When 26-year-old farmer and youth elder Josh Lubach from Ponoka, Alberta, politely agreed to an interview for this column, he was happy to learn that it probably wouldn’t take more than 25 minutes. At the time of the arranged phone call, Josh talked while driving to Red Deer. Red Deer is 25 minutes from his home in Ponoka, Alberta. Clearly, this self-effacing young man is a man with a purpose.
The farm Josh runs with his father, which he and his wife will take over in a few years when his dad retires, produces eggs that they sell to hatcheries. The hatcheries raise the resulting chicks to become broilers for the chicken meat industry. The Lubachs have 60,000 chickens: at any given time 40,000 are layers, and 20,000 are growing (to become layers at 24 weeks). To feed that huge flock the Lubachs grow their own grain on 2,000 acres.
But running a farm isn’t the sum of Josh’s purpose. He is also husband to Femke and father to their 2-and-a-half-year-old son, Brayden. They are members of Sonrise Christian Reformed Church in Ponoka, another important part of Josh’s life.
When Josh was in high school he liked Young People’s and became a leader. That continued into Young Adults for 18- to 25-year-olds. Currently there are 20 people in each group, and Josh is still a leader, but in a different capacity. A year ago he became the youth elder for Sonrise, his first year in a three-year term.
“I enjoy it,” he says. “I’m always there when Young People’s meets on Tuesdays every other week, and also with Young Adults. I’m involved with both of them. But there are other leaders.” In the future he’ll be a “spare” so that he can move between the groups. And “since the young adults are starting to get married, we’ll start a new post-high school group in the fall,” he adds. “One week we have a [Bible] lesson and at the next meeting a fun event like skiing or swimming.”
Four-fifths of the Sonrise youths are lifelong Christian Reformed Church members and attended Christian schools. So Bible study isn’t new. But it needs to get personal, as it does for all of us. “It’s very important to have a relationship with Christ,” Josh asserts. “We have a responsibility to present the gospel of Christ to everyone. That’s partly why I’m a youth elder.”
He wants to “make sure our youths know what our church is about, that they will show up as they get older, and that they become mature Christians. If they have questions, they’re welcome to ask. That’s kinda what we’re here for.” The Bible study and social outings combine to help Sonrise’s young Christians “form a bond within the church family,” Josh says.
Josh himself grew up in a Reformed church in the Netherlands. “It was OK, but there wasn’t the same family bond as there is in the CRC. When church was over, everybody just went home,” he recalls. Josh’s dad owned a taxi business but wanted to farm. When that wasn’t possible in the Netherlands, the Lubachs (with Josh and his older sister) moved to Canada. That was1994, when Josh was 13. “I had no trouble adjusting to farming or to Canada,” he says without a trace of a Dutch accent.
The Lubachs are part of a current “third wave” of Dutch immigration to North America. Femke is also an immigrant whose dairy-farming family came to Alberta when the Lubachs did.
Josh not only likes his work as a youth elder, he just enjoys church. Sonrise has 56 families, “80 percent [of whom] are involved in agriculture: dairy, lots of dairy; and chicken farming,” Josh explains. Worship is mostly traditional, which is fine with him. A praise team leads the congregation in contemporary songs once a month, but “other than that we use the Psalter Hymnal. A lot of the hymns speak to me a lot better; the praise songs don’t go as deep.”
He concludes, “I’m definitely not thinking about going anywhere else. We’re happy here. We’re involved in the church programs; there are a lot of people our age in the church. We feel really at home.”