The People of Rimbey

Kathy Rawley certainly was the most unusual and interesting person I’d ever met, but there were other rather colourful people who spent time at the Rimbey Church of the Nazarene. Maybe the most colourful of this group was a man I had never met, but whose shadow was certainly seen through the congregation. That was the Rev. Robert Deasley. He was a crusty, one-armed Scotsman that terrified many of the children. One morning he became rather annoyed by some of the children who were making more noise than he deemed appropriate. He stopped in the middle of his sermon and fixed his gaze on the miscreants. He had a large mole on his chin and some of the children were fascinated by this facial feature. He boomed out, “You children stop this noise, or I will come down and chop you into pieces!” Not the best way to handle unruly children but it fit his style.

His wife Lillian had the rather unfortunate habit of taking off her wedding ring and leaving it lying around in the parsonage. One day Rev. Deasley saw the ring and decided to teach his wife a lesson. He took the ring, hid it, then promptly forgot where he had put it. Every pastor after that would spend some time searching the parsonage for Mrs. Deasley’s lost wedding ring. No one ever found it.

One of my favourites was Iva Metcalfe. She was in her 90s and was present at every church function she could attend. She told me she liked to come to the baby showers even though she seldom knew the young women. How else, she reasoned, could she ever get to know them if she stayed away.

Every Sunday morning, she was the first person to arrive at church to join me for prayer prior to the worship service. Nothing would keep her away. She also attended every Wednesday night prayer meeting. One cold Wednesday evening the streets were covered with a coating of ice. She came to an intersection and didn’t know how she would navigate her way across the ice. No problem. She got on her hands and knees and crawled across the street. She didn’t consider this to be too undignified, despite her advanced age.

Probably the best-known person in our congregation was Reuben Giebelhaus. He had raised cattle and lived with his wife Elsie in a large house west of town. They had a corral and a few acres of grassland for his cattle. He tried, unsuccessfully, around 5 or 6 times to retire. He would make the decision, sell his cattle and begin his retirement, until he went to a cattle auction where a friend was getting rid of his herd. Reuben couldn’t let these cattle go for minimum prices and he would buy a few to take back to Rimbey and break his retirement.

But what he was best known for was his yellow hard hat. He wore it every where except to church. I never asked Elsie if he remembered to take it off when he watched the evening news on TV.

Harvey McCrackin also was known for the colour yellow. His yellow wasn’t a hardhat but it was an old International pickup truck. He was a man with a good heart and a hearty laugh. His son Wayne and daughter-in-law Evelyn were also part of the congregation. Wayne was on the board of the church and at one meeting we were looking at the attendance statistics. I explained that statistically, there was often a small dip in attendance after a new pastor came into a church. With a straight face, Wayne commented “So, you’re the little dip that followed Harold Hoffman.” Pretty hard to get serious after a comment like that.

Many times, after picking up the mail at the post office I would stop in to visit George and Irene Hunter. They lived in a small house and had a pet pug. The dog needed exercise and neither George nor Irene could take it out for walks, so they put his leash on and attached it to the clothesline in the back yard and let him run to his heart’s content. Then we would chat a while and I would pray with them before I left.

Jeff Whitehead touched me deeply. He was severely developmentally challenged and subject to grand mal seizures. He wasn’t very verbal. He used to sit at the back of the sanctuary with his father, who was our sound man. There was one song that Jeff loved more than any other – Victory in Jesus. To this day, I can’t sing that song without seeing Jeff singing at the top of his lungs. Jeff just turned 40 and is enjoying life in Red Deer, Alberta

His uncle, Dennis Semenyna was also a real character. He used to do a bit of a comedy routine, in drag as Mavis from Moosomin. The first time I ever met Mavis was at a banquet for the church. Because of my last name – Bachiu – he called me Pastor Sneeze. He was also committed to embarrassing his daughters. He was a plumber and he set up a planter in the front yard. Do want to guess what it was? It was an old toilet.

One year at Easter we had a Tenebrae play. There were two actors, myself and my friend Terry Wiebe. We played the roles of Peter and Judas Iscariot respectively. We also had a choir that sang between dramatic scenes. At one point Peter and Judas were in the upper room after Jesus’ crucifixion and Judas brought out a basin of water to wash Peter’s feet. During the first performance, the water was tepid, rather comfortable, but during the last performance, the warm water was replaced with ice cold water. I looked at the choir, determined not to give them the satisfaction of reacting to the water. As I looked at them, I saw a smirk cross the face of Ed Parkins. I knew that I had the culprit. They say that revenge is a dish best served cold. Well, it’s been over 25 years since that incident and my revenge has yet to be visited on my friend Ed. Look out Ed!

My memories of the people of Rimbey are rich. We shared life together and I will never forget you. You taught me a lot about keeping the Son in my eyes.

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