Eunice Voortman’s conversation is accompanied by animated expressions and punctuated with boisterous laughter. Fifty-five-year-old Eunice exudes self-confidence. She is content with the life and place God has given her. She sees God’s hand and plan everywhere. “Coincidence cannot possibly apply,” she says.
Young Eunice Zonnefeld’s self-confidence came early. It had to. When she was “13 going on 9,” the northwest Iowa family farm where she grew up was sold, as it was becoming too much for her dad.
Eunice’s parents didn’t want her to switch schools partway through the year, so in August 1965 they put her on a train bound for their new home in California. It was a two-and-a-half day ride, and she was alone until her older brother met her at the Los Angeles train station. A trip like that wasn’t uncommon, but “it wasn’t until I became a parent that I had any sense of what that must have cost them,” says Eunice. “I didn’t think about trusting God, I just did it.”
Eunice and her parents settled into life in Bellflower and began to attend Third CRC there. As high school ended, “my parents announced that I would be attending Dordt College” (in Sioux Center, Iowa), Eunice says. Her parents’ plan was OK by her. The truth was, she had no plan of her own for her life or future. But as she found out, God clearly did.
Though she had grown up not far from Dordt, going back to Iowa felt like culture-shock in reverse. While at college Eunice began to wonder for the first time ever, “Is all this God stuff real? Does it matter to me? Should I do something about it?” She admits, “I was at the point of either chucking it all out as irrelevant or embracing it, whatever that would entail.”
About that time she had a peculiar, middle-of-the-night experience that sealed her faith and future. She owned a Bible whose cover said New English Version in large white letters. One night Eunice inexplicably awoke, glanced toward the Bible and was astonished to see those white letters had been transformed into a new, shining word: REALITY. “I can’t say I became a missionary overnight,” she jokes, “but I know it was a turning point. Christianity was no longer hereditary; it was personal.”
The Christmas before her graduation Eunice met Darrell Voortman, the man she would marry. Older than she, he had gone to her high school but had graduated before she arrived; he had been in Vietnam and she had prayed for him as a nameless soldier; they had lived on the same block for three years before they ever met. They have a son and two daughters, now grown.
Nearly 30 years ago Eunice and Darrell moved north to Escalon where they’ve attended the Escalon CRC ever since. Eunice says, “We were so warmly welcomed we never saw any reason to go anywhere else.” Over the years, Eunice has been involved in Calvinettes (now GEMS), vacation Bible school, Coffee Break women’s Bible study, “and a number of odd one-time assignments.”
At home, she and Darrell work together. Their orchard produces almonds for the Blue Diamond company, but is not large enough to be self-sustaining, so they also run a pest control service for other growers. God’s planning was evident, too, in how their business developed.
Eunice sees God at work by the year, month, hour, and minute, in everything. “Though I sometimes feel like I’m working on a jigsaw puzzle without access to the picture on the box, and I’m not sure if I have all the right pieces, I know that God has the big picture.”
She concludes, “I have found that it’s important to acknowledge God’s involvement each time I realize he has been at work. It’s as if the pipeline runs dry when I don’t extend the credit where it’s due. So here I am, an almond grower, praising God even when it’s pouring rain during blossom time.”
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