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Into the Woods of Northern Alberta

December 21, 2022
Roger (left) and Ron Bouwkamp (right) cut firewood for the Sunday service.
Roger (left) and Ron Bouwkamp (right) cut firewood for the Sunday service.

For most of their lives, Roger and Evelyn* never called a single place home. Instead, they traveled from place to place on trains that ran across Canada, where they worked on track repair crews. Then in 1960 they settled into a secluded home in the woods of northern Alberta.

During their retirement years, Roger and Evelyn became Christians, and they began listening to the Back to God Hour, ReFrame Ministries’ first radio program. There was no church in their area, but they grew in their faith through the radio program and eventually decided to reach out to the program staff with a request.

Roger and Evelyn knew of an abandoned church building in nearby Tawatinaw, a small hamlet, and wondered if ReFrame’s staff could help by sending a missionary or pastor to their area to help reopen the church.

A few years later Ron and Marlene Bouwkamp, who were newlyweds and recent graduates of Reformed Bible Institute (now Kuyper College) in Grand Rapids, Mich., felt God calling them to serve in northern Alberta to lead in worship and Sunday school. They moved to Tawatinaw and served there from 1964 to 1966. Ron would later attend Calvin Theological Seminary and serve in several Christian Reformed congregations until his retirement in 2018.

“They were a wonderful couple,” Ron reflected about serving alongside Roger and Evelyn all those years ago. “Roger, 80 years old, was always the first one to the church [service], and he would walk a mile from his house to put wood in the stove to heat the building before anyone else arrived. If it weren’t for him and Evelyn, many others in their community never would have heard about Christ.”

“This all started when they began listening to the Back to God Hour,” Ron added.

Since 1939, from its small beginning with the Back to God Hour radio program, ReFrame’s media ministry has expanded to reach people speaking 10 major languages across the globe: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

*full names withheld to protect privacy