Obituary of John H. Wiebe
John H Wiebe peacefully went to be with his Lord and Savior on Tuesday, June 6, 2023, at the age of 91 at St. Boniface Hospital, Winnipeg, MB.
John was born on April 28, 1932, in Aberdeen, Saskatchewan, to Henry and Aganetha (Unger) Wiebe.
John first dedicated his life to God as a child in DVBS and later, as a teenager, rededicated his life while working with a local family. He was baptized June 7, 1953, at Bethel Mission Mennonite Church in Winnipeg and has been an active and faithful member there ever since. His earlier involvement included participation in the church baseball team and youth group, frequently driving youth home in his truck following services and activities. He was known for his kindness, generosity and willingness to help. “John Wiebe will do it” was a common statement heard by fellow church attendees. His later involvement has ranged from deacon, Sunday School teaching, multiple committees, occasionally preaching, and continual involvement in a church Care Group, up until he went to hospital a month ago. His faith in God has impacted every aspect of his life. Reading through the Bible was a part of his ongoing, intentional, daily routine as well as daily devotions in the morning as a family and in the evening with Elma.
John lived on a farm near Aberdeen until the age of 14 when his family moved to a farm near Austin, Manitoba. He helped his father on the farm until he moved to Winnipeg at the age of 17, to work, which is when he also began attending Bethel. From 1950 to 1960 John worked numerous jobs including at the CN railway and as an orderly at Misericordia Hospital while upgrading his high school at MBCI, Steinbach Bible Institute High School and night school in Winnipeg.
During these years he also found the time to court the love of his life, Elma. John was on the search committee during George Groening’s interview for pastor at Bethel and Elma’s sister, Nettie Groening was very impressed with this young man who was involved in the interview. She later told Elma “I have found the man for you”. Several years later, while they both attended Steinbach Bible Institute, both John and Elma had the duty of washing dishes every Sunday evening which provided a time to get to know each other better. At the end of the school year John drove Elma home to meet the parents. Things progressed from there. By November they became engaged and were married by George Groening on August 16, 1958, at Bethel Mennonite Church.
After both received qualifications to teach they spent one year together in Crane River, Manitoba, teaching at the local school, before John began Theology Diploma studies at CMBC from 1959-1962. This prepared him for pastoral work which began in Carrot River, Saskatchewan, 1962 to 1965. During this time the first two daughters were born, Sheila during CMBC years, and Debbie in Carrot River. His time working in the church inspired him to continue his theological studies at AMBS in Elkhart, Indiana, where Cindy was born.
Having both felt God’s leading to the mission field before marriage, the time felt right to pursue this calling. The family headed to Costa Rica for a year of Spanish language studies, followed by another nine years in Colombia. John’s work started as pastor in a small town. During this time, he realized the need for Bibles and hymn books and later Christian reading material and school supplies in this rural community. As the demand increased, the development of a bookstore, Libreria la Luz, became a reality. Realizing the same need throughout many other small villages, he began travelling with books and providing free movie night of the Jesus story on the side of buildings. By the end of the time in Colombia, he had started a bookstore in the small town as well as another one in Bogota, which continues to operate today.
Returning to Canada, his passion for books and fellowship through conversing with others about faith led him to managing a variety of Christian bookstores in Winnipeg. Eventually he was able to purchase his own bookstore, Fellowship Bookcentre, where he passionately served until fourteen years later when he reluctantly retired at the age of 72.
When he retired, he was able to continue his previous volunteer work with the Christian Investors in Education group, and added volunteering with the MCC furniture store as well as occasional stints together with Elma to work in the Pauingassi grocery store in northern Manitoba. He was also able to spend more time enjoying family including having grandkids over for sleep overs, annual road trips with Elma to visit their daughter and her family in Ontario and traveling to the west coast to visit some of his siblings. Never missing an opportunity for ice cream, this occurred frequently with Elma, his children and grandchildren. Having more time on his hands, he became involved with the annual MS walk, supporting Elma’s niece and inspiring his grandchildren to join him. He enjoyed stamp collecting, puzzling, going out for coffee at Tim’s, going out for breakfasts and drives to Lockport on a Sunday afternoon. He continued to value his daily personal Bible reading and devotions with Elma until his death.
John has always been known for his good humour, the twinkle in his eye, his ready smile and his eagerness to be of service for those around him. It was a natural part of his character to make sure that everyone around him was taken care of, comfortable and fed, including during his final days in hospital. He was always quick to show gratitude for every deed, no matter how small.
He is survived by Elma, his loving wife of 65 years.
Daughters: Sheila (Phil) Kroeker, Debbie (Mark) Penner, Cindy (Conrad) Peters
Grandchildren: Evan (Kacey), Kathryn Kroeker, Vanessa (Ben), Melissa (Graeme), Chrisalyn (Reid), Brad (Tawnee) Penner, Dylan Peters
Six great-grandchildren: Alexandria, Evelyn, Jasmine, Casper, Saoirse, Kingsley
Five siblings: Jake, George, Tina, Peter, Helen
Pre-deceased by five siblings: Nettie, Henry, Eva, Barney, Sam
The funeral service will be held on Wednesday, June 14, 2023, at 3:00 p.m. at Bethel Mennonite Church, 465 Stafford St, Winnipeg, MB. To join the family via livestream, please click HERE shortly before the start of the service.
In lieu of flowers, you are invited to make a donation to Mennonite Central Committee by mailing a cheque to 134 Plaza Dr., Winnipeg, MB R3T 5K9 or online by clicking HERE.
The family would like to give a huge thank you to St. Boniface Hospital staff on 4E for the compassionate care provided to John Wiebe in his last weeks.