Ebenezer and Maranatha

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September 2nd was the date on the calendar that always marked mom and dad’s anniversary. Dad’s whole family moved to Canada in 1951 and mom came by herself to Canada in 1953. They were married in Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church in Trenton, in 1955. It’s a strange name for a church, but Ebenezer is a Hebrew word meaning “Stone of help.” The story can be found in 1 Samuel 7, where the Israelites were being threatened by the Philistines and Samuel the prophet challenged the people of Israel to turn their hearts back to God and get rid of all their idols and serve the Lord only. While Samuel was sacrificing a burnt offering to the Lord, a violent thunderstorm rolled across the valley and so frightened the Philistine army that they ran and fled. Samuel then raised a stone and called it Ebenezer, meaning “Thus far the Lord has Helped Us.” I can remember inviting family and friends to a special dinner that celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, and for their 50th, a wonderful backyard open house where friends, family members and colleagues came by, extending their congratulations. Otherwise, the event was usually marked by going out for dinner as a family, giving thanks to God for “helping us thus far.” During our teenage years that usually meant the Chinese restaurant in town. For mom and dad’s 60th anniversary we had a larger dinner in Belleville Maranatha Christian Reformed Church. Maranatha is another strange name for a church, coming from a Hebrew word that means “The Lord is Coming.” It was a wonderful evening of humor, laughter, speeches and toasts and celebration. Mom and dad were members of Maranatha church all their married lives. It’s the congregation where each of us were baptized, raised and discipled. This September long weekend marks the first long weekend where dad will not be present to celebrate this anniversary. Dad went home to be with his Lord, experiencing his own Maranatha. And even though mom misses him deeply, she continues to do well. She is most grateful for the 62 years of marriage that she received and has been befriended by ten other widows who meet every Sunday after church at someone’s home for coffee. Even with dialysis treatments three times a week, mom continues to live an active and fully engaged life. She can honestly pray “Ebenezer…Thus far the Lord has helped us,” and longs for Maranatha. Maybe the names of these churches are not as strange as first perceived.     

Karin Terpstra