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Isbrand Hiebert: A tribute


May 31, 2004
- by Justina Heese


Justina Heese, executive secretary of Mennonite Church Canada Formation presents a hand-made, engraved mug to Isbrand Hiebert in recognition of his commitment to the German language newspaper Der Bote. Hiebert served as editor of the paper for seven years.

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Winnipeg, Man.— Isbrand Hiebert: dedicated writer, editor, and faithful helmsman of the German language magazine Der Bote (The Message), a publication of Mennonite Church Canada Formation.

Isbrand Hiebert served readers for seven years, beginning in 1996 when Der Bote was a weekly newspaper.

A quote from an editorial (Von Unserem Arbeitstisch – From our Work Table), in the January 16, 2002 issue of Der Bote, offers insight into Isbrand’s vision for the paper. He wrote, “I invite you to contribute materials (for publishing in Der Bote) that are edifying, encouraging, admonishing, refreshing, informational and a blessing to the readers.” He held a vision for Der Bote in the lives of his readers. His vision enabled him to meet the demanding weekly schedule of editing and publishing Der Bote for four years. In January, 2002, the newspaper was changed to a magazine format which was published bi-weekly.

Isbrand brought a keen mind and a dedication to the schedule of a weekly paper. He was dependable and committed to the success of each issue. He had a keen sense that his work as editor was also a calling to ministry for God. During his time as editor, Isbrand was ordained as a lay minister in the Steinbach Mennonite Church (June 23, 2001). His ministry of writing the devotionals for the Licht von Oben (Light from Above) column in Der Bote was not unlike his ministry of preaching in the German service of his congregation.

It was extremely important to Isbrand to advocate on behalf of the German readers in Mennonite Church Canada. He spoke with fervor about keeping Der Bote as the means by which the denomination keeps in touch with its German reading members. He reminded the Formation Council that these readers had contributed to the life and finances of Mennonite Church Canada and, before that, the Conference of Mennonites in Canada. Isbrand’s wish was that those who preferred to read about their church in German would be able to do so, and preferably that meant they would be able to do so through the ministry of Der Bote. Though the number of subscribers has been declining for the last decade, Der Bote continues to hold an important place in the lives of its readers.

Isbrand went beyond the call of duty to complete the series of Sonderausgabe, (special editions) that was in process when he became the editor in January, 1996. In 1997, 1998 and 2000, he prepared special issues that showcased the history and stories of the various immigrations and settlement of Mennonites into Canada. Each of these editions entailed hours of research, editing and translating. These editions have been translated into English and are a valuable resource for information and research. Thank you, Isbrand, for this work.

Isbrand and his wife Martha lived in Steinbach for the years of Isbrand’s work as editor. He commuted to the office at 600 Shaftesbury in Winnipeg two or three times a week to keep in touch with staff, mail and denominational decisions. There was an advantage to living in proximity to Derksen Printers in Steinbach where the paper is printed, and to Andrea Dick, who prepares Der Bote for printing. Isbrand is dedicated to his family: his wife, Martha, and four adult children. In December of 2003, he became a grandfather to Anna Laura, daughter of his son, Detlef, and his wife, Elizabeth, who reside in Argentina.

For most of his time as editor, Isbrand lived with the discomfort of back pain – pain that was aggravated by the hours of sitting required for his work. He adjusted his working environment in every possible way to make it possible to continue his work as editor. At the beginning of 2003, Isbrand took a four month medical leave. After a further year of seeking pain relief, it became clear that all the measures he tried did not bring the desired result. At this time he is unable to return to the position of editor. On behalf of Mennonite Church Canada, I thank Isbrand for his ministry with Der Bote, and wish him God’s peace.

On January 1, 2003, Ingrid Janzen Lamp of Swift Current became the interim editor of Der Bote and as of May, 2004 she was named editor.