The Life of Annette van Enns
To say our Mission was heavily affected by Annette vanEnns’ passing in January does not nearly express all that we feel.
For eight years Ann had been fighting a mostly-successful war with cancer, and was able to stay involved in ministry at Ft. Chipewyan, AB. Last fall a different strain overwhelmed her. She was in the midst of ministry with her husband, Arlyn, when she passed away at age 58.
Raised in Oregon, Ann attended Prairie Bible College. From 1981 till their marriage in 1993, she taught in Oregon and Alberta. Arlyn & Ann met through music and, as Arlyn tells it, they parted the same way.
“We sang together: ‘This is the day that the Lord has made; not like tomorrow or yesterday! He made this day in a special way, so let’s rejoice and be glad in it.’ There was a good chance that by the last line, Ann had been enabled to sing with much firmer voice than I!” Arlyn shared.
Ann touched many lives, as was evidenced by the many local people and visitors at her wake service, funeral and burial in Ft. Chip. Understandably, because of Ft. Chip’s remoteness, some closest to her could not be there.
Two summers ago the vanEnnses made a circuit through Ontario to visit Key-Way-Tin Bible Institute students they had taught in modular classes. These turned out to be Ann’s good-byes. It included Eric & Michelle Sinclair (now associate missionaries). Michelle knew Ann well as a friend, mentor, coworker, and even a little as matchmaker!
Michelle recalls: “We shared so many wonderful times together.” Going through photos recently, she noticed that they certainly weren’t all serious, particularly an especially “goofy” photo from a KBI dorm gathering.
Michelle says, “Glancing through those photos was like opening up a treasure of pure gold, just for me to enjoy, given by our Heavenly Father … gold pieces, of Ann and the impact she had on me … her gentle spirit, the model of a woman after God’s own heart.”
Regarding Ann’s “match making,” Arlyn says that that trip through Ontario included Lisa, now married to another former KBI student, Ted Kejick. Years before, Lisa was led to the Lord by Ann, and was with them a great deal in their home, and with them “in the bush” throughout her childhood.
Among NCEM coworkers who will especially miss Ann are Al & Marilyn Bailey, who the vanEnnses first met in the 1970s at Prairie. Later the Baileys were their mentors on the field. “Annie was buried in the sweater she liked so very much,” says Arlyn, “one that Marilyn had recently mailed her. She had opened it early, and it was the only Christmas gift she was able to understand and enjoy this year.”
Folks in Ft. Chip took opportunity to share their memories of Ann at her wake service, and for this article. Those part of the ladies’ Bible study recalled the time they decided to wash each other’s feet.
“Annette washed mine, ever so careful not to hurt my sore foot … and then rubbed cream on them,” one remembered. This same lady, after bringing her write-up to Arlyn, returned to say: “Writing about our Annette made me look up Jesus washing our feet again. If He wasn’t too high and mighty to sit down with us and serve us, how could we be too proud to work for each other?”
Many told of Ann’s heart. One wrote, “My children loved Auntie Annette so much. She taught them love! The smile on her face was a light in this village.” Others mentioned Annette’s story telling ability as a wonderful gift to them. “She captured her audience,” wrote one.
The gift of time Ann shared with others was obviously highly valued. “She went all over with us on the trap-line … she really could pick (berries)!” wrote one. “You could tell that she enjoyed it.” added another. And the whole village knew about her tasty wild cranberry jam.
From her original diagnosis, Ann had prayed that in His sovereignty, God would work it out for His glory. “Her uncomplaining spirit continually made me marvel,” wrote Arlyn.
“In what turned out to be Ann’s public farewell, she said: ‘I don’t know how my life goes from here. It doesn’t matter. For many years I’ve been grateful of our Lord’s saving Grace. I will forever enjoy His sustaining Grace. I am content.’ ”
Arlyn tells how, since Ann’s passing, the Lord’s working in lives has been evident: “People who had never been in a Christian meeting in their lives were helping to decorate the meeting house, and in many other things, before I arrived (with Ann’s body). Ann’s wake service brought great glory to the Saviour. It was markedly shorter and more intense than the ones the folks are used to. There was much worship, contemplation, Bible teaching, and real sharing.
“My heart is still full of gratitude and praise … even a little wonder. One of many statements I recall was, ‘Over the years I’ve never seen and learned more about the central truth of “decreasing, that Christ may increase” from anyone as well as from Annette!’
“Words are inadequate,” says Arlyn, “but necessary to express my and our families’ appreciation for all the assistance, time, kindness, cards, and notes from so very many … some whom I’d never even met who were ministered to by my wife.”
Arlyn tells how, not too long before her passing, Ann lay thinking about her frustrating weakness, and upcoming blood transfusion. “A hospital worker, whom she had never seen before, came into her room and, to her amazement and joy, proceeded to sing for her, ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’ and ‘I Serve a Risen Saviour.’ Hours later Annie was still profoundly moved every time she recounted this visit from our Lord!”
Through the years given her, many also clearly sensed Christ’s presence through Annette.
(from Northern Lights, issue #536)