OLDS, Alberta (Mennonite Church Canada Witness/Mennonite Mission Network) — Martha Boschman Vandenberg was known for her care, whether healing with her hands as a nurse at a Taiwan children's home or interacting with others through her decades-long ministry.
A Mennonite mission worker with her husband, Han, in Taiwan for 38 years, Vandenberg, 78, died March 13, 2007, at the Olds Long-term Care Centre in Olds, Aberta, after a long struggle with Lewy Bodies, a form of dementia similar to Alzheimer's disease.
Born on September 7, 1928, on the Canadian prairies, Martha grew in her desire to reach out to other people. A gracious host, writer, nurse, minister, wife, mother and grandmother, Martha's life – especially her warm hospitality and listening ear – touched many.
Raised on the prairies during the depression, Martha went on to study nursing and then Christian education at Canadian Mennonite Bible College, now Canadian Mennonite University. In 1955, she went as a single woman to Taiwan, learned the Taiwanese language and ministered there from 1957-1993 with the Commission on Overseas Mission, a predecessor agency of Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network.
While in Taiwan she met co-worker Han Vandenberg from the Netherlands, who later became her husband. They retired to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in 1992 and moved to Olds in 1999. Han died in 2005.
In a eulogy, long-time friend Susan Kehler said, “I clearly recall when visiting the Babies Home in Taichung how Martha did hands-on caring. For Martha, caring was more than an emotional tug or applying intellectual skills.
“After Martha’s marriage to Han, she exchanged her full-time nursing to full-time church ministry with Han. But her caring continued. Many, many persons and, later, definitely, her family, were the recipients of her tender caring. No matter if it was coupled with praying, speaking words of encouragement, serving a meal or providing lodging, etc., her caring ministry was a model for all of us.”
Martha’s daughter, Tobia Veith, with her husband, George, and their children, Matthew, Michael and Marika, currently serve in Macau with Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network. Martha is also survived by daughter Susan (Rod) Reynar and their children Anika and Joya, of Olds, Alberta, daughter-in-law Monica Schmidt Blais of Kitchener, Ontario, four brothers, three sisters and numerous nieces, and nephews.
Martha’s funeral was March 19 at Didsbury (Alberta) Bergthal Mennonite Church. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the International Ministries department of Mennonite Church Canada Witness.