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Our Sunday School was my favorite! Children had the opportunity to learn Scripture verses off by heart and recite them to the teacher who kept track. If you memorized 250 verses per year, you could earn a free week at camp and even earn a Bible. What an amazing incentive! I still don’t know who were the benefactors, who paid for a week of camp for all the kids that achieved this goal. I memorized scripture every year and went to every camp FREE until age 15. Then at that age I was deemed mature enough to sign up as a counselor for the younger ones. I still have my Bible that I received for memorization – even though the print has become so much smaller over the years!
It was at summer camp in 1955 that I decided to follow Jesus after one of the counselors, Ida Hoffman, gave the invitation. I’m not quite sure I understood completely what all that meant, but I wanted to belong to Jesus more than anything. I agreed that my heart was black from sin and needed the blood of Jesus to wash it white as snow!! In November of that same year I was baptized by immersion by my uncle and became a member of the German Baptist Mission Church in Winnipeg.
I was only 11 when I was baptized. There was a lot of growing in the faith ahead of me. We had excellent teachers. Later on, as I became older I also became a teacher to the younger ones in Sunday School as well as in the Saturday German School program. I played piano in Sunday School, Church services, and Men’s Choir all at various times in my teenage years. I also joined the Saitenchor – a musical group with some playing acoustic guitars, banjo, mandolin and accordion – and the rest of us singing.
Dad wanted me to learn to play the accordion so that I could help out when the young man who played it, got married and moved away. I learned to read music and the basics of chords .When after six or eight weeks, the accordion teacher started me on polkas, dad said, “That’s enough lessons. Now you can learn the rest with the choir.” And I did! I learned how to play all those songs in the various key signatures! I loved playing the instrument, and did so for quite a number of years!! I even managed to not let the teasing about a girl playing an accordion get to me!
God gave me a heart that sees work to do and, if I’m able, I volunteer to do it. I still find that very rewarding. As a teen I loved going with the youth group to sing in one of the nursing homes and being involved wherever possible. I think what I learned at Mission Church helped to shape me into who I am in life. I had excellent role models, especially also in my aunt who was the pastor’s wife, and other teachers, leaders and friends. I also appreciated so many other adults who took a strong interest in my teenage years! If they were older than my parents we called them Opa or Oma, and if they were my parents age they were aunt or uncle – a sign of respect and great affection. We knew we were not biological family, but we belonged to each other in the family of God! The affection, love and fondness has lasted all these years and been a source of encouragement and blessing. Though many have gone to their reward, they have forever a place in my heart and my gratitude for their wonderful influence.
There was also a piano in the basement at the church. Before Sunday School classes really got going a few of the girls took the opportunity to show us some of the things they were learning at their lessons. With their coaxing I even quickly learned how to play chopsticks! When father was told that one of his daughters was clanging away on the piano at the church playing silly music, he was embarrassed, to say the least. He forbade us to join in that silliness. What I’ll never forget though is that he purchased a piano on monthly payments. Canada paid families a monthly allowance for each child. Until the piano was paid off, that monthly cheque for us 3 children, went to pay for it and then my brother and my sister got to take piano lessons. Fun memories…..