Last September I was visiting a Nova Scotia First Nation community, spending time with friends I had served among a few years before. One day I received a text with some shocking news from back in Prince Albert.
My friend Wendy Bear had passed away suddenly.
I immediately phoned her family, and a couple days later flew back to Prince Albert in time for her funeral.
The funeral was to be held at Muskoday, Wendy’s home Reserve, close to P.A. I was surprised and honored to see that my name had been included along with family members in her published obituary.
I was further honored – but mostly felt unprepared and inadequate – when Wendy’s mother asked me, just before the funeral service started, if I would speak!
With just a few minutes to collect my thoughts, I wondered what the Lord would want me to share with the large crowd gathered.
I first met Wendy at a women’s fitness centre where she was doing physiotherapy for her injured leg. She was obviously interested in spiritual things, and it was her idea for the two of us to meet each week for a Bible study together.
Time spent with Wendy was “different.” She struggled with a chemical imbalance of the brain, which sometimes affected her personality and reasoning.
Thoughts of unworthiness came to me as I sat in the pew preparing what I might say. To be honest, sometimes I ministered to Wendy only because I knew the Lord wanted me to.
Before it was my turn to go up to the front to speak, the stories her family began to share about Wendy confirmed that she was a special lady, and had touched many lives besides my own during her 46 years of life.
Along with stories of her childhood, her family told how Wendy graduated from high school in Saskatoon. Her illness prevented her initial career plans, but it didn’t stop her from attending university for awhile, and later graduating from a Medical Administrative Assistant Program.
No matter how many setbacks she experienced, she never gave up. For instance, an injury to her leg led to years of physiotherapy. As additional therapy, Wendy chose to deliver flyers for a local newspaper.
Her uncle told a humorous story of when Wendy took her drivers test. Apparently she didn’t do so well on her first several tries. On one of those tests she stopped the car, got out, and made a special request for a different examiner!
What also came out in the stories was that Wendy loved to serve. She sang in the Alliance Church choir, and helped in the church library. She assisted at Muskoday First Nation Community School, visited elders in the hospital, and patients in the psychiatric ward.
She volunteered at the local Christian radio station reading announcements, along with editing a Cree program with Bible stories for children.
At Muskoday she saw the need to minister to children. She organized “Bible Fun Days” – a kids’ club at Muskoday Baptist Church.
When I was called to the front, the Lord gave me strength to talk to the many relatives and community friends there.
I can’t remember now all that I said, but there was one thing that I wanted to communicate above the rest.
Beyond all the ways Wendy sought to serve, I noticed that, as God had worked in her life, Wendy had changed. Everyone knew her as a person who would speak her mind. But I’d seen her change from a person who often told other people they were wrong and should change, to someone who saw her own need, and others’ need of the Lord.
Wendy’s life serves as a reminder that everything I do for the Lord should begin with my own sense of a need for Him.
Lydia Goede serves in NCEM’s Bookstore in downtown Prince Albert where she enjoys opportunities to talk with those who stop in. Besides serving local customers, Lydia distributes Bookstore products to locations across Canada. You may request our Bookstore catalogue by phoning Lydia at 306-764-4490.
(from Northern Lights issue #424)