I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Stu and Elsie Bakker. I was excited to find out more about these two, they have been a part of New Life from almost the beginning. Stu is also on the current Board of Elders. Since we have been in a series on stewardship, I had some questions to ask him about how our finances are handled here at the church. In the end, I came away with a huge appreciation for Stu and Elsie. They carry such a spirit of integrity and honesty. I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I did interviewing them.
So give us a brief overview of your life. Where did you grow up? How did you meet?
Stu – Well, I was born in Holland, but we immigrated to Canada when I was only two years old. After that, our family settled in Rolleyview, Alberta until I was in grade eight. Then we moved to Edmonton. I graduated in 1967, Canada’s centennial year. After graduation, I worked a year for the provincial government in Edmonton then attended Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa where I met Elsie.
Elsie – I was born and raised in Lynden, WA. After I graduated from high school, I also went to Dordt. In fact, all four of our children attended Dordt College. I crammed a year of technical school office training into less than 3 months so I could emigrate to Canada, get engaged and then married to Stu.
Where has your path taken you since you have been married, what towns have you lived in, how many children do you have, where do they live.
Stu – We were married in 1971, and I was employed by CIBC. I worked in various branches in Edmonton, Mission, then up to Dawson Creek, Nelson, Salmo, downtown Vancouver, New Westminster, and Chilliwack. In 1986 we came to New Life Church. I was on the first council.
Elsie – We have four children. Shawn lives in Edmonton and they have 4 children. Seth is in Aldergrove and they have 5. Krisha lives in Nampa, Idaho and they have 4 children. Erin is in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin and they have 2 children. That is 15 grandchildren in total!
What career paths have you both followed over the years?
Stu – Like I mentioned, I worked for CIBC and retired from them at age 53. Then, a couple of years later I took a job with Farm Credit Canada and until I retired again at age 60.
Elsie – I was mostly a stay-at-home mom. However, I worked several years as administrative assistant for the office manager at McCoy Brothers in Edmonton and also at a bank in Dawson Creek for one year. In 1990, I started working casual at New Life Church. I have been here on and off with New Life ever since.
What is the greatest joy in your personal lives?
Stu – That Jesus died for me, His gift of life, and the fact that He loves me.
Elsie –The fact that the Lord is my Savior. And without doubt our family: that our kids all profess to love Jesus, and are teaching the love of God to our grandkids.
What are your greatest struggles, things that make you sad when you see them?
Stu – I am sad when I see people who have no hope and don’t know the Lord.
Elsie – It makes me sad to see people who haven’t known the love of a family or the Lord.
Stu, you have had some health struggles in the past couple of years, tell us how you are coping and how you are currently feeling?
Stu – I am thankful every day. I have no anxiety. God has filled me with peace from day 1, even when I couldn’t move. I am not as mobile as I used to be, but I still am able to enjoy His grace every day.
You are on the New Life Board of Elders, tell us a few things that our BOE does to make sure New Life’s finances are stewarded well.
Stu – We have a lot of safeguards in place to maintain our financial integrity. First, not one person can make a financial decision. We have a finance committee, administered by our executive pastor and Noeline. Our finance committee meets regularly to review and maintain our budget. We then empower other committees such as our deacons to disburse funds raised benevolently, and our missions team to distribute our mission’s funds.
Tell us some of your personal Stu and Elsie rules when it comes to stewardship. How do you prioritize what you have been given? Are there things that are non-negotiable as far as finances?
Stu – All our married lives, we have always had joint accounts. Any big purchases are always discussed and always done in agreement. However, from the beginning, the non-negotiable really has been the tithe.
Elsie – There was one point in time when money was really tight. I suggested that we give only 5% rather than 10% but Stu insisted we keep tithing. He would take his pay stub, turn it over, and on the back, start deducting our expenses. The first deduction was ALWAYS the tithe. But, you know, God took care of us. He would give us amazing deals on things, like a wringer washer from an auction that lasted for years. One time, extra work came in for an extra $8.00 a month. In all the moving around we have done, God has always been faithful.
What are your hobbies?
Stu – Well, golfing was my main hobby, but I am not mobile enough to play right now. In a strange way, I don’t miss the sport but I do miss the camaraderie. Now, I do more reading, and I love to watch sports on TV.
Elsie – I love cross-stitching and gardening as well as reading.
Tell us about your relationship with God, what is it like? From your personal experience, if you could suggest one thing to another person when it comes to the pursuit of God, what would it be?
Stu – Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus. Today, we try to place our trust in so many other things, but Elsie and I have trusted God every day with our lives. There is a prayer that we prayed every day when we lived in Nelson:
May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant us to live in such harmony with one another that together we may with one voce glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are no longer our own, but Yours. Put us to what you will. Rank us with who You will. Put us to doing, put us to suffering. Let us be employed for You or laid aside for You; exalted for You or brought low for You. Let us be full, let us be empty. Let us have all things, let us have nothing. We freely and heartily yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal. Fill us with Your Spirit, Amen.
Elsie – I actually think that God has been pursuing us. He jumps in front of us and surprises us. I also suggest bringing God into our lives by giving constant thanks to Him throughout the day, for anything and everything, little and big.