It is the end of an era at the Youth Farm Bible Camp. Its with sadness that we experience the loss of Helen Friesen, a matriarch of our organization. Helen was born on July 2, 1923 in Russia and lived through the rule of Joseph Stalin. She lost two brothers that were taken by the Russian army and never seen again. Her family was liberated in 1943 and was in a MCC Refugee Camp in Gronau, Germany from 1946-1948. She arrived in Canada in 1949 and started working at the Youth Farm and Mennonite Nursing Home.
Henry W. Friesen fell in love with Helen. Henry had been around the Youth Farm since the very beginning. He was instrumental in providing the vision and passion that started our organization. Read more in our History section. Henry was a fund raiser and knew the location of every Mennonite farmer in Saskatchewan due to his campaigns to help the needy through the donations of the church. But now it was 1950, Henry was in his mid 40s and he met someone that had captured his heart - Helen Bergmann.
After working for a little while at the Youth Farm, Helen decided to move to Vancouver in order to be with her mother. It was a solemn goodbye for Henry, but he let her go. Then, his heart said follow her. He was in love and Helen was his princess. Henry went to BC as a single man, married Helen on May 24, 1952, and came back to Saskatchewan with a wife!
I have worked at YFBC since 1990, but I never met Henry. I just remember seeing a vehicle that most likely was driven by him in the summer of 1990. Henry passed away on May 3, 1991 at the age of 85. I have known Helen Friesen since 1997. I was privileged to hear her beautiful singing voice on many occasions. I have also heard many stories about Henry from his wife who cherished the memories of her late husband.
When I would go over to visit Helen Friesen, she would share stories, and always have some food prepared to offer. I remember one time, another Country Garden resident phoned asking who was over, and she did not want them to know she had a man in the house. We enjoyed having Helen and Mary Dyck over for suppers when we first moved onto the Youth Farm Complex in 2001.
Helen had a strong faith in God and loved the ministry that was taking place at the camp. From 1960-80, she would be seen working in the Camp Kitchen every summer. She was always ready to host any visitor that Henry brought to their home. In only five minutes notice she would have enough prepared for the extra guests.
When Helen moved into the Nursing Home, she had less opportunities to walk around the yard. Candace and I would brought her to the camp for a few chapels. She was proud to be at the camp and interacting with campers. She loved the music singing along cheerfully. I would always introduce her and she would make sure that I talked about Henry too. We were blessed to know and learn so much from her.
We now say goodbye to Helen Friesen, she is with her saviour. And may we remember Henry and Helen for the ministry they established - the Youth Farm Bible Camp!