At Providence, from time to time, we like to feature stories about how our graduates are making a difference for Christ in their lives, careers and communities. Sometimes, it’s the extraordinary things that people accomplish on a large scale that “wow” us, but it’s really all about how we live our lives to honor and serve God in the places that He calls us to go.
Candyce DeKruyff’s story is a welcome retreat in the midst of all the discouraging stories we read on our daily news feeds. It’s sweet, relatable and inspiring. It presents a challenge for us to be more intentional as difference-makers.
Candyce (maiden name: Janzen) graduated from Providence with her Bachelor of Arts in 1991, and then, her Master of Arts in Counseling in 1994. She is now married with three children and lives in Alabama.
“I never could’ve imagined that, after leaving Providence, I’d make the United States my home but God’s plans often don’t look like ours,” remarks Candyce about her life after graduation. “My counseling degree has opened up opportunities for me – first as a resident director in a Christian college, and then in rape crisis work which eventually led me into grant writing.”
Candyce and her husband, Brian, are intentional about serving the Lord first in their own community, then regionally and abroad. And they believe in modeling this lifestyle for their children. “Our heart has always been for ministry and I’m so thankful for the many opportunities that God opens for us.”
Candyce serves as a central drop-off coordinator for Operation Christmas Child in her community. “In 2019, we sent more than 15,000 shoeboxes from our area.” Also, the Dekruyff family branched out regionally to nearby Georgia to serve on a team at Atlanta’s International Village just four hours away from their home.
“As our children got older, we believed it was time for an international mission trip. We tried to go with our home church to Haiti, but due to timing and civic unrest, that became impossible. Then, we were introduced to Rice Bowls, an organization who feeds children in 55 orphanages in eight countries around the world.”
Candyce and Brian asked their three children what they thought about choosing to take their summer vacation in Honduras on mission instead of a fun trip elsewhere. They decided to pray about it individually, and then come back together in two weeks to make a final decision as a family. But, before 10 days had passed, the kids decided emphatically that they wanted to go.
“God answered so many prayers even before we left our home. Raising the money for a family of five seemed daunting. My prayer was that our children would each see and experience God’s hand along the way.”
Katie, 11, and the youngest in the DeKruyff family, enjoys art lessons. She wanted to raise her own portion of funds for the trip. So, she painted watercolors on hymn pages and put them on Facebook. She painted more than 100 watercolors, and not only paid for her own trip, but also for all the art supplies that she brought to Honduras. She wanted to be able to do art with the kids at the orphanage.
“My favorite part was just being able to spend time with the kids and loving on them,” says Katie. “I feel that God taught me that I need to be more open. And by going on this trip, I feel that I can because I’m not scared anymore.”
BriAnna, 14, was at her youth summer camp just 10 days before they left for Honduras. It was here that she recognized the Lord calling her into missions. “Honduras was an incredible experience. I loved the people there so much because they were all so nice. I really liked how they spoke English so we didn’t need a translator. I can’t wait to go back!”
Candyce and Brian were praying for their oldest son, Tyler, 16. Five weeks before their trip to Honduras, Tyler went on a church choir tour, had a personal and vivid encounter with Jesus and called his parents to share how he’d come to know God in a way he had never before.
“God showed me how privileged we actually are. Here in Prattville you don’t notice it as much, but Honduras is completely different to how we live,” confides Tyler about his experience in Central America, “And there are so many things we take for granted.”
The DeKruyff family travelled with a team to the Good Shepherd Children’s Home in Zamorano, Honduras. They spent a week doing service projects and building relationships with 90 orphans. Their primary focus was to show and share the love of Christ with the children. They spent time with them doing art, playing soccer, enjoying Uno games and going on scavenger hunts. They let the orphans know how much they are loved by Father God.
“Before the week was over, our children asked to go back the following summer. (BriAnna asked to stay!),” explains Candyce. “How do you say ‘no’ to that? So we didn’t, and we’ll be going back in July 2020. We can never know where the Lord will take us, or what He will do when we open our hearts and hands to Him.”
Thanks to today’s technology, the DeKruyff children face time and receive emails from the orphans they met in Honduras. It wasn’t just about going on a short term mission trip for the DeKruyffs, but impacting the lives of others because that is what God calls us all to do. This is the foundational belief system and faith that propels Candyce (at work, at home and in ministry) to become a difference-maker, changing the world around her.
We feel privileged at Providence to have played a part in Candyce’s story as she lived, learned and belonged to our community for eight years. We know she exemplifies the heart of Providence’s mission to grow students as leaders of character, knowledge and faith.