A sense that God had ‘chosen’ her helped during 39 years
by Terry M. Smith
Winnipeg, Man.—Joanne Martens, a long-serving missionary in Paraguay and Germany, was the centre of attention on Sept. 6, 2019, at Fort Garry EMC as friends and family, retired and active missionaries, and Board of Missions (BOM) members and national office staff gathered in her honour.
Gerald Reimer, director of youth and discipleship, welcomed people. Layton Friesen, conference pastor, spoke of how Joanne was an adopted missionary of Fort Garry and led in prayer. Dinner followed: salad, chicken, noodles, vegetables, and dessert. People later clapped in appreciation of the meal.
After dinner Glenda Friesen led in singing Holy, Holy, Holy; Great is Thy Faithfulness; and How Great is Our God. Gerald Reimer introduced Board of Missions members and national staff members.
Brad Brandt, BOM chair, led in a devotional based on how he and the EMC have sometimes suffered from low self-esteem. We are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27) and his workmanship (Eph. 2:10). We can trust that He who began a good work in us (Phil. 1:6), and is not ashamed to call us family (Heb. 2:11-12), will say, “Well done!” (Matt. 25:21). We are far from perfect, yet faithful. What is God calling us to do? Let’s be faithful in doing what God calls us to do, he said.
Tributes to Joanne Martens were given by Ken Zacharias, Director of Global Outreach, and Richard Klassen, a former pastor of Joanne’s home church, Kola EMC. Both spoke of how upon her return to Canada, Joanne has continued serving. Her current involvements include assisting theological education within a Spanish-speaking church in Brandon, serving as a newly elected member of the Board of Missions, and being Kola’s first female deacon.
Joanne Martens has served since 1980, displaying flexibility and openness, he said. She served in Paraguay for two years among Indigenous people in the Chaco, then transferred to Germany to work in two years in nursing at Black Forest Academy; she stayed for 11, mostly as a dorm assistant. She then transferred to Paraguay to work with national Paraguayans. She went to RGBI to learn Spanish and later learned an appreciation for Guarani.
Joanne worked in church planting in Asunción with Dave and Judy Schmidt, enjoying teaching SEAN in more than one setting, and covered when needed at the HIV/AIDS ministry, Ken said. It seemed like each year Ken visited, her house had been broken into, and yet he never sensed she was fearful. She worked alongside local church leadership, never taking it over. In 2007 she moved five hours away with other planters to start a church in Minga Gauzú, again showing flexibility.
Richard Klassen, a former pastor at both Maryfield and Kola, said he had known Joanne since she was a child. Impressed that a young woman would serve in a far-off country, he described her as part of an earlier generation who were dedicated to the mission of Christ.
Later serving as a pastor at Kola EMC, he, with his wife Kathy, visited Joanne in Paraguay where he observed her concern for people and positive relationships. He recalled her counsel not to count how often a nearby rooster crowed at night—advice that helped him deal with a noisy neighbour in Canada. He suggested, though, that people not go to her if they need help with a computer or a car. He prayed God’s rich blessing upon her.
Trish Reimer, a BOM member acting on behalf of the entire EMC, presented to Joanne a bouquet of flowers and a glass plaque engraved with a favourite verse.
Response by Joanne
Joanne said she hardly recognized herself in the tributes. In an earlier time when she was in between places of service, Isaiah 41:9-10 was used to reassure that God had chosen and not rejected her. She drew upon this sense of calling when she felt useless and yet was in the place where God wanted her.
While recently going through letters from friends and family, and remembering financial records, Joanne said she was reminded of how she was not alone. People were standing with her, encouraging her, praying for her through the years. “I just want to thank everyone,” she said. She could not have gotten to this point without such help. Joanne was grateful for God’s strength.
Tim Dyck, executive director, said that prayer was valued as the Board of Missions would meet the next day to deal with significant matters: expansion plans, the development of Home Teams for EMC-administered workers, and a staff transition. When Diana Peters began about eight years ago, he thought she had a lot to learn; yet she proved to be a fast learner and he wondered how she would be replaced. He welcomed prayer for interviews that will happen and for direction for Diana in a time of change.
Other needs were mentioned and prayed about: for Charles Koop, Director of Church Planting, who recently retired because of a health concern; and for a young adult. Wayne Herrod, a retired missionary, spoke of how God spoke to people and had provided during 24 years in Africa. Upon request, missionaries present were introduced. Time was then spent praying for needs identified within small groups.
Glenda Friesen led in a final song and then Gerald Reimer dismissed people.