One Hundred Years


…when I experienced the warm, unpretentious reception of those who have nothing to boast about, and experienced a loving embrace from people who didn’t ask any questions, I began to discover that a true spiritual homecoming means a return to the poor in spirit to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs.
~Henri Nouwen from The Return of the Prodigal Son





Back in the early days of Whatcom County,  the little church on Wiser Lake had been constructed through “contributions of the people” in a rural neighborhood only a few miles from where we now live.  $600 in lumber was provided by a local farmer whose trees were cut and milled and brought by horse drawn wagon to a building site adjacent to a one room school house along a corrugated plank road. The total property was “valued at $1800, but of even more value to the community.” The dedication ceremony was held on Sunday, August 27, 1916 followed by “a basket dinner—come with well filled baskets for a common table, under the direction of the Ladies Aid”. This was to be followed by a “Fellowship Meeting, special music and fraternal addresses” and the day ended at 8 PM with a Young People’s Meeting.  So began the long history of the “Wiser Lake Church”.



For reasons unrecorded in the history of the church, the original denomination closed the doors thirty years later, and for awhile the building was empty and in need of a congregation. By the fifties, it became a mission church of the local Christian Reformed Churches and launched a Sunday School program for migrant farm and Native American children in the surrounding rural neighborhood.  No formal church services started until the sixties. By the time the building was sixty years old, so many children were arriving for Sunday School, there was not enough room so the building was hoisted up on jacks to allow a hole to be dug underneath for a basement full of classrooms. Over the course of a summer, the floor space doubled, and the church settled back into place, allowed to rest again on its foundation.




Over seventy years after its dedication ceremony, our family drove past the boxy building countless times hurrying on our way to other places, barely giving it a second glance. It had a classic design, but showed its age with peeling paint,  a few missing shingles, an old fashioned square flat roofed belfry, and arched windows. The hand lettered sign spelling out “Wiser Lake Chapel” by the road constituted a humble invitation of sorts, simply by listing the times of the services.



On a blustery December Sunday evening, we had no place else to be for a change.  Instead of driving past, we stopped, welcomed by the yellow glow pouring from the windows and an almost full parking lot. Our young family climbed the steps to the big double doors, and inside were immediately greeted by a large balding man with a huge grin and encompassing handshake. He pointed us to one of the few open spots still available in the old wooden pews.

The sanctuary was a warm and open space with a high lofted ceiling, dark wood trim accents matching the ancient pews, and a plain wooden cross above the pulpit in front. There was a pungent smell from fir bough garlands strung along high wainscoting, and a circle of candles standing lit on a small altar table. Apple pie was baking in the kitchen oven, blending with the aroma of good coffee and hot cocoa.

The service was a Sunday School Christmas program, with thirty some children of all ages and skin colors standing up front in bathrobes and white sheet angel gowns, wearing gold foil halos, tinfoil crowns and dish towels wrapped with string around their heads. They were prompted by their teachers through carols and readings of the Christmas story. The final song was Silent Night, sung by candle light, with each child and member of the congregation holding a lit candle. There was a moment of excitement when one girl’s long hair briefly caught fire, but after that was quickly extinguished, the evening ended in darkness, with the soft glow of candlelight illuminating faces of the young and old, some in tears streaming over their smiles.


It felt like home. We had found our church.

We’ve never left.

Over the past one hundred years this old building has seen a few thousand people come and go, has had peeling paint and missing shingles, a basement that floods when the rain comes down hard, toilets that don’t always flush, and though it smells heavenly on potluck days, there are times when it can be just a bit out of sorts and musty.  It really isn’t anything to boast about.

It is humble and unpretentious yet envelops its people in its loving and imperfect embrace, with warmth, character and a uniqueness that is unforgettable.

It really is not so different from the folks who have gathered here over the years.

We know we belong,
such as we are,
just as we are,
blessed by God with this place to join together.

~Emily Gibson




From an old Chapel Bulletin

(from a 1980’s Wiser Lake Chapel Bulletin during Pastor Bruce Hemple’s ministry days)
saved by Russ Unrein


A personal quiet time is that measure of time given to meditation, prayer, Bible reading and sharing with god through Jesus Christ. It’s precious time for it is sacred time with God.

The Christian spends this time with god to know his God. “It’s quite natural that if we spend 16 hours daily of our waking life in thinking about the affairs of the world, and five minutes in thinking about God, this world will seem 200 times more real to us than God.” ~Dean Inge

The problem with the average Christian’s prayer life is that it lacks consistency. Yet, a look at Scripture reveals that a prayer habit is essential to power with God. Daniel prayed three times a day from his chambers, David prayed morning, noon and evening. Jesus sought the solitude of the hills for prayer.

God’s fine servants are persons of great prayer.

  • Prayer will make you more like Jesus.
  • Daily prayer will lead to a glimpse of God’s glory.
  • A daily prayer habit will nourish your spirits.
  • Prayer will teach us wise use of our time. Prayer, in the truest sense, does not really take time, it saves time.


Good habits to develop

  • When you awake, let God’s presence fill your thoughts. Successful is the day whose first victory is won by prayer. Holy is the day when dawn finds you on the mountain. Health is established in the morning. The light is brightest in the morning. (Joseph Parker)
  • Find a specific time for prayer daily. We need time for prayer, unhurried time, daily time, time enough to forget about how much time it is. The one who does not make time for prayer will never find time to pray.( S.D. Gorden) World Literature Crusade suggests a minimum of 15 minutes per day. And strongly recommends an hour or more.
  • Use a prayer list. Perhaps your most important list. It keeps before you, needs, concerns, people, projects and causes worthy of prayer. It’s a tool which helps make prayer more intelligent. As you pray for all these specific needs, god’s love for them will; fill your heart.
  • Continue to pray though out the day. Pray momentarily (short prayers) for people who come into your thoughts during the day. Offer praise to God though out the day. Pray immediately for anyone or any cause that has need. The Bible says: “Pray without ceasing.” I Thess. 5:17 it means to pray spontaneously.
  • Spend enough time praying to really meet God.
  • At times pray out loud.
  • Pray for a moment every hour. It will keep you in the spirit of prayer throughout the day.


  • Develop the Prayer Habit.

Daniel was most faithful in prayer.

  • Develop a prayer program.


Praise – 5 minutes

Be Still – 5 minutes

Confession – 5 minutes

Read the Word – 5 minutes

Asking – 5 minutes

Pray for others – 5 minutes

Pray the Word – 5 minutes

Thanksgiving – 5 minutes

Sing – 5 minutes

Meditation – 5 minutes

Listen to God – 5 minutes

Praise – 5 minutes

(complete prayer)


“I looked for a man among them, who would build up the wall, and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land, so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.” Ezekiel 22:30


  • “ Ye are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and I will walk in them; and I will be their God.” I Cor 6:16
  • “God answers prayer.” Matt 7:8
  • “Greater is He that is in you than he who is in the world.” I John 4:4
  • “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
  • “I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” Acts 10:34
  • Do everything that Jesus would have you to do. Learn from Him and pray daily.
  • “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matt 6:33
  • Trust God completely. Proverbs 3:6




PERSONAL NEEDS                       FRIENDS, LOVED ONES           WORLD NEEDS













Chapel History Time Line

“Everything you do today, or I do, affects not only what is going to happen but what has already happened, years and centuries ago. Maybe you can’t change what has passed, but you can change all the meaning of what has passed. You can even take all the meaning away.” –words of an old preacher, quoted by Martin Wright, a friend of Herbert Butterfield (British historian)

“Therefore look carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5: 15-16


1916—Wiser Lake church building completed and opened August 27 as the Smith Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church.

1944—Lynden’s First, Second, and Third CRC form Local Evangelism Board, hiring Chris Stremler as lay missionary. By the time the Board disbanded and Stremler resigned his position in 1951, the outreach efforts had focused upon operating a Sunday School at the Wiser Lake Chapel, the building having been vacated by the Methodist congregation.

1951—First Lynden CRC assumes responsibility for the Sunday School outreach at the Chapel, also paying the Methodist District Union rent of $25 per month for the use of the property.

1953—Maurice VanderGriend of First CRC begins 14 year tenure as superintendent of the Wiser Lake Chapel Sunday School. He regularly visits people in their homes throughout the Wiser Lake District.

1957—Hilda DeKubber begins her association with the Chapel after being invited by Oscar and Katherine Dykstra

to provide special music on her accordian on the morning of September 29.

1961—First Lynden CRC purchases property from the Methodist District Union for $1250.

1967—Following Maurice VanderGriend’s retirement, Harrison Harnden, a teacher at Lynden Christian School, provides leadership at the Chapel for a brief time before he leaves for seminary training. He initiates morning worship services.

1968-9—Pete and Esther Meyer begin their long association with the Chapel. Pete leads morning worship services, and they both give leadership to active youth outreach programs such as Daily Vacation Bible School and Boys’ and Girls’ clubs.

1970—Laymen’s League formed by CRC congregations in the County. In 1971, Gerrit Haagsma, a young seminary-trained person, is called to lead its ministry, which includes the work at Wiser Lake Chapel. Most of the Laymen’s League work is diaconal in nature, and the stage is set for some difficulty defining the nature of the Chapel and its work to the supporting churches.

Mid-1970’s—As youth outreach programs thrive, the need for more space is pressing. A basement is placed under the main church structure by Pete Meyer’s crew.

1977—Gerrit Haagsma leaves for a new pastorate in New Mexico in early summer, & Bruce Hemple arrives before winter. As the new head of the Laymen’s League work, Bruce provides regular part-time service as a pastor for the Chapel for the next 13 years.

1985—Laymen’s League questions its future role in the work at Wiser Lake Chapel. The future of the Chapel is brought squarely on the table. A Mission and Analysis Projection (MAP) is performed for the Chapel by the CRC’s regional home missions personnel. Issues of membership are addressed, evening services are initiated, and a congregation is consciously in the making. The adequacy of the facilities for a growing congregation is particularly questioned by the home missions personnel.

1990—Bruce Hempel retires at the end of the year, and the Laymen’s League support ends. Formal association with the CRC ends soon thereafter.

1991—Steve Tamminga begins a 21 month period of service as part-time pastor as congregation becomes self-supporting, non-affiliated congregation. Close informal ties with CRC are maintained through volunteer efforts and pulpit supply, but volunteer workers from other churches soon conclude work as congregation takes over its own tasks.

1992—Extensive pastor search (nation-wide, over 80 applicants) concludes, Pastor Bert Hitchcock and wife Jane (affiliated with the Presbyterian Church of America) accepts call in early July, arrives to begin work in October.

1992 to the present—Financially, budgets and receipts through collections increase fivefold, enabling support for full-time pastor, support for seminarians from congregation, and a building program. Church membership and attendance at worship grow to point of necessitating two morning services.


Where do we go from here?

II Corinthians 5:16—6:2 is as applicable today as it was nearly sixty years ago at the outset of the Chapel outreach program of the Lynden Christian Reformed Churches nearly sixty years ago, or at the initial dedication of the chapel building by the Methodist congregation nearly 94 years ago. God has entrusted to his church the ministry of reconciliation, God making his appeal through us on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God.



Wiser Lake Chapel 100th Anniversary



The community is invited to celebrate Wiser Lake Chapel’s 100th anniversary of its building’s dedication:

When: This Sunday, August 7, 2016 from 1- 4 PM

Where: Wiser Lake Chapel, 7121 Guide Meridian, Lynden, Washington

Events planned:

9:30-10:30 AM Morning Worship

1:00-2:00 PM Community potluck lunch, bring an item to share if you can

Organized outdoor kids’ games will take place after the meal and dessert social. There will be no nursery service provided.

2:00-2:45 PM A time of remembrance and thanksgiving for the Chapel’s history of mission outreach to neighborhood children supported by Lynden churches and community members, as well as its current ministry to Whatcom County and around the world, followed by a hymn sing of our church favorites.

2:45- 3:15 PM Dessert Social

3:15-4:00 PM Musical concert featuring special Chapel pianist Bethany Hilt on piano

For more information:
contact Emily Gibson