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When Gifts Change Lives

“Here’s a woman who’s making a difference long after she’s passed away, for families in situations she could have never imagined.”

This is how Tony Kamphuis describes the impact of a gift from the late Mrs. Wikje Van Marrum, a Christian School supporter who left a large estate gift to the Wellandport Christian School and to Smithville Christian High School.

As Executive Director of the Niagara Association for Christian Education (NACE), Kamphuis has seen part of Van Marrum’s gift transform the lives of families who send their children to John Knox Christian School (JKCS) in Stoney Creek and Covenant Christian School (CCS) in Smithville.

“In the last few years we have been drawing in families with fascinating stories,” says Kamphuis, “People who are not from our traditional support community. People who have come through broken marriages, people living below the poverty line, people from other parts of the world. These are people far outside the circles Mrs. Van Marrum lived in and so to see her gift blessing others in ways she could not have imagined … well it has the feel of God’s fingerprints all over it. ”

Thanks to monetary gifts from people like Mrs. Van Marrum, individuals facing incredible hardship have been able to find loving community in NACE schools during their time of crisis.

A few people stand out in particular to Kamphuis —among them, a single mom who was divorced by her husband after he converted back to Islam.

“The woman was left with high debt and a high level of anxiety,” explains Kamphuis. “A friend of hers said, “Just stop by John Knox, you never know … they want to be there for all kinds of people.”

“So she told us this incredible story,” recalls Kamphuis.  “And our response was, ‘Your daughter has to come here. This is the right place for your family.’

Kamphuis is deeply grateful that a NACE school was able to find support for this mother and child. The small family has been blessed by their experience at the school and in just a few months “…have begun to climb out a spiral of depression and anxiety”, he says. “The mom has a solid job now, her daughter is feeling very much at home and their lives have a sense of hopefulness that they readily attribute to being welcomed into our school.”

Another single parent stands out to Kamphuis—a mother with three kids, who connected with a NACE school despite being mired in financial hardship and unsure of how to move forward. This mom felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to stop by Covenant Christian School one summer morning, simply to see what might be possible.

“And again, we were able to say that we can find support for you, because this will be a great place for your kids,” says Kamphuis. “They’ve been a wonderful addition to the school, for three or four years now. What started as us trying to bless others has brought tremendous blessings to our school communities as well.”

These are the instances that make Kamphuis so grateful for people like Mrs. Van Marrum, whose passion for Christian education is opening doors decades after she arranged her gift, for families who feel isolated, afraid and burdened because of their circumstances.

“These are the sorts of stories our Foundation makes increasingly possible,” says Kamphuis. “When people understand how their support for Christian schools can change lives and influence society in incredible ways, I know their desire to be used by God will nudge them to ask how they, too, can make a difference. The size of the gift is really irrelevant. A few loaves and fish can go a long way, when they are put in the hands of our powerful God.”

He recognizes something particularly neat about Van Marrum’s gift to the NACE community. “It’s from a dear older lady who absolutely loved going to school as a child, but who had to leave those dreams behind when her mother died during the birth of a younger sibling. Then, older and married, she and her husband never had children of their own. As a result she was never directly connected to the Christian School movement as a parent. Yet that early love of education, the way she delighted in her Christian school experience during her younger years, this never left her and it translated into her offering of support. To watch how God has used her faithfulness to expand His kingdom, is one of the great delights of working in Christian education.”