A community is surrounding a family with love after the tragic loss of two teens.
A vehicle being driven by a 17-year-old Sophie Goertzen, with her 15-year-old sister Acacia Goerzen in the passenger seat, was travelling near Ste. Agathe on Sunday, August 8 when it entered the intersection and was struck by a northbound semi. St. Pierre RCMP responded to a report of a two-vehicle collision at the intersection of Highway 75 and Provincial Road 305.
The truck driver was uninjured, however, both Goertzen girls were pronounced dead at the scene.
Duane and Sylvia Goertzen, the mother and father of the two girls, are the Directors of Roseau River Bible Camp (RRBC). The girls leave behind four sisters.
"On the Monday after the accident we cancelled camp. The staff, summer team, and some alumni gathered for a time of sharing, grief counselling and grief time. We then took time to figure out the next steps for the camp program after gauging how everyone is doing," shares Andrew Milton, the Site Director of RRBC.
After just one day, the leadership at RRBC decided to continue with day camps on Tuesday, August 10.
"Duane is the head Director at the camp and his wife [Sylvia] stood by him the whole time," says Jared Fast, a friend of the family. Sophie and Acacia were their second and third children.
Fast started a GoFundMe page on Monday afternoon to help with the funeral costs. With a goal of $15,000, people from all over responded immediately, and in 20 hours, $43,120 was already raised.
"The whole thing is overwhelming. They ask you when you register what is your goal. How do you even think what is a goal, a respectful number, are you asking too much? We trusted the Lord to help out and help us reach that goal and we've been overwhelmed with the response and the messages that have come in."
Continuing on with day camps on Tuesday was intentional for the Goertzens.
"That was one amazing thing. Duane and Sylvia in the midst of this are still so much concerned about camp. They know the benefits on the many children that come. They know the importance of the gospel going out at camp."
RRBC has been running day camps throughout July. With the recent announcement from the government lifting overnight camp restrictions, RRBC was considering offering that for the month of August, but since the accident, they have decided to carry on with day camps only.
"In the midst of this time, that's been the theme of all of this, is the importance of the gospel. That life is brief, it's but a whisper," says Fast.
While the girls weren't even adults yet, they both had an incredible impact on the people they were surrounded by. Living life at a Bible camp, Sophie and Acacia interacted with many people.
"They were beautiful testimonies for the Lord, and touched so many people in their short lives," says one person who donated to the GoFundMe page.
The Site Director of RRBC asks people to respect the family's privacy and Fast asks that people pray over the family during this most difficult time.
"The struggle right now is being stuck between the numbness of the situation and coming to the awareness and reality that this is not a dream, that it is real. Pray for them as they grieve, that they would keep their eyes on the cross. That they would continue to be filled with the assurance that they know where their children are."
When the youngest sister, six-year-old Ember, heard the news, she said, "It's okay dad, they're with Jesus." This is evidence to the Goertzens that God is moving in the midst of this tragedy according to Fast.
The oldest daughter, Isabelle, is set to be married on the camp property in September.
"Just pray for the family, that their faith would be strong, and that they would be comforted. Pray for the camp, all the staff that's affected by this too."