda and I went to shake his hand.  I soon realised that the tradition strong grip was out of the question as he couldn’t lift his arm up high enough to do so.  Yet it was clear that he wanted to.

Touch is such an important part of our lives!  So I always made an effort anytime I met Don to greet him with a hardy handshake…while being careful not to inflict more pain into his life!

As we got to know each other we had several deep talks on spirituality.  Don like most people had seen it all and wasn’t afraid to let me know what he thought about religion.  But one evening while Lynda and Don were at our house we got into a discussion about the difference between being religious and being a Christian.

As we spoke we came away with two definitions.   First we saw that a religious person does things because of the possible consequences if they don’t do it.  And even when a religious person doesn’t do things…again it’s because of the possible consequences …you know…if they should be caught doing it.  You know what I mean?  It’s all about the consequences!  Typically the consequences had to do with going down to hell or up to heaven based solely on what you did here on earth.   How good or bad you are, forms the mindset of a “religious person”.   If you do enough good things you get on the up elevator.  Don’t do enough and it is the shaft that you step into as the door opens.  ‘cause you don’t need an elevator to go down.

Don figured out quickly that if good works out weighing the bad things he had done in his life were the determining factor it was “too late for him to go to heaven because he lived like hell at times”.   His words as I remember it.

So I said to him that’s why I’m not a religious person.  ‘Cause, like Don,  I had done more than enough to get the shaft.

He said something like, “ ya but you’re a Pastor you’ve made up for it, right?”  “How can you say you’re not religious!”

So I told him what the Bible says.  It says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).  And that “the wages of sin is always death but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).  The Bible says that God put on flesh and walked with sinners like us, He knows that there is not one who has not sinned.  That means every one of us deserves the shaft, since the wages of sin is death!   And we’ve all sinned….well at least I know that I haven’t been perfect.  And Don wasn’t perfect either, how about you?

What’s more, the Bible says, “Salvation is by faith and not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:9).  So even if you were nearly perfect the shaft was still waiting.

I’ve only met one person in my life that called himself a Christian and said directly, to my face, that he had never sinned.  At which point I turned to his wife and asked her if she’d agreed with his assessment.  I think I started a bit of a family feud with that question!

The Bible says we deceive ourselves if we say we are without sin.   And both Don and I were not deceived in that area.  We were guilty as charged.

So I pointed out to Don that though the wages of sin is death the same verse says but the gift of God is eternal life ( Rom. 6:23 ).     You see Jesus, who is God, came in the flesh and paid the wages our sins demanded.  The Bible says, He died once for all sin, so that many people would be saved through Him. But there is a little catch.

Don got it that day…caught the up elevator to keep my analogy going.  You see when I asked him if he understood what I had just told him he responded with something like “I need the gift, right; how do I get that gift?”   He knew that if he had died without that gift he’d get the shaft.

The gift of forgiveness was the key.

Have you ever been to a building where the elevator takes a key to operate?   Our church has such an elevator.  Without a key you can get into the elevator but it doesn’t go anywhere.  You can push all the buttons religiously but that elevator will not budge!

With the key however, you can take the elevator to the top floor.  No key…no go!  Simple!  But how do you get the key?

Well sometimes you have to ask the greeter at the door for the key as you come into Grace.  Then you need to put it in the lock and turn it.  At which point the elevator is ready to go up.

When Don asked me “how do I get the gift” the principle is the same.  You must ask and then receive the gift but don’t stop there.  That elevator at Grace doesn’t do anywhere if you just turn the key, you have to push the button and keep pushing it until you reach your destination.  Likewise, after receiving God’s gift of Grace, you must put your faith into action to continue to receive the gifts God has for you.   The Bible says, “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Luke 11:10).

Don said, “but who do I ask, and how do I receive?”   I love that question!    I said to him what I’ve told many people both before and since.  To receive “the gift of God …which is eternal life” you need to do as the Bible says, “…confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, and you will be saved”.

The Bible says, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, (a fancy word for forgiven) and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved”.

And the Bible also says, “that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!”

Everyone! Including Don who that evening across my kitchen table prayed and received the gift of God.  His sins were forgiven; and again according to the Bible he was on his way to heaven.  Today he knows that what he did in faith that night was beginning of his journey home.

Since then Don and I kept in touch sporadically but I was blessed to hear how he prayed for his children and friends that God would help them to forgive him and one another and accept God’s forgiveness too.  And he chose to forgive those people in his life who abandoned him when things got tough.  He wanted them to receive the key to the elevator and not the shaft!

That’s another difference between religious folk and Christians.  Religious folks take perverse joy in the downfall of those who do them wrong but those who have received this wonderful gift of grace realize that but by the Grace of God there go I down the shaft.

Even on His death bed, Don assured me he was ready to go home to Jesus; he just was waiting to go.

And so I can say to my friend Don “thanks for the party today, and I look forward to a bigger bash in heaven the next time I see you”.

“Although I do wonder if I’ll recognize you there my friend with a full head of hair and healthy limbs!  That new body of yours must be such a relief!”

Typically I would preach at you guys for the next ten minutes on how you need to be headed for where Don is and how he’d want you to receive the key to heaven’s elevator.  But that would involve talking about your death and it would sound way to much like a funeral.  So let Don’s journey speak to you instead.  He clearly knows the way.

Enjoy the party he has for you today and enjoy the people around you too. Life is way too short not to.

At this time, I believe Lynda and Shirley and I think Don’s kids put together some pictures of Don’s life.

 

New arrival came fast!

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10 proven ways to make your marriage last 50 – 66 years or more!

Who said marriage is dead?  Today we exuberantly celebrated the institution of marriage!

10 couples who have been a part of Grace celebrated more than 585 years worth of marriage in total.  What was their secret?  How can you do it to?  Listen to the two clips below and find out how each couple managed more than 50 years and their marriages are still going strong!

But today was double special because it was the 66th anniversary of one of those couples, Len & Lillian Rempel. The church was packed out! And what we heard was inspiring to say in the least!  Each of these couples was asked what their secret was for longevity in marriage.   With most spanning more than 60 years in marriage …the couple with the least years having had 51 years to draw on for their wisdom … what they had to say may just help save your marriage!  And it will encourage even those with the strongest marriages to keep up the good fight.

In this first clip,  Walter & Irene, 60 years, Len & Lil, 66 years, Frank & Ruby, 63 years, Ben & Helen, 60 years, and Menno & Frieda, 60 years, tell what they believe is their secret to a great and long lasting marriage.

Below is the low rez small bandwidth version. (32mb)

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In this second clip,  John & Susan, 60 years, Rudy & Laura, 60 years, Barney & Sara, 53 years, Helmut & Katie, 51 years, and Bill & Betty, 52 years, tell what they believe is their secret to a great and long lasting marriage.

Below is the low rez small bandwidth version. (36.4mb)

Below is the Rempel extended family singing the medley of old hymns they grew up on.

 

Below is Pastor Blake’s message entitled:  True Intimacy Must Exist for marriage to last this long!

Again this is a low bandwidth version.

 

Below is Councillor- Garry Litke (Acting Mayor-Penticton City) Bringing thanks for the fine example these couples are to our community.

We’ve separated the files into smaller easier to digest portion for our overseas and low bandwidth crowd.  (OK so that’s only partly the reason these files aren’t in the usual place)

Pastor Gail did a marvellous job in preserving a pictorial history and we’ll use her footage rather than the full video footage as the Wirecast machine hiccuped after the fifth couple began and it wasn’t noticed (sorry for those who were actually watching live). The audio was captured on our livestream.com server even after the video quit so with Pastor Gail’s pictures and Pastor Blake’s Powerpoints you’ll still get a feel for the marvellous day we experienced as we celebrated the faithfulness of God and the fellowship of those whom He knit together ’til death do they part!

Enjoy and be blessed!

Where Mennonite meet, Mennonites usually eat and today was no exception!  Just look and see!

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This is the first five couples and the beginning of the service as recorded on our livestream server.

My Friend Bill

SAFE IN THE ARMS OF JESUS

Pastor Peter shares about his friend Bill.
William Chester Hutton.
“Whispering Bill”
Born May 18,1958 Home to Jesus on Sept. 4, 2012
Sadly missed.

I am in the place where God shines through

For He and I are one, not two.

He wants me were I am.

I need not fret, nor will, nor plan.

If I will be relaxed and free,

He’ll carry out His plan through me.

Theodore (Ted) Walter

WALTER, THEODORE (TED) ROBERT: September 20, 1928 – June 15, 2012 Ted went to be with his Lord; he passed away peacefully on June15, 2012. Ted is survived by his wife of 61 years, Arlene, by his four children, Michael (Lynn), Philip, Tony (Dianne) and Celena (Darryn) as well as by nine grandchildren, April (Todd), Cara, Christine (Scott), Jo-Ann (Scott), Daniel (Jess), Nathan, Ross, Chad and Shane, and by ten great grandchildren, Tricia-Lynn, James, Jordan, Zach, Emily, Nick, Beth, Anna-Dawn, Andrew and Owen. Ted will be buried at Peachland cemetery on the morning of Friday, June 22nd, 2012 followed by a Celebration Service at Grace Mennonite Church at 74 Penticton Avenue, in Penticton at 12:30 PM. Arrangements in care of Everden Rust Funeral Services

My Grandpa

You May have known him as principal, pastor or teacher; sea-going cowboy, potato farmer or carpenter; baritone singer in a men’s quartet, star baseball pitcher or captain of the basketball team; devoted Missionary, MCC Volunteer or Great Grandpa; friend, Uncle or Brother; Father-in-law, Dad or Husband…
but I knew him as Grandpa.

And no matter what we all called him, I’m sure we all would describe him in somewhat the same way… he was very kind, generous and one of the most gentle men you could ever meet. As Scott Young stated, “he was the pillar of this family.” He was strong and dependable, like one of those magnificint old trees that have faithfully beared much fruit over its many years. With roots that go down deep, so that it is not easily moved or shaken. Providing cool shade and shelter for many in times of unbearable weather or in need of rest. And offering nurishment and strength to any who looked poor or hungry, or took the time to wait for its harvest. Jeremiah 17:7-8 describes my Grandpa well…It says, “But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

I would also describe Grandpa as patient and calm… unlesssss he was laughing at a joke…usually his own…because then you’d get to see the silly side come out & Grandpa LOVED to laugh and tell stories. My Dad told us of the time he had gotten caught skipping school AGAIN…while sneaking off to visit his beautiful girlfriend (my Mom). But Grandpa never lost his cool with him (…at least not in my mind). He calmly & quietly went outside and proceeded to remove all of the wheels off of Dad’s car & hide them!!

I imagine Grandpa was always on time for everything but never in a hurry. (Well Dad, that’s partially like you…never in a hurry)! He chose his words very carefully…to the point where you almost wanted to hurry him up & finish his sentences, but you KNEW his wisdom was worth the wait. Jo said it well, “Grandpa either spoke wit or wisdom.” My Grade 8, ex-army, Social Studies teacher didn’t have a chance of NOT becoming a pacifist that year after Grandpa’s teachings took root in me. Maybe that is why I asked Grandpa to stand up with me at 13 when I asked to be baptized. Or why most of us grandkids remember the farm as one of our favorite childhood memories.

I’ll never forget the time Grandma & Jo-Anne, Grandpa & Daniel, and Celena & I took the 3 canoes out across Gregoire Lake with plans to make it to the little island a few km out. Well,… Gregoire Lk was known for its sudden weather changes and our beautiful afternoon was soon changing into quite the storm. The wind and waves picked up and soon we could see Grandma and Grandpa’s canoes turning back. I later found out that Jo and Daniel never made it much past the beach, as Grandma and Grandpa kept paddling in circles. But because I had had some recent experience white water canoeing & considered myself somewhat of a “professional canoer,” and since Celena was crazy enough to believe that, we decided to forge on. We finally made it to the island, feeling very proud of ourselves & took our much needed break. Now I’m not sure if the weather had in fact gotten worse, or if I was just remembering all the cool stories dad use to tell us of his adventures out on this island & wanting some adventure of our own. But, either way, we decided we would camp there for the night…alone, with no shelter from the wild mosquitoes and huge black horseflys. But we had found LOTS of berries, so we would be just fine!! Right…? Well, you can imagine our disappointment when Grandpa showed up with a rented motor boat to rescue us and take us back to the farm. I couldn’t tell then, (no one could), but when I asked Grandpa a couple of weeks ago how he felt about having to rent that motor boat & pick us up, he admitted that he had been mad. I figure if him took him 25 years to tell me that, he couldn’t have been too mad.

Grandpa taught us to work hard, enjoy the outdoors, seek peace at all cost and love much. He and Grandma dedicated their lives to serving others and to ALWAYS put others needs before their own. They were an amazing team. Without Grandma’s encouragement and willingness to follow Grandpa to extreme places all around the globe, many lives would be very different today. Grandma’s gift of hospitality allowed Grandpa’s gift of “finding and befriending all those in need,” to work; and work well together. They truely exemplified the verse in Mark that says, “they are no longer two but one flesh.”

Grandpa’s faith in the LORD was not so much spoken about, that I remember, as it was lived. He doesn’t know it, but he gave me the most beautiful gift last Christmas… We had all come here to Grace Church for the Christmas Eve service; which seems to have become a family tradition for us…Christmas eve at Grace & then onto Scott & Jo’s for appy’s. Anyways, I went over and sat beside Grandpa, as I saw him sitting all alone. There was lots of special music that night and I kept thinking about those delicious appy’s waiting for me back at Jo’s. Then, someone got up with their guitar & prepared to lead us all in some old old hymns. Well you can imagine my excitement at this point. And then I heard it… It was like an angel singing in my ear. This tiny, frail, aging man beside me was effortlessly belting out with such passion and conviction, the words to “The Old Rugged Cross.” ~~~ I don’t remember if I ever got my appy’s that night, but I’ll never forget that sweet sweet voice. Mom describes her last visit with Grandpa in much the same way.

Before I knew that Grandpa’s health had started failing, I had begun a book study with a few friends and it was taking us on a journey through our past and having us record any key people and monumental events that have helped shape us up to this point. Well you can probably all guess by now who was one of the people at the top of my list. Grandpa was that constant, steady influence & rock that I now recognize God put in my life (and probably many of yours as well) to help us better understand and know who Jesus really is and how deep His love for us really goes. Because of this, my time reading scripture to Grandpa in the hospital a couple of weeks ago was without a doubt, a treasure worth far more to me than words could ever describe. Isn’t that just like God? He knew!! Here I was, reading to Grandpa, from the very same book upon which he taught me from for so many years. I guess we’ve come full circle hey Grandpa. I will miss you but I know Jesus must have been so excited to see you again!! Love you Grandpa. Xoxoxo Christine Harder

Hilda Bendig – Home at 100

Our oldest member of Grace, whose 100th birthday we celebrated just two weeks ago,  went home to be with Jesus on Tuesday this week.  Her funeral and memorial service will be at Grace MB Church Saturday, March 10th, 2012  at 11am followed by a grave side committal at Lakeview Cemetery and a luncheon at the church.  You can read about Hilda’s L.I.F.E. below from her Profile page written by SKM.   The funeral was broadcast via internet and can be viewed below.

 

Hilda-100 Years to L.I.F.E. Memorial Service at Grace- Mar. 10/12


Hilda-100 Years to L.I.F.E.
Feb. 26th @ Grace MB Church we celebrated with Hilda and her family 100 years of God’s faithfulness and blessings on her L.I.F.E.

Hilda – A Life of Amazing Grace

  

     Hilda’s dining room window overlooks the Retirement Centre, and the rugged old evergreen which stands unobtrusively to the north of its driveway. She loves to watch the comings and goings of that friendly, busy place. Occasionally her brother Gordon and his wife Isabel take her there for lunch after a Sunday church service. Hilda has good reason for feeling homey about that place: “When we first came to Penticton, we lived right where the Centre is now,” she said. “We owned the three-storey lodge that was there – Ettrick Lodge. My husband John planted that old fir tree . . .When he was in the hospital; I used to bring him home quite often. I’d push the wheelchair up the elevator, to this dining room window, and say, ‘Remember, John? Remember that tree you planted there?’”

     John died in 1993. People filled the church at his funeral, to pay tribute to this good natured, hard working, God-fearing man — 300 Bibles were donated in his memory.

               * * * * *

Grace came early and stayed!

     Hilda was born to godly parents, Severt and Minnie Halvorson, in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan, on Feb. 29, 1912 — a Leap Year baby! Her parents were founding members of the Baptist church there. Early in life she accepted the LORD Jesus as her Saviour and was baptized. She enjoyed fellowship with her friends at church whenever possible; but in 1929, when a handsome young stranger showed up at the services, she knew he’d be special to her. John had left his native Germany and taken up residence in Shaunavon, hoping for a peaceful life in Canada. Hilda admired him greatly, especially when she saw how diligently he applied himself to learn the English language. It soon became evident that God was bringing the two of them together. They were married in Chilliwack, BC, on December 6, 1932. The Lord gave them two lovely daughters, and over 60 happy years together. Together they served the Lord faithfully, whatever came to hand — always with joy and grace.

     In Chilliwack they operated a mixed farm, and John worked on the railroad for a few years. Then, in 1942, after purchasing Ettrick Lodge, they moved to Penticton where they lived for about 14 years. It was quite something to feed a houseful of boarders, and keep their laundry clean. When the Penticton Airport was being built, the whole crew stayed at Ettrick Lodge for the duration. “I enjoyed it,” said Hilda, “Food was rationed then, so I did a lot of canning. It was a lot of work; but I could do it then because I was young.”

     Their family joined the nearby Baptist church in Penticton, located where Kentucky Chicken stands now. It was a vibrant little church, with a large Sunday School and Youth Group. Both Hilda and John helped teach children, and both of them sang in the choir. Their daughters were active with the youth; and Hilda, with the ladies’ fellowship group.

     Later, the family moved to Trout Creek, where Hilda’s aged mother came to live with them for a while. At this time they joined a group of believers who were forming an Associated Gospel Church, which later became GRACE Mennonite Brethren Church.

 

Grace that shows!

 

     Hilda is known in the church for her quiet faithfulness. She loves the old hymns, one of her favourites being What a Friend We Have in Jesus. “Sometimes I wake up at night, and these old hymns come to mind. I enjoyed everything we did in church. I’d be lost without the church. I think that’s my best advice to young people — stay in church. I thank the Lord for blessing me in so many ways! When I think back on things … Oh!!  I can’t help but thank the Lord for what He has done. Now I realize, God has been good to me!! Another thing — John and I had a wonderful married life! I’m not saying that to boast, or anything, but when I think of things now — when I put it all together, I think, ‘Well, I’ve got so much to be thankful for.’ I think He kept me out of a lot of trouble. I really think so! It was best for the Lord to have His way. If we let God have His way, that’s best! Then you can’t go wrong.”

     Hilda, having reached her 90th year, says,

 “Just give God all the glory!”

 

February 2002

 

© 2002 SKM

Ludger and Irene Jesso

Off to Kenya…farewell from the Tuesday group. Ludger, Irene and Enoch Jesso have a faith based ministry called Jerusalem Children’s Ministries.  It is located in Kikuyu, Kenya and operates as an orphanage.  They were heading back after spending the last few months in Penticton and fellowship with the folks at Grace.  We were sorry to see them go but know that God has a purpose for them that is calling them onward.

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