Marguerite Bonnema, the last living Bethany co-founder, passed away last week. On what would have been her 100th birthday today, February 7, we remember Marguerite and are blessed to be part of the legacy she has left behind.
Marguerite’s story is inspiring, not only to those who appreciate the services Bethany provides on behalf of vulnerable children around the world, but for anyone to whom God has given a vision.
Together with her friend Mary DeBoer (later VandenBosch), Marguerite dreamed in the early 1940s of establishing a residence for homeless children. One day a mother came to the mission where Marguerite worked seeking help. Concerned she could not provide a safe home for her child, Marguerite and Mary agreed to care for the child in the apartment they shared. Little did they realize their act of compassion would lead to the establishment of Bethany Christian Services.
Soon Marguerite quit her job to care for several children the women learned were in need of a home. Their apartment was small, and money was scarce. But the two women did not give up, believing that God would meet all their needs. In 1944 and with the help of two local men, P. B. Peterson and Andrew VanderVeer, they were able to purchase a house on a 14-acre property in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that was suitable for caring for multiple children. After Mr. Peterson, who helped them secure the loan, had also paid for repairs to the former roadhouse, they moved in with eight children. The residence God had inspired became a reality and they were granted a license for Bethany Christian Home in 1945.
Almost 70 years later, it is amazing to consider what Mary and Marguerite’s sacrificial efforts still mean for vulnerable children today around the world. Bethany has more than 100 offices in the United States, and provides services in more than 30 states and 19 countries across 5 continents. Services include family preservation programs, pregnancy counseling, domestic infant and international adoption, foster care, and refugee support.
Today we honor Marguerite, who so steadfastly followed God’s leading in the Christian mission Bethany continues to fulfill today, reaching out to tens of thousands of His vulnerable children in Jesus’ name.