Obituary - Lawrence Giesbrecht (1927 – 2023)
Lawrence Giesbrecht, husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather was born on November 13, 1927, to Bernhard and Anna Giesbrecht in a farmhouse about 2 1/2 miles south of Altona and ended his journey at the Altona Memorial Health Center on April 23, 2023.
He grew up on various farmyards on the banks of Buffalo Creek and shared many stories of the adventures he had growing up there. Fishing, visiting with travelling groups of local indigenous people camped on its banks, and annual floods were oft told tales. A lasting memory is the first thing he’d do as spring thaw happened was to drive around and look at how the water was running and the first place to go look was Buffalo Creek. As a teenager, it was at home near the creek where he made the decision to become a follower of Christ, a decision that shaped his life and the lives of so many he encountered for the rest of his life.
Beginning as a permit teacher in Woodmore, with stints in Gnadenfeld, Kronstadt, Balsam Bay, Sommerfeld, and finally Altona, Dad touched the lives of thousands of students who passed through his classroom over 37 years. Many experienced the privilege of sitting through a class learning Canadian Geography, watching slides taken on his many travels with and without his family.
Dad started teaching in Woodmore on Permit in 1947 and went back to Normal School in 1948 to upgrade his credentials. His formal learning journey continued evenings, weekends, and summer school for the next 20 years. When he was done in 1967 he had earned a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Education and a Bachelor of Pedagogy, all while teaching full time and raising a family.
It was after completing Normal School that he met his “brown-eyed girl” from Lowe Farm, our mother, Susan Schroeder. They were married on November 26, 1949 and shared the adventure for over 73 years. They were blessed with five children and their spouses, Sharon (Richard) Funk, Angela (Jim) Harms, Jim (Val) Giesbrecht, Steve (Diane) Giesbrecht, and Harv (Jeannette) Giesbrecht, 15 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren.
He was predeceased by his grandson, Mike Giesbrecht, his parents Bernhard P. and Anna Giesbrecht, three brothers, Edward, Stanley, Raymond, and their wives. He is survived by one sister, Verna (Jake) Martens and one brother, Marvin (Henrietta) Giesbrecht.
Dad and Mom were full time missionaries. Much of this was done informally as active members in church but formally as workers with Western Gospel Mission in Balsam Bay, Manitoba, just south of Grand Beach, Manitoba. Seven happy years were spent there in church work with children and families in that community while also teaching full time. Lifelong friendships were forged there during this time.
This commitment to sharing the gospel as lifestyle missionaries permeated our home and we were often hosts to missionaries on furlough who would visit for meals and occasionally spend the night. Dad’s love of our First Nation neighbours, a product of those youthful encounters, also extended to providing meals, rides back to Roseau River First Nation, and occasionally a safe place to spend the night on our yard in the summer where they knew they would be welcome and undisturbed.
Dad was involved in many capacities on church boards and the EMMC Conference with a special place in his heart for the missions committee. Upon his retirement from education, he promptly took on the role as Director of Missions for the EMMC Conference, a position he held for the next 8 years. During this time, he travelled with us as a family extensively throughout North and Central America by car (think summer, station wagon, five kids, vinyl seats, no air conditioning).
His globe-trotting adventures literally took off when he became Missions Director with travels to South and Central America, Africa, Europe, Central Asia, with Mom along for the journey. The work in Bolivia held a special place in his heart and he spoke with pride of the La Fortaleza Church and the school in Santa Cruz which he helped get started with three classrooms and is attended by hundreds of students today.
His love for the Bolivian people was returned when he fell ill a number of years ago and his health became very fragile. A group of Bolivian pastors visiting Canada became aware of his situation and came to the house to pray over him. He was convinced that their powerful prayer put him on the road to recovery and he was able to enjoy many more good years after that.
His ability to work with others and make wise choices was also evident in his work with EMMC Missions during a time of transition. Acquiring land in Bolivia for the church and school in Santa Cruz, finding national staff for the clinic in Chorovi and helping build the team to carry the work forward on a day-to-day basis both there and in Mexico required discernment and diplomacy and wise choices to find practical solutions to sometimes difficult problems.
His guide was the Bible and he could always find a verse to fit a situation. Proverbs 3:5&6 was a favourite. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” God honoured that trust and he always seemed to be in the right place. He shared that sentiment many times in his final weeks, that he was content with the life God granted him.
We as a family want to extend our thanks to the health professionals, as well as to Trevor Groening and Wiebe Funeral Home of Altona. We have appreciated your care during this difficult time.
We have a lifetime of memories, too many to share, of a husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather whose life pointed us to God in whose presence he now rests. We rejoice in the knowledge that although we miss him, we will meet again.
Funeral services were held April 30, 2023 at the Altona EMMC, Manitoba.