Eight months after the car accident that changed his life forever, Jerry Poelman found himself in Zambia building a school in memory of his daughter.
“It was an extremely emotional trip,” he says, adding while the plan was to only work on one school, after it was finished he couldn’t help but ask the question, “Are we done?”
“As soon as we came back we just wanted to go again.”
Poelman and his family soon started a foundation in honour of his daughter Kyndra which raises money and sends teams to Africa with EduDeo to support education initiatives. He explains despite the deep loss they’ve experienced, his family’s been blessed greatly by God over the years. Since God gave the Poelman’s a desire for mission work almost every member of the family has participated at one time or another, including their youngest daughter Kyndra in 2009.
“God had given us a foundation to fall back on through experiences in life prior to Kyndra’s accident,” he says.
“We had lost a child two days after birth in 1986, Kimberly Ann. This was a time when we first sought the Lord and confessed Jesus as our Lord. Kyndra had an accident in 2011 and severed her left hand. We submitted this situation to God.” Miraculously her hand was reattached and over the course of almost two years she regained use of her left hand.
Poelman watched as she went from being a frustrated and unhappy girl before the accident to being positive influence and began planning to go to college in the fall. Then in 2014, driving into Lethbridge to write a test, Kyndra was killed in a car accident.
Kyndra’s accident was on what would have been the 28th birthday of Kimberly, the daughter they had lost before.
“All our family was nearby and this knocked us back on our knees. We each had our own grief struggle but through it all God laid it on our hearts over the next few weeks to serve God our Lord and take what was a tragedy and use it for something good. Our goal from the beginning is to find ways to support the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ to children and the most vulnerable, but ultimately to all who are in need. We did it to take a negative situation but do something eternal, something life changing out of it. This is only because God laid this on our hearts. We do not do any of this on our own. Some how God can take the down and broken and use them for His good works.”
For the last four years, the foundation holds an annual live auction and dinner. The last event saw 250 people attend and support from local churches and the community.
He hopes to remain an encouragement to the people of Zambia, and says every team member that attends their mission trips return as ambassadors to the school provide energy and people who want to support the cause, they will continue. He even has a list of people who want to come along for the next trip this fall.
Though it all, his journey of loss has become a testimony of God’s ability “to work good things out of bad things,” Poelman says.
“When you lose someone you’re very broken and tender going through grief… it’s been the hardest time in my life but also the closest I’ve ever felt to God.”
“I could just feel Him,” he adds.
In that state, Poelman says you become more open to God’s work in your life.
However, he never sugarcoats suffering, “it’s not an easy thing to walk through,” Poelman explains, but he remains thankful for the opportunity to be Christ’s hands and feet.
While everyone processes grief differently, personally expressing his lament with an outward focus through building schools on the other side of the world has been healing.
“Tragedy gives you compassion,” he says.
On the first trip to Zambia four years ago, the team couldn’t begin work when they arrived because the community’s chief had lost his own daughter and it was considered a time of grieving in the village.
“There’s so much loss in the country,” he says.
Since his own tragedy, Poelman has seen seven groups make trips with EduDeo and the impactful experience it offers. “They go through all the emotions, being thankful for what they have, seeing the joy of those even in poverty.”
In the end, he says the biggest takeaway for anyone wanting to live a meaningful life that makes a dent in the universe is simply being faithful in the little things. “We may get the opportunity to do more.”
“We didn’t ever plan for this ministry, we’d never ask for it, and without our faith it may have never happened. Instead we had a foundation already there… then when something bad happened we leaned on God and He took us somewhere we didn’t expect.”
Along with a foundation of faith, he says the key is being sensitive to your calling.
“When you get that desire and push to do something, don’t put it off… God is at work.”
STEVEN SUKKAU is a journalist living and working in Winkler, Manitoba. He splits his time between breaking stories, changing diapers and taking his wife on movie dates.
Photo by EduDeo Ministries.