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Sep 24, 2014

When God puts dreams in the hearts of those who love Him, He grants them strength and opportunity to see those dreams become reality. Mary DeBoer’s trust in His provision for her dream made all the difference in Bethany Christian Services’ beginnings and mission to meet the needs of vulnerable children.

Mary was a young woman in the 1930s, living in Denver, Colorado. She had long held a dream to establish a Christian home for needy children, and she felt strongly that, despite limited resources and no professional training, God would do remarkable things through that dream. She had no idea where to start, but God did.

In 1940, Mary heard Reformed Bible Institute was opening in Michigan. After much prayer, she enrolled as the first member of RBI’s opening class. There in the humble Grand Rapids building that housed the school, she was placed in a room with fellow student Marguerite Bonnema. When Marguerite asked Mary what she planned to do after graduation, Mary shared her dream to start a Christian home for needy children. Both women were stunned to discover God had given them the same dream. 

Mary later reflected, “Wasn’t that wonderful? See how wonderfully God’s hand is seen in this ‘happening’—and what a role RBI played?”

Four years later, the friends were sharing a small apartment when an opportunity to act on their dream came along. Marguerite learned of a mother who needed a safe place for her baby, and the two women readily took in the child. Then in the coming months, God took their dream to a level they could not have imagined. They took in five more infants, though it meant sharing a cot and spending what income they had on the children’s needs instead of their own.

In November 1945, they formed a nonprofit organization (now Bethany Christian Services), making them cofounders along with Andrew Vander Veer. They moved into a 14-room house with the eight children then in their care. Though the number of children in the home continued to grow, the women did not receive a salary. But they worked out of faith and love, counting it a blessing because they were living out the dream God had given them.

By 1950, Bethany was still growing and Mary and Marguerite were placed on salary. Then in 1956 Mary left Bethany when she married to John VandenBosh. She remained a dedicated activist with Right to Life, and in addition to having three children of their own, Mary and her husband fostered over 30 children.

Hudson Nyenhuis, executive director of Bethany Christian Services for more than 30 years, beautifully summarized Mary’s outlook on God’s work through Bethany by saying, “She viewed it with wonder.”

Today we celebrate God’s work through Mary DeBoer’s dedicated and sacrificial efforts for the needy children she so loved.  Bethany now has more than 115 offices in the United States and serves 15 countries on four continents. Mary would no doubt continue to view this expanding ministry with wonder.