A week ago today, I was ordained as a Minister of the Word at Redeemer Reformation Church of Regina. I expected and hoped that my ordination day would be memorable. But not like this. It was 5:00pm and I was at Staples making copies of a song that we would sing during my ordination service planned for that evening. My phone rang and I heard a familiar voice on the other end with a very unfamiliar tone in his voice, which worried me. It was one of my elders, Geoff Leo. I asked him how things were going. His response, “Not good. Ron, Henry and Barry were in a car accident on the way into town and they are being rushed to the hospital as we speak.” Now I was really worried. My heart began to beat faster and my head began to throb with anxious thoughts.
Ron Anderson is the longest serving elder in our church. Henry Nagtegaal is an elder from Providence Reformed Church in Winnipeg and Rev. Barry Beukema is the pastor of the United Reformed Church of Thunder Bay. Henry and Barry were in town to witness the ordination and celebrate with us. They were driving down the highway planning to grab a bite to eat before the service at 7:00pm. Without warning, a motor home turned in front of them. They hit it broadside, almost at full speed. They were being rushed to the hospital less than two hours before the service was to begin.
After I had finished praying and checking out at Staples, I went home and told my wife the news and we prayed once again. Then we gathered our things and my wife, my 14 month old son, Rev. Danny Hyde and I headed to the church. Rev. Hyde, who was my pastor during seminary, traveled from Oceanside, CA, to Regina in order to perform the ordination. As we were traveling to church I started to think, “what if one of these dear brothers dies tonight on the night I am ordained. I never would have thought that I would be doing a funeral in my first week as an ordained minister.” I began to pray that God would preserve their lives and that he would bring glory to his name through the hope that we have in Christ. Even though I knew that these brothers share in that hope I had trouble holding back tears.
I had been looking forward to this day since I was a teenager. When I was 17 years old on a short term missions trip in Ecuador, I first felt the internal call to the ministry, that “woe is me if I preach not the gospel” feeling. On March 12, 2010, 12 years later, my internal call was confirmed externally by the people of God. Brothers from churches across Western Canada had gathered to celebrate with us. Humanly speaking, I was hoping that this would be a day filled with joy. But our sovereign God obviously had other plans.
We arrived at the church at 6:20pm and greeted people as they arrived. The women were downstairs preparing food for our guests, kids were running around and people were chatting. Most were unaware of the car accident at this point. When the time arrived for the service to start, Geoff welcomed everyone and made a few announcements. Then came the time to announce to everyone the news of the car accident. He began by reading the Scriptures: “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Pet. 1:24-25).
He then proceeded to say that we are reminded this day of both our frailty and the abiding Word of God. He shared the bad news of elder Ron Anderson, elder Henry Nagtegaal and Rev. Barry Beukema. The place quickly became silent and somber. At this point we knew that they would live, but that they were very badly injured and would not make it to the service.
Beyond the obvious tragedy of the accident it was disappointing that these brothers missed the service for other reasons too. Rev. Beukema traveled 1300 kilometers (more than 800 miles) to attend the service. Henry’s church in Winnipeg helped us join the URCNA and he has become a very dear friend of the congregation. And it was very sad that Ron couldn’t make it since he of all the elders of Redeemer had been with the church the longest, more than twenty years. But we were just thankful that they all were still alive. Geoff encouraged us that God is sovereign even in the midst of suffering. He works out all things for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Rom. 8:28-39).
We then proceeded to worship our Triune God who reigns over all the circumstances of our lives. Rev. Hyde called us to worship and we called on the name of the Lord. As Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). We did not know why these things were happening, but we knew that God is sovereign and that he is good. To worship Him and hear His comforting Word was just what we needed.
Rev. Hyde brought us a powerful message from God’s Word entitled, “The Pastor as Pattern of Perfect Patience” based on 1 Tim. 1:16. I then was ordained to the ministry. Rev. Hyde read the liturgical form and Rev. Greg Bero gave the charge. Rev. Bero has been my pastor since I was 18. Grace United Reformed Church of Torrance, CA paid for my seminary tuition and patiently gave me the opportunity to test my gifts. I am thankful that Rev. Bero was able to represent the saints in Torrance and give me the charge.
Another highlight of the service was the greetings from sister churches that were given by the visiting ministers, Rev. Bill Pols, Rev. Daniel Kok, and Rev. Wybren Oord. They all traveled from Alberta. Franck, one of the elders of Redeemer, read greetings from Rev. Ralph Pontier and from Rev. Steve Swets. The words from these ministers were dear to me as those who have been in the ministry already for many years.
As the service came to a close, I gave my first benediction as an ordained minister. For some reason I chose one of the longer benedictions. I was glad that I didn’t choke and forget the words. But it was my great privilege to stand in the place of Christ and raise my hands and pronounce a blessing on God’s people from his Word.
God’s people left with His peace, a peace that only God can give, that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). We left with Ron, Henry and Barry heavy on our hearts, but we knew that our God is a God of all comfort and hope. Thankfully Henry and Rev. Beukema were discharged the next day and were able to fly home to their family. Ron is still in the hospital recovering and it is my joy and privilege to visit him in the hospital and to fulfill my calling by ministering to him in prayer and by bringing him God’s Word. Please continue to keep all three men in your prayers.
In all of this, I can’t help but believe that God knew what he was doing. He might lead us through dark valleys, but he is always leading us in just the right paths. He is our Good Shepherd, and because of Jesus Christ we can be confident that goodness and mercy will follow us wherever we go and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Ps. 23). To God Be the Glory!