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Saving a Life at an Ontario Psalm Fest


Fifty-year-old Bill Vanderwel hadn’t intended to make such a dramatic arrival at the psalm fest at Grace Christian Reformed Church in Cobourg, Ontario.

Bill Vanderwel

Ron Rupke

Pulling into the church, his truck didn’t stop until it struck the pillar supporting the church entrance breezeway. Vanderwel’s heart valves had collapsed, causing him to lose consciousness.

The crash caught the attention of church members, including church janitor Henry Otter and Rianne Roleveld, a choir member who is also a registered nurse. While they pulled Vanderwel out of his truck and applied CPR, others called 911 to report the medical emergency. Cobourg police arrived very quickly and used their newly-acquired AED (automated external defibrillator) to shock Bill’s heart back into action. An ambulance arrived a few moments later and Bill was whisked away to hospital.

Sirens, flashing lights, and emergency vehicles provided a strange welcome to the many worshipers arriving at the church.

Pastor Alan Kirkpatrick opened the service with a brief explanation of the medical emergency and assurances that the patient was well-cared for. He then offered a prayer for God’s protection for the ailing man and for a blessing on the service.

As Bill was admitted to a local hospital, the church held a celebration of the psalms. The psalm fest was led by Emily Brink of the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship and included solos by Rev. Joyce Borger, compiler of the new collection of Psalms for All Seasons published by Faith Alive Christian Resources.

Vanderwel subsequently underwent surgery to replace his heart valves. When he was able to rejoin his church family at the worship service on November 11, the congregation greeted him with joyous applause. “I’ve been given a second chance at life,” he remarked, saying he saw God’s hands in the church pillar, the skillful CPR treatment, the defibrillator, and his church family.

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