I have been working at the Youth Farm Bible Camp for 31 years; as Executive Director for 20 years. The person that hired me in the beginning, someone that has always been there to answer questions, a guy who I have prayed with hundreds of times, a mentor who gave spiritual, emotional, and financial support to the ministry, has passed away. It grieves me deeply. Ron Derksen was a pillar in the community and very important to our camp, to the town of Rosthern, and most importantly to his family. Ron lived out his faith in God every day, he cared deeply about Jesus and sought to do the will of his Father in heaven.
I first met Ron in 1986 as a camper at the Youth Farm Bible Camp. I went on a canoe trip with my cabin, and Mel Letkeman and Ron Derksen were the leaders for the trip. When I started volunteering as a Counsellor-in-Training, it was Ron who hired me. Then a couple of years later, he hired me as a Counsellor for the summer. He also hired a wonderful lady named Candace Laskowski that same summer. We met at camp and now have been married for 26 years! During those years as a camp staff we would often go over to Ron and Lavonne's house for barbecues. I remember seeing Heidi and Levi as toddlers and really appreciating the times we spent together.
Ron has been a part of the ministry at YFBC for many years; way more than I have. He was a camper in the 1960s, a junior staff member and counsellor in the 1980s, a director in the 1980s and a board member in the 1990s. For the last twenty years he was a huge supporter to all of our staff that work year-round at the camp. We all will miss him. He had so much institutional memory and historical information that I loved to hear about.
For four years in the late 1990s, Candace and I worked as youth pastors at the Rosthern Mennonite Church. Alfred Neufeldt and I met with Ron every Friday morning for prayer. I am so glad that I had those many years of praying with Ron. Later, we started a Men’s Breakfast group that met biweekly to eat, study, and pray. Ron's sons were becoming adults by now and would often join us as well. We have not met since COVID came, but it was a group that gathered for seven years. I have talked to many of the guys that come out and they greatly appreciated Ron’s leadership and dedication to the group. We will be continuing in fall if all goes well.
Ron loved Jesus and he loved people. My day got better when Ron became a part of it. We had so many conversations, which would usually start with talking about camp insurance, then go down a pathway that would include faith, theology, friends, Rosthern history, camp history, and so much more. I will cherish those talks and I will miss them greatly. It is hard to lose someone that has so much intimate knowledge of my life and ministry, someone who I always went to for advice and counsel. And many times I was reminded to be gentle with people and give lots of grace. Ron took the two greatest commandments seriously - to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul and to love your neighbour as yourself. He was a great example to me.
It was not an official fundraiser of the Youth Farm Bible Camp if Ron, Lavonne, and family did not show up. I miss the Fall Suppers and March Vereniki meals. Hopefully we will be able to have some sort of Fall Supper this year. It will just be hard not being able to see Ron there, but we know his legacy will live on and we will one day see him again.
Everyone knows that the Derksen Family loves music. I know that Ron loved the fact that he was able to visit so many churches, nursing homes, and community spots with his talented family of musicians and singers. I love that he bought a large bus to transport the family and the many instruments and sound equipment. I know so many people that have been blessed by this ministry. Last summer, for one of our respite camps, the Derksen family came out to lead a gospel music night. This has been a tradition for us for probably the last 10 years. Like I said, when Ron shows up, the day gets better. When his whole family of musicians shows up at camp, that has a multiplying effect. Our Special Needs campers loved this so much.
I will miss you Ron, but more importantly, I will cherish the memories and insights I have from you. You will always be remembered, and your faith and love for Jesus will continue to be inspirational.
Ron’s family has chosen the Youth Farm Bible Camp as one of the ministries to give to in lieu of flowers. If you would like to donate in memory of Ron to YFBC, you can access the form here.
Answers in Genesis is another favourite ministry of Ron. His faith was strengthened through the teaching and education that Answers in Genesis provides. I know that some family trips included the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter, which are ministry centres of Answers in Genesis. You can donate towards this ministry by following this link.
Finally, the Youth Farm Bible Camp staff send our deepest condolences to the Derksen family as they mourn the loss of Ron. We all got to know Ron as our insurance provider, supporter of fundraisers, prayer partner, and faithful performer of gospel music nights at camp.