Remembering Billie Hiemstra



Internment program

Mom’s favorite Bible passage was: (Deut. 6:4-5)

Mom’s Bible highlights this psalm of David: (Ps. 27:1-14)

Another of Mom’s favorite psalms is: (Ps. 121:1-8)

The final reading today is taken from the Gospel of John, which records the resurrection:

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, Woman, why are you weeping? She said to them, They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him. Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking? Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus said to her, Mary. She turned and said to him in Aramaic, Rabboni! (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, I have seen the Lord—and that he had said these things to her. (John 20:11-18 ESV)

The Gospel Story

The Gospel story is the story of Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection. This story is the focus of the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—in the New Testament, and of faith statements, like the Apostle’s Creed.

Christianity began in a graveyard with the resurrection. The resurrection could not have occurred without Jesus’ crucifixion and death which was, in turn, associated with his life and ministry. Because Jesus’ life and ministry was chronicled looking back from the resurrection, each sentence in the New Testament should be prefaced with these words: Jesus rose from the dead, therefore . . . Jesus’ life, ministry, suffering, death, and resurrection are the Gospel story.

Christians, like Mary Magdalene, are the ones running from the cemetery to tell the rest of the world that Jesus lives (Matt 28:8). Why? Because the future is in Christ; death is only a transition, not the final word. This is why the Gospel message is described as the Good News.

Hazel Fern Hiemstra

My mother, Hazel Fern Hiemstra, was known to her friends as Billie. Billie liked to have fun, which we know because Billie was her stage name when she sang popular music in the early 1950s. We also know that she met the love of her life, my father, out roller skating with her friends. Mom and Dad were married roughly a year later on September 13, 1952.

Mom also had a serious side. Her entire life she wanted to become a missionary. Caring for this family was her primary mission field (2X).

If you do not believe me, consider how she cared for Dad these past few years. Dad’s Alzheimer’s rendered him unable to manage his finances in October 2013. Mom cared for Dad without assistance until she had hip surgery in January 2018—a total of five years. After that point, she required the assistance of professional caregivers. Even then, Mom never complained.

Mom’s interest in missions was not something new. Her mother, Marietta Salter Deacon, set an example for her at a young age working in missions in Guelph, Ontario already in the 1930s. Marietta died of cancer in 1941 when Mom was only about eleven years old. From that point forward, Mom cared for her younger siblings—a job normally reserved for adults.

Following in her mother’s footsteps, Mom and Dad both volunteered for work with the Billy Graham Evangelistic campaigns in California while Dad was finishing his doctoral degree at the University of California at Berkley. When the family moved to Northern Virginia in 1960, Mom soon began volunteer work at the Central Union Mission in Washington DC helping provide for the homeless and alcoholics.

In this year of racial sensitivity, let me end with one more Mom story. Back in the early 1960s when racial segregation was still the norm, permanent press was unknown and women normally spent an entire day each week doing laundry and ironing to keep their families presentable.  Working at Central Union Mission downtown in Washington DC, Mom met an unemployed black woman named Rose and decided to help her find work. Together with other women in the neighborhood she set up a coop to employ Rose doing ironing for different families each one day every other week. Rose continued to work ironing for us for years and she was the first black person that I ever met. At the time, Mom was still in her thirties—not much older that the Hiemstra grandchildren here today.

Mom believed that she could make a difference in people’s lives. She always wanted to be a missionary and she was.

Remembering Billie Hiemstra

Also see:

Water Cooler Observations, June 24, 2020

Interview about the Corona Life in English and Spanish with Stephen W. Hiemstra, April 24, 2020

Managing Change 

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

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