Jesus Changes Lives – 40 years of God’s Faithfulness

by Holsby Staff

“Jesus Changes Lives” was the theme for Holsby’s 40th Anniversary Retreat, and it turned out to be quite the week full of fun, fellowship and growth. Before you do anything else, check out the Anniversary Retreat video!

All of Holsby’s former directors, along with Torchbearers’ General Director, Chris Thomas, were in attendance.

Among other things, this added continuity between the years, a unique historical perspective on the ministry and a special depth to the celebration.

l to r: Wally Schoon, Ric Schoon, Fred Wright, John Poysti $ Ulf Andersson

l to r: Wally Schoon, Ric Schoon, Fred Wright, John Poysti & Ulf Andersson

Included in the program were times of worship and sharing where we had the opportunity to hear from many former students and staff about how much Jesus really did change their life here at Holsby. There were 55 guests along with our current team of staff and volunteers who took part in the celebration together.

Anniversary Retreat

Holsby Camps and Program Director, Jonathan Miller, says, “Personally my favorite part of the week was our small group and prayer times after the Bible teaching where I got to hear from many people whom I had never met before. I was really touched by the authenticity and vulnerability of those who talked about how hard life has been since they’ve left Holsby, but also how faithful God has been in the midst of great difficulty. Despite our differences in age, nationality and church affiliation – just to name a few – we all had much more in common than we expected. Each one of us was linked together in that Holsby has been a meaningful chapter in our story and through this Jesus had changed us.”

Donna Schoon writes, “I wish I could have divided myself by 50!! What joy it was to meet and share with so many Holsby “alums” gathered all together (from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Latvia, Germany, South Korea, Netherlands, Poland, Austria, England, Canada, USA) to celebrate 40 years of God’s faithfulness in this place. The guests were quite representative of every decennium since Holsby’s inception in 1973 – even people from the very first year. The showers of blessing from our Lord, which we all so keenly felt, were far above and beyond our expectations.”

Memories from this jubilee week had a tendency to tumble over each other:

It was with a sense of awe that five of Holsby’s original seven staff from that first year were together in one place after so many years.

l to r: Wally & Donna Schoon, Katrin Bjuhr, and Fred & Sharon Wright

l to r: Wally & Donna Schoon, Katrin Bjuhr, and Fred & Sharon Wright

Taking a memory walk one day around the campus, people reminisced about what was meaningful to them while at Holsby – both the thoughtful and the humorous. And placed around the sides of the lecture hall were picture boards from the years represented during this anniversary week. Along with the boards, on display for the very first time was a book compiled by former student, Jason (“Zeek”) Zielsdorf (1989-90), presenting photos of all 40 years of Holsby Bible School. For viewing, please click on (


God’s Word was aptly spoken in powerful ways each day as we focused on the theme: “Jesus Changes Lives.” Torchbearers’ General Director, Chris Thomas, as well as the five directors in the history of Holsby, shared studies about Bible characters with whom they could personally identify.


Small group discussions after the morning Bible studies gave occasion to get to know one another better and have opportunity to make God’s Word personal.


Our Housemother and senior staff member, Elke Bierau, was baptized on a beautiful evening at a local lake. It was a wonderful time of commitment, celebration and worship.


All the ladies had an afternoon tea together in the Thomas back yard. Bonnie Thomas, as well as a few of the Holsby directors’ wives, shared personally from their hearts.


Holsby is known for their tasty food – and Friday evening’s special smörgåsbord was delightfully delicious!!


The program also included special afternoon features such as the climbing wall, ropes course and giant swing; canoeing; swimming at the lake; shuttles to town; and enjoying “fika” at one of the cozy local cafés. There was such wonderful fellowship the entire week! And the weather could not have been more ideal!


There were many memorable quotes throughout the week that caused one to ponder and reflect:

  • It is easy to decide for Jesus, but one does not understand the dynamic of it until one lets go and fully trusts Him.
  • The Bible is not just a book to be studied but a relationship to be enjoyed.
  • It’s too easy to be textually enlightened but spiritually unaware.
  • My mission zeal started at Holsby and changed my life very much.
  • One night, when a student at Holsby, my faith moved from my head to my heart.
  • “You can’t; God never said you could. God can; HE always said HE would.” (Often quoted by Torchbearers’ founder, Major Ian Thomas, and shared once more by Chris Thomas).
  • I have been kept by the grace of God.

Holsby’s director, John Poysti, concluded on that final day of conference: Don’t look at your past; look at God’s past! HE IS FAITHFUL!!!


We all came to the end of this inspiring week feeling refreshed, challenged, encouraged, and full of praise to the Lord for His hand over Holsby and His power demonstrated in changed lives!

 I will praise Your name for Your love and your faithfulness;

for You have exalted above all things

Your name and Your Word.

Psalm 138:2


05. August 2013 by Holsby Staff
Categories: Camps & Retreats, Uncategorized | 1 comment

One Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing! Wish I could have been there!
    Recently reviewed 4 Holsby yrbks/photos with our Swedish guests here in CA. (Ron & I were staff (1994-98) plus student with family (1975-76) Here’s my thoughts on Holsby, that I wrote in March, 1998:
    In a rushing world… Holsby is a Special Place, where time takes on a different pace. Where friends emerge from a stranger’s face and memories are made that can’t be erased. Where forest walks and table talks present a key that may unlock the truth of which the teachers talk: Knowing God and His great grace! Yes, Holsby is a Special Place! – Blessings, Becky & Ron Eisemann