Jacob H. Epp - A Daughter's Perspective
by his daughter, Carol Baerg
It is a privilege for me to represent the family of Jacob Epp. I am certain that each one of his five daughters would have different memories to share and I am just as certain that there would be common thread of characteristics running though our memories. I would like share with you a snapshot of the legacy left to us by our father. As children, we all thought that our father was a very important man. After all, in Sunday school we sang, "we are climbing Jake Epp's ladder."
Dad was a man of principles. He did not waver when it came to his basic belief system. One of the subjects he taught was Doctrine. He both taught and lived what he believed. As his daughters we found him to be stern, but fair. He was willing to listen to our positions, think them through, and discuss them logically with us. Each of us learned that this approach was much more to our advantage than "throwing a fit".
One of our favorite family phrases is "on the other hand". From our father we learned to consider the larger picture and to be willing to look at an issue from more than one perspective. His fairness was evident when we were not able to escape a Saturday of assisting Dad in giving the basement a thorough cleaning, but this was followed by a trip to Saskatoon to see a Billy Graham film that evening.
Dad's position required him to minister in many churches throughout the Mennonite Brethren conference. Some of these visits were made as a family. I particularly dreaded attending Sunday School in a strange church.
Dad understood my shyness and frequently we were allowed to forgo Sunday school and attend the service only.
Dad was our family pastor. He officiated at weddings and funerals of the extended family. Family gatherings were not complete without a time of sharing from the Word. We celebrated Dad's 80th birthday with a family get together at Riding Mountain National Park. After Sunday breakfast Dad lovingly challenged each us to life lived in the fullness of fellowship with God. Two months before his death, the family breakfasted together following our son's wedding and we received the last message that his Heavenly Father had given to him, "my times are in thy hands. . . ." Psalm 31:15. It seemed fitting therefore that the evening of his funeral, we would come home to find his grandchildren together viewing the video tape of his 80th birthday challenge to us.
Dad had a great love for young people. This was evidenced by his long teaching career. At one time, our mother began to assemble a photo album of with pictures of young couples who had requested Dad to officiate at their weddings. In his retirement years he thoroughly enjoyed that opportunity to teach Sunday School to the "younger" congregants. Keeping in touch with nieces and nephews throughout North America afforded him much pleasure. How he enjoyed the times that visited the Epp household. These contacts kept Dad in touch with issues relevant to the younger set. He also appreciated any opportunities to serve as a mentor.
Dad was a man called to serve. To his adult children, his service was frequently very practical. When Mom was still alive they worked as a team. Mom designed and Dad built. The evidence of his handiwork is seen in our homes in cupboards, shelving troweled garage floors, to name only a few. Our daughter, Cynthia, remembers that when they were ready to load their U-Haul for a move from Saskatoon to Winnipeg, her grandpa patiently and methodically planned how best to pack - and amazingly, everything fit in perfectly.
Dad willingly served in any capacity. When we lived on the BBI campus Dad was frequently called to "serve" - this could have been to fix the boiler, attend a meeting, or counsel a distressed student.
Teaching was always his first love. I remember his sermons as teaching sermons and he took every opportunity to teach us, his children and grandchildren. Kathy recalls that on each visit to their home, Dad would bring a new game to play with the grandchildren. Even in this, life lessons were taught - no unfair advantage was given!
Winning others to Christ - mission work at home and abroad - was high on his list of spiritual priorities. As a young man he taught DVBS in more remote communities, then as young family he and Mom accepted God's call to serve as missionaries to China. The events of Pearl Harbour stopped them in British Columbia, just prior to their sailing.
As a family, we thank the Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan for this occasion of recognition. We are blessed to be able to share our father and his work with you.
Two weeks ago, I asked Dad's 95 year old sister Margaret what I could relate about Dad on this occasion. She answered, as I am sure Dad would have. "Anything that may have been accomplished in his life was due to the power of God within him." God was able to use him and we thank Him for that. Dad was a humble man. He was only human. His deep, bass voice continues to echo in my mind, "To God be the glory, great things he hath done."
We, his immediate family, continue to be challenged by his life of faith and his love for his God.