Highlights of the weekend:
1)Raised a record $20,495 alumni projects for the year:
-Replacing the 57yr old main range hood and oven
-Replacing the 16yr old main Hobart dishwasher
4)Dave and Sharon Dyck were main speakers
5)Alumni of the Year for 2017:
-Manfred and Stella Neff for Distinguished Faithfulness in Ministry
-Dave and Marsha Reimer for Distinguished Service to NBC
6)Well attended and relevant workshops, incredible afternoon coffee house run by Reneil Larson and the overtime win by the NBC staff/students hockey team.
Alumnus of the Year Awards 2017
First, the 2017 Alumnus of the Year award for Distinguished Service to NBC.
Our mission is of course “developing passionate followers of Jesus Christ with a heart to serve”. This gentleman’s heart to serve has been evident since the day he left. Attending for 1 year as a 25 year old, he had only been out of NBI for 9 months when he let his name stand and was voted into the role of NBI Alumni President. A role he served in for 4 years, which inevitably lead to him serving on the NBC board for a stretch. During his time on the board he was a pioneer in the online dating world. Ironicially, his future wife, not an NBI alumnus herself, was encouraged to the same website he was on by another NBI alumnus in the Saskatoon area who’d met her spouse that way. Well, this gentleman married Marsha into our Alumni Association within a year of the initial email he sent. Shortly after I connected with Dave and Marsha in fall 2011 they were able to purchase an older farm house and put it onto a basement out on an acreage near Osler. I have always remembered clearly what they first told me about that home. “We want to be able to bless others with our home and whatever stuff God might give us here”. They have lived out their goal.
There is still no other home that I personally, or our NBC tour teams have been in more over my 6 1/2 years here. In fact, we’ve even had tour team members call them after they’ve finished attending NBC and stay at their house when they’ve been in Saskatoon for something like a wedding. You know you’ve felt welcome when you’re comfortable to do that. I can talk to students from 5 and 6 years ago, and they still all remember the Reimers. They remember the smoke alarm beeping as we arrived at 10:30pm at night to a late night feast of incredible appetizers and Marsha joking with them about how they didn’t know what they were in for. And the Reimers remember the students, they remember Jordan Fosseneuve and how he introduced himself as big chocolate, and how Jeremy Sherwood meticulously squeegeed and wiped every single drop of water from a shower that wasn’t even technically supposed to be used as a shower — they still laugh about that. All this hosting while their house has been a continual construction and renovation zone, while they’ve gone from one child to four, and while they’ve managed work and acreage responsibility on the side. In talking with them recently it struck me what compels them to their hospitality and all other forms of serving. They really love people. Like Christ loves people. In recent years they began an annual home-grown “spring donut drive” welcoming the warm weather. They make literally dozens of donuts, go out with the kids, and deliver them to all the neighbours building bridges and relational connections with even the most crabby neighbour who has no chance to be crabby with a little 3 year old smiling holding up fresh home made donuts.
Both live out their faith with their lives, in secular work places, or whether they are serving in the many areas they’ve served in their home church over the years. Crafts, music, Sunday School, youth group, kids club, serving on Boards, the list goes on. Just as they have incredibly blessed NBC, their home church, and whomever they have crossed paths with, may their lives be a challenge and an encouragement to each one of us, of how faithfully we can be a willing member of the Body of Christ, building each other up, as each one does it’s part. They continue to stay in touch with NBC, pray for us, are part of the Many Hands team, and the 2017 Alumnus of the Year Award for Distinguished Service to NBC goes to Dave & Marsha Reimer.
Now, the 2017 Alumnus of the Year award for Distinguished Faithfulness in Ministry.
They’d been connected with community and a church in the Swan River area where he worked with seasonal carpentry and she with teaching/administration. He began to sense a tugging from God to invest in something more. And so it came to be they came as a mature couple to Nipawin Bible Institute. Even though they were almost old enough to be grandparents of their classmates, they embraced and enjoyed NBC community while this gentleman contributed much to his class. Leaving Nipawin in 2001 after 2 years, he wrote “I have learned so much, and now it is time to pass on what I have learned at NBI”. They moved to Grand Rapids MB, Stella’s hometown to do just that. With minimal denominational support, a church that was too small to pay them, and the challenges of serving alone, Manfred and Stella spent the last 15 years being intentional salt and light in a community desperately needing to accept the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Manfred’s roles have included regular preaching, small group Bible study and discipling men, performing countless funerals and being involved in many other community services where he’s had much opportunity to clearly share the gospel. Stella has served in largely supporting and enabling him to serve these ways, but has also been involved in music ministry and Bible studies, while together they have regularly hosted VBS’s with the help of church groups from Steinbach. Now in their 70’s, they have faced challenging health realities. In the last couple years, Stella has had heart failure issues, while 14 months ago Manfred was diagnosed with advanced cancer in his liver and was given only 8-10 months as late as this past September. The last 12 months for the Neffs have looked like this: Sunday evening drive 5 hours to Winnipeg, Monday receive blood work, Tuesday receive chemotherapy, Wed/Thu recover from the worst side effects of chemotherapy and then drive back to Grand Rapids Thursday evening so they can serve in ministry in whatever their bodies will let them do for those 3 days before driving back to Winnipeg Sunday night to start all over. With the short-life expectancy, Manfred and Stella’s hope is that the chemo would slow down the cancer enough to buy more weeks and months so they may be able to minister to the people of Grand Rapids for that much longer. James 1 starts out by saying “2 Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” and in verse 12 James gets to this fitting tribute. “12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
As Manfred and Stella live out last years, months, or perhaps even days, they await a glorious crown and the sweet presence of their Saviour. May we pray for their ministry in Grand Rapids, and hold them up in prayer, giving, or any other way as they finish their ministry on earth. May each one of us be challenged to live to our last breath faithfully sharing the love of Christ to those around us. The 2017 Alumnus of the Year Award for Distinguished Faithfulness in Ministry goes to Manfred and Stella Neff.