Obituary: John D. Stoesz


John D. Stoesz

On Dec. 14, 2017, suddenly but peacefully at home, John Stoesz left to take possession of the home prepared for him in glory.

John was born on the farm, northeast of Niverville, Man., to Mary (Mika Schroeder) and David Stoesz on March 5, 1928. His parents predeceased him, as did his brother David Stoesz, his sister Anne and husband Peter Neufeld, his sister Katherine and husband Wally Pauls, and brother-in-law Neil Fast. He was also predeceased by his dear son Fred and a great-grandson Spencer.

John is survived by his beloved wife Ellen (Dueck) of 66 years, Fred’s wife Jolene (Klassen), daughter Marg and husband Kevin Wiebe, son Gerald and wife Kim (Bartel), daughter Linda and husband Mike Enns, and daughter Pat and husband Eric Boorman; 14 grandchildren and their spouses/partners; 13 great-grandchildren; sister Betty Fast, sister-in-law Mary Stoesz, Ellen’s family, and many friends.

He accepted the Lord on June 16, 1946, at age 18, and was baptized that same year and received into the fellowship of the Niverville MB Church. After finishing high school at MBCI in Winnipeg, he enrolled in Teachers College in Tuxedo. He taught elementary school for 13 years. The church very early gave him the opportunity to serve in the choir as well as in youth ministry and preaching.

In his heart he always hoped to spend some time in biblical studies. He believed, and often taught, that being a follower of Jesus meant a “lifetime of service.” After teaching at three schools (Linden, Arran, and Niverville), he left teaching and studied at MBBC and graduated with a theology degree in 1966. He was ordained into the pastoral ministry the same year and served the Kelowna MB Church for seven years, the Winkler MB Church for nine years, and then eleven years with the Braeside EMC in Winnipeg.

These were not easy years for the family as it meant several major moves, but Ellen and the children were always supportive and made the challenge much more pleasant. When he reached the age of 65 he retired because it said in the EMC Minister’s Manual that “Pastors should normally retire at age 65.” He retired because, as he put it, “I want to be normal!”

So what did he do in retirement? For 13 years he helped with a new church plant in Ste. Adolphe, doing much of the preaching and teaching along with a major renovation project. Also he followed his secondary inclination and took on the seniors’ ministry at Braeside, which soon developed into a choir that he named the “Keenagers” which he enjoyed immensely for a long time.

In 2011, already struggling with mobility issues, he was diagnosed with the beginning of Parkinson’s Disease. This “forced” him into retirement—at age 84. He had two guiding Bible verses that he lived by. As for the domestic things of life, he leaned on Matt. 6:33: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well.”

As for his ministry, he held to Rev. 2:10: “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life.” He had a special prayer: “No greater joy can I have than this, than to hear that my children follow the truth” (3 John 4).

John’s funeral was held on Dec. 19, 2017, at Braeside EMC with Pastor Kim Stoesz, his daughter-in-law, officiating.

 – His Family

Loreena Thiessen: Lessons from a Tree

by Loreena Thiessen

Your summer vacation is over. Each morning you were up early and ready to go. It’s back to school and that means work, school work.

The sun still feels warm on your face and summer’s leafy trees still provide shade. But not for long. As temperatures cool a change happens.

For trees to provide shade they must grow a good canopy, a cover of leaves, and to grow leaves must have food. Trees need four things to produce food for their leaves. These are sunlight, water, carbon dioxide, and chlorophyll.

Rain provides the water that soaks into the ground and is absorbed by the tree’s roots and then travels up the trunk to the branches and leaves. Carbon dioxide is the breath you breathe out which is absorbed by the leaves. These ingredients, carbon dioxide, moisture from the ground, and sunlight create sugar, which is food for the leaves.

This process is called photosynthesis. The green colour of leaves comes from a natural substance within the leaves called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll helps trees use sunlight to produce the food they need.

In fall temperatures cool down and daylight hours grow shorter; in midwinter the sun sets around 4 p.m. Less sunlight and cooler temperatures are signals for the leaves to stop making food.

The chlorophyll in the leaves breaks down and the green color disappears. Leaves turn yellow, orange, brown and red. The tree lets them go and they fall to the ground. It is time for trees to begin their long winter rest.

Fall is a time for change. You begin your new school year and trees begin their winter break.

There are many things we can learn from trees. Scientists find that having trees around us is soothing and helps us relax. They clean the air you breathe by absorbing, or taking in poisonous gases and metals that are found in smoke from factories and car exhaust. In return they give out oxygen, the air you need to breathe.

Trees are a natural air conditioner. Their shade keeps you and your house cool. In a city enough trees can lower summer temperatures by 7 degrees while you enjoy playing outdoors.

Trees provide homes for birds and small animals. They provide food like tree fruits and nuts for people and for animals. A row of trees will reduce noise levels from traffic going by your house or school. They will stop the wind too. And their different shapes and colours make the countryside beautiful.

Loreena Thiessen

One of the first things God did was grow trees. He says he made them for their beauty and for food, except for one, which Adam and Eve could not eat from (Genesis 2:8-9). But they did not listen, and were sent out of the Garden. This brought hardship and sadness to their lives.

In Psalm 1:1-3, God says that anyone who knows and listens to the laws of God is like a tree planted by the rivers of water. He will prosper and have good success.

Activity: Gratitude Stones

 Need: clean stones with a smooth surface, tissue paper, scissors, glossy Mod Podge, paintbrushes.

Do: 1. Cut out small tissue paper hearts. Place one on the smooth surface of a stone. 2. Use paintbrush to lightly spread a thin layer of Mod Podge over tissue paper heart and over the surface of the stone. 3. Allow to dry undisturbed. 4. Flip stone over and spread Mod Podge over this side. 5. Allow to dry undisturbed. This makes a seamless smooth stone that feels natural. 5. At dinner pass the stone around. While holding the stone share something for which you feel thankful.

Pastor Albert Loewen: It Is An Awesome God We Serve!

by Albert Loewen

ALYMER, Ont.—Albert Loewen was asked to tell us about his ministry as the senior pastor of Mount Salem Community Church.

Tell us about where you were raised, educated, and served prior to MSCC.
I was born in Mexico, but from the age of three southern Ontario has been home. My family has always lived in Aylmer and I grew up in the church I currently serve in.

My goal in life was never to become a pastor and so my post-secondary education is all over the place. I took one year at Steinbach Bible College. Then, convinced that policing was my call, I pursued a college degree in Police Foundations. A few years after that I felt called not to pursue policing, despite not being sure what God did want me to pursue. During the next few years I felt that perhaps counselling was my call and so I gathered all my courses together and began working on a Bachelor of Theology and Counselling from Emmanuel Bible College.

During that time, I was hired on staff at Mount Salem and continued my education until the demands of family and work were too much. I need two more courses to obtain my degree—so perhaps one day I will return. A few years ago I attended Arrow Leadership’s Emerging Stream program which is a 15-month program, and it has been the most impactful learning that I have done in regards to my work as a pastor and would highly recommend other pastors consider it—despite its high cost.

Tell us about your family.
My wife Josie and I started dating in grade nine and have been in love ever since. This journey would have never been possible without her support and wisdom through the years. Together we have six kids and enjoy the chaos that brings (most days).

What led you to serve here?
When I felt compelled to give up policing God really instilled in me a love for the local church. We started serving in our church and, in time, as doors opened we walked through them, and are grateful that we did. Serving here has been the privilege of a lifetime. The leadership and congregation have taken such incredibly great care of us over the past eight years and we are so thankful for that.

To understand you as a pastoral couple, what do people need to know?
We are pretty simple people. We love helping people, love laughing and being challenged; and I love the variety that a job like this brings. Never knowing what the next day will hold fits my life well.

What else would you want to say?
There is so much I would love to say, but I think I would summarize it up like this: God is faithful. Through all the great and difficult times, I have often not known what to do, but God has never failed me and for that I am so grateful. It is an awesome God we serve.

Obituary: Pastor Manfred Neff


Manfred Neff

Manfred Rolf Eugen Neff (Fred) was born on Sept. 21, 1946, in Graupe, Germany. He passed away at the Bethesda Regional Health Centre in Steinbach, Man., on the evening of June 10, 2018. He was diagnosed with cancer in August of 2016 and succumbed to the disease, fully prepared and ready to meet his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Manfred’s father Eugen had married Johanna and had a son Guenther before World War Two. Eugen served as a medic in the German army, was stationed in Norway, and became a prisoner of war. Upon release, Eugen lived with his family on the east side of a divided Germany and had to flee to the west after he helped a Jewish neighbour escape to the west. Later Johanna, Guenther, and two-year-old Manfred went through the woods at night on foot and by baby carriage until they got to the west.

Manfred followed Guenther to Canada, returning to Germany for a period to care for his ailing father. In Canada, Manfred worked underground in Thompson, Man., and as a carpenter before studying at Nipawin Bible Institute for two years and then serving as a pastor in Grand Rapids, Man., until he became ill.

Manfred and Stella met in 1972 and were married in 1974. Stella was an educator in various communities.

Manfred is survived by his wife Stella and his children, Eileen, Allan (Suzie), and Tom (Brandi). He will be lovingly remembered by his grandchildren, Samantha (Lenny), Courtney (godchild), Chantell (Jeffrey), Rachel, Tyler, Jace, Sella, Jaymin, Lyla, Jordin, Bentley, and Kashtin; his great-grandchildren, Taylor (Dallas), Tristen, Treyson, Lennon, Jaylen, Bianca, River, Jetta, Ryker, Sage and Piper; his great-great grandchild Nova; his godchild Karen, and special nephew Kevin and special niece Cheri.

Manfred is also survived by his brother Guenther (Rosemary), numerous nieces and nephews, brothers- and sisters-in-law, Herb (Iona), Ellen, Richard (Cathy), Ronnie (Shelley), Norma (Dave), Nora, Joanne (Jim), Dunstan, and Mike (Val).

Manfred was predeceased by his parents Eugen and Johanna Neff, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, in-laws Walter and Norma Cook, nephew Kashtin, brothers-in-law Donald, Ted, Klaus, Cameron, and sister-in-law Gladys.

Wake services were held on Thursday and Friday, June 14 and 15, at 7 p.m., in the St. Alexander Catholic Hall in Grand Rapids. The funeral service was held on Saturday, June 16, 2018, at 1 pm., at the St. James Anglican Church (a building that Manfred constructed). The officiant was Pastor Steve Martin, Anglican, with Noël Boulanger, OMI, involved with scripture and prayer. The sermon was by Pastor Ron Thiessen of Community Bible Fellowship, Swan River, Man., where Manfred and Stella had been involved.

Pallbearers were Ken Cook, Murray Cook, Dustin Murdock, Vernon Cook, Roland Moodie, and Darren Guimont. Honourary pallbearers were all of his friends. Interment was in St. James Anglican Church cemetery.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

His Family

Sherri Grosz: Moments of Kindness

by Sherri Grosz

It wasn’t really a bad day, but there had been enough inconveniences to put me in a bad mood. I tripped and bruised my knee. The milk was sour. I was stood-up at a meeting I’d confirmed. The zipper on my jacket broke.

None of these events were earth-shattering, but I wasn’t keen to repeat them. I decided to console myself with a cup of tea on the way back to the office.

At the drive-thru, I held out some money to the cashier. She beamed at me and said, “Your order is paid for.” This didn’t make sense. I kept holding my money out. “Pardon?” I asked. “The guy ahead of you, he paid for your order,” the smiling clerk explained. Neat! Suddenly, all seemed right with the world again.

It would have been easy to get bogged down by everything that went wrong, but this kindness reframed it for me. I gave the clerk some money and asked her to cover someone’s order. My tea-break benefactor had only saved me about a loonie, but the kindness was much more valuable. It changed my day. I drove back to work with a smile.

Sometimes, it feels like kindness is in short supply. I’ve heard it often (and said it): “I’d love to help, but I have to (whatever I’m running to or from that day).” We blame our modern lives for this disconnection, but it’s not a new problem.

Jesus told the story of a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho who was attacked on the road, robbed, and left for dead. First a priest and then a Levite pass along the same road, but both avoid the injured man. Then a Samaritan comes along and, despite historical enmity between their peoples, stops to help. He disinfects and bandages the man’s wounds, then brings him to an inn to recuperate. In the morning the Samaritan gives two silver coins to the innkeeper, saying, “Take good care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, put it on my bill. I’ll pay you on my way back” (paraphrase of Luke 10: 25-35).

I wonder how the Samaritan’s charity affected the traveller once he recovered. Did he remember the robbers’ cruelty and shape his life by that memory? Or did he remember the Samaritan’s generosity and shape his life by that debt? Did he “pay it forward” to others? Jesus ends his parable by asking, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10: 36-37 NIV).

I’ve recently been trying to emulate the good Samaritan, paying more attention to those around me. I am being more open with my money, but, as that cup of tea bought by a stranger taught me, kindness is more than that. I am also seizing tiny moments of kindness each day—holding the door, letting someone else go ahead in line, taking time to interact with the store clerk.

Our schedules will always be busy, no matter what time of year or stage of life we’re in. But by practicing simple gestures of kindness, we might change someone’s bad day into a good one. Kindness might even change the direction of a life. I think we all have time for that.

Sherri Grosz

Sherri Grosz is a Gift Planning Consultant with Abundance Canada. For more than 40 years, Abundance Canada has effectively helped Canadians with their charitable giving in their lifetime and through their estate. To learn more, visit or call 1.800.772.3257 to arrange a confidential, no obligation free consultation.

Dr. Chris Marchand: Caregivers, Take Care!

Mental Health Initiative 2018

An Interview About Secondary Trauma

with Dr. Chris Marchand by Irma Janzen

Irma Janzen: Secondary trauma, also called vicarious trauma, is a relatively new term for many of us. Could you give us a definition of what it is?

Chris Marchand: Secondary Trauma refers to the indirect trauma that can occur when we hear about difficult or disturbing images and stories from people who have experienced these disturbing incidents.

IJ: When and who are people susceptible to secondary trauma?

CM: It’s common with professionals and volunteers serving in health care, chaplaincy, pastoral ministry, palliative care, youth work, firefighters, lawyers studying a case, emergency response teams, policing, child and family services, teaching and/or any other role where people find themselves witnessing trauma. Typically, it brings a sense of feeling overwhelmed, perhaps even of fear or feeling sick because of what we have heard.

IJ:  What symptoms are clues for caregivers that they are nearing the brink of succumbing to secondary trauma?

CM: There are lots, but some of the more significant clues include loss of meaning connected to our caregiving (example: “What’s the point?”), loss of hope (“Nothing I do matters, so why bother?”) and loss of connection (isolation from people). Other signs include a reduced capacity for caring, decreased ability to express empathy, fear/terror, reoccurring nightmares, easily startled, paranoia, inability to say no, feeling sick when expected to care, anger/rage, burnout, and sleep problems.

The discomfort we feel when we experience Secondary Trauma can lead to a desire for comfort. Medicating behaviours are common, including an increase in alcohol or narcotic use, pornography, using food for comfort, or even increased use of technology, in an attempt to keep the traumatic thoughts or images from awareness.

IJ: What are your suggestions to help prevent secondary trauma?

CM: If we want to be present to people in pain, love them, hear them, and care for them, there will always be a risk of Secondary Trauma. There is no way to bear witness to those who have suffered inexcusable violation while fully protecting ourselves from the effects of their suffering. This is risky and painful for those who care deeply, but for Christians, it can also create a deeper bond with Jesus. When the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Philippi, he connects knowing Jesus with the experience of sharing in his sufferings.

Phil. 3:10 reads, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” As we share in suffering with people, as followers of Jesus, we share in the suffering Jesus himself bears for his creation.

Having said all of this, your question is valid. It would seem a wise choice if we could prevent us from succumbing to Secondary Trauma. While it cannot be easily avoided, here are a few suggestions.

  1. As Christians, we bring the pain back to Jesus. We realize it is not ours to hold and that we cannot bear it on our own.
  2. Debriefing the traumatic encounter can help to relieve the stress of the event and provide a space to express and release feelings of rage, anger, or disappointment with God.
  3. Practicing self-awareness. This is a simple, yet powerful tool for self-preservation. Paying attention to strong feelings and allowing ourselves to feel through pain can be restorative and lifegiving. When I hear stories as a pastor about child sexual abuse, rape, or violence in the family, they can make me feel sick. After a conversation that feels overwhelming to me, or leads me to feel deep sadness, I place a large letter X in my journal. Placing an X in my journal tells me I need some time to process. I do my best to take some time off, or I arrange to speak to a therapist to let go of some of my strong emotions.
  4. Nurture relationships with friends. Fatigue and isolation are major problems for those experiencing Secondary Trauma. Having friends who won’t let you sit at home alone can help.
  5. Engage in any kind of regular physical activity. It’s best if the activity is already built-in to your schedule.

IJ:  What are good ways to deal with Secondary Trauma if indeed a person has already gotten to that place?

CM: Good question.

  1. Be gentle. Experiencing Secondary Trauma is painful, but having an emotional injury is also frustrating. Let me explain. If you’re working in your garage and you hit your thumb with the hammer, you immediately change your behaviour. You easily associate the pain in your thumb with the head of the hammer. This helps you to understand why your thumb is throbbing and it helps you with your response. An emotional injury is often baffling. People feel the pain, but there’s no hammer.

Example: During a long death-oriented conversation, you hear a friend say, “I’m sick of living. No one would even care if I went missing. Maybe I should just kill myself.” That friend does not attempt suicide, but a few days later you feel restless; you can’t sleep. You feel afraid for what seems like no reason at all. You think about your day, what you ate, what you saw on TV. It doesn’t make sense.

Secondary Trauma can show up in our feelings and behaviours days after the traumatic event. Things can be even more intense if you’ve had a friend die by suicide. You might be terrified, even obsessed with keeping your friend safe. Secondary Trauma might be even more intense if you yourself have experienced thoughts of suicide, or have attempted to end your life.

The trauma of that conversation might actually lead to some of the symptoms or medicating behaviours listed above. When the temptation to medicate feelings strikes you a week after the traumatic event, it’s often treated as a moral failure or a spiritual problem to be confessed. It’s rarely treated like the normal personal consequences of caring deeply for someone in pain.

  1. Education. Awareness is powerful. The more we know about Secondary Trauma, the faster we can recognize the symptoms in our own lives. This is not a terminal illness. We can heal through Secondary Trauma although the experience of feeling wounded by trauma never fully leaves us. Get help. Find a caring therapist who understands Secondary Trauma and can help you heal.

 IJ: Other questions or comments you want to add.

CM: Sometimes people will gravitate to God, recognizing their need for strength. At other times, people who really love the Lord will find themselves overwhelmed with anger at God, asking questions like, “How could a loving God allow this to happen?” Those folks need grace.

They need Christians in their life to understand that they’re now living with an emotional injury. They will likely never be able to see God as they once did. This is painful and sad to watch. When we sit with people who’ve experienced trauma, we might find ourselves asking, “Who is God now?” Before we experienced this pain, we thought we knew. We thought our vibrant relationship with God was enough to sustain us, but sometimes it’s not.

My first funeral was for a family who lost a three-day-old baby. I was a 25-year-old pastoral intern. I’d never experienced pain like I saw that day as I stood beside the grave with those parents. I’ve had many more experiences like this one now, and each time it makes me wonder again about the character of God. It’s not that I don’t want to follow Jesus. It’s just that trauma has a way of reorienting our theology.

Irma Janzen
Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand, DMin (Pastoral Care), has taught in the area of youth ministries at Providence University College and Theological Seminary, served as a pastor (most recently at Niverville Community Fellowship), and led many workshops about self-care for caregivers. He is currently the director of Red Rock Bible Camp in Manitoba.

Irma Janzen, MEd, MA, has served in education, as the coordinator of MCC Canada’s Mental Health and Disabilities Program, and as a pastor. She is part of Fort Garry EMC.

Note: Chris will be teaching some of this material in an upcoming SBC course called “Self-care for Caregivers” on Oct. 11-13. See the details: