The Gifts of a Mentor
Bruce Heerema during a trip to Kenya
Saturday, March 3, marks the one-year anniversary of the passing of my friend and mentor, Bruce Heerema. Bruce was a larger-than-life man, having earned a free agent contract with the Chicago Bears in the early ‘60s. But, as physically big of a man Bruce was, his heart for ministry was even bigger. Let me tell you about Bruce.
Growing up in Pella, most kids knew the name Bruce Heerema, as he was a pillar
Upon entering his office, we immediately hit it off. I loved business and history, so it was fascinating for me to hear how Bruce had navigated the business waters, from working at Boats Furniture to owner to the early days at Heritage Lace to becoming a multimillion-dollar company. We then transitioned to talking about Bruce’s mission work in Africa, his visits with the people in that continent, and the start-up businesses he helped launch. I had no idea of this side of Bruce. He lit up, and the passion he had for this subject was palpable. He talked about using business as a tool to alleviate poverty and the potential for ministry based around business. I had read a lot on this subject, but this was the first person I had met who was actually doing it. I was in heaven. By the end of the meeting, Bruce had written me a nice check to help kick-start a salary for me and I thanked him.
“He caught the vision for what God wanted to do and the passion with which the ministry had to see it through.”
Like all Bruce meetings, we hit the ground running. In this particular meeting, I saw Bruce’s heart to serve the Lord. He caught the vision for what God wanted to do and the passion with which the ministry had to see it through. After about 45 minutes, he told me he would like to pray on it and get back to me. I heard nothing for a few weeks and in early December, I remember lying in bed, with an incredibly overwhelmed heart. I knew what God wanted, but I didn’t think it was possible. Maybe the dream was too big, and I should let it go. I prayed to God from the depth of my toes, asking Him to send someone to come alongside this vision, as I was about defeated. The next day, I got a phone call from Bruce saying, “Come to my office today.” I showed up and on his desk was a sizeable check, the largest one we had received at that point. “I believe in what you are doing. I don’t want any recognition for this. Use this as seed money and go get more. You can do this.” I left his office and was completely overwhelmed, shocked someone like Bruce would believe in someone like me to this level. It catapulted me and the ministry to get the rest of the funding needed for the store. On August 3, 2013, we opened Many Hands Market.
Opening day of the Many Hands Market in Spencer, Iowa.
“He was in tune with his Creator, and when God said to do something, Bruce listened and faithfully obeyed. I’m so thankful he did.”
I had no idea what hung in the balance from Bruce’s decision. In
Many Hands for Haiti stands on the shoulders of Christ-following leaders like Bruce Heerema, who faithfully listened to God’s call, poured into people with potential, and used his resources and expertise for Kingdom work. His gift of mentorship is now a stone in my foundation, one of which I can build upon. The last time I talked to Bruce was
Become Love in Action for children like Kerlin
Many Hands stands on the shoulders of Tim and Lucia Van Maanen, whose sacrificial “I’m with you” spirit forever set our organization on God’s path.
Many Hands for Haiti stands on the shoulders of Pastor Francois Romelus, who is our angel on earth, gently guiding us with wisdom, courage, and love.
Many Hands for Haiti stands on the shoulders of Karmen Brown, who shows us how to love others with the love of Jesus.