Skip to content
Wilma enjoying a game of chess in the Selkirk Multi-Purpose Room in The Hawthorn.
May 21, 2024
Fleetwood, Garrison Crossing

Faith in Action

The origins of Elim Village are a testament to the power of community and the resilience of faith. At its heart is a small group of Christians who participated in a bible study in the early 90s. Wilma van Brummelen, a resident at Elim Village Garrison Crossing, was one of those individuals. However, the roots of Wilma’s journey can be traced back decades earlier when she and her family immigrated to Canada.

At the age of 15, Wilma found herself embarking on an 11-day voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, from Holland to Canada. Despite battling seasickness and recalling moments of “feeding the fish” with a chuckle, attending church on board provided her with comfort amidst the waves of change shaping her young life.

Canada presented new challenges for Wilma. At the time, Wilma’s mom was pregnant with her ninth child, and it became Wilma’s responsibility to stay home from school and take care of the baby. “I didn’t mind,” she says, “I was happy to have a little sister instead of another brother!” Her parents’ mantra (shared by many other immigrants at the time) brought
her strength during these times: Ora et Labora—a Latin phrase which means “pray and work”. “You don’t just pray; you have to put in the work too,” shares Wilma.

This phrase echoed throughout Wilma’s upbringing and future in Canada. It stuck with her when she met her husband, Harro. It rang through her mind when they had children and moved across Canada for work, eventually landing in Surrey in the late 1970s. And it fueled her when she decided to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a kindergarten teacher after her youngest child entered grade one. Driven by prayer and hard work, Wilma took classes at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and later taught at Langley Christian School for 22 years.

As the van Brummelens settled in Surrey, Wilma and Harro became active members of the Christian Reformed Church (now known as Fleetwood Church). Later, they joined a young couples’ bible study that would ultimately transform the lives of older adults. And Wilma was right there, at the heart of it all, seeing the origins of Elim Village unfold before her eyes.

“I recall sitting at bible study one day and hearing another member say, ‘I have an idea’.” The idea was a Christian community where couples would be able to stay together, even if their health circumstances changed. “This idea came about after we read the book of James, which talks a lot about faith in action,” she adds. So, the group began unpacking this idea together—an idea that we’d come to know as Elim Village.

Fast forward to today, Wilma finds herself living amidst the fruition of the vision she discussed in a small group over 30 years ago. “I know lots of people at Fleetwood,” she shares, listing off familiar names like the Vandermeys and the Wierdas, as well as Gertrude Elgersma, whom she calls every Monday morning! Despite these deep connections, Wilma wanted to be closer to family for support after Harro passed away in 2014, leading her to make the decision to move to Chilliwack.

As Wilma settles into the ‘Independent Plus’ lifestyle at The Hawthorn, she finds comfort in the familiar cadence of daily life—the shared meals, the laughter, and the support of friends. And as she looks towards the future, Wilma sees Elim Village as more than just a retirement community. It’s a home where faith meets action—or as she calls it, Ora et Labora.

Written by: Rachel Nedelec (Hoffos), Staff Contributor

This article was featured in the 2024 spring edition of The Elim Connection (page 6)—a community publication distributed three times per year to all residents of Elim Village. It is also shared with our email subscribers. The Elim Connection focuses on the stories and lifestyle of those living and aging in place at our two retirement communities.

To access the entire publication, or future editions of The Elim Connection, subscribe to our e-mailing list.

Icon Airplane Stay up to date with Elim Village. Join our email list!