Geense family moving on

Two weeks before their departure from Fort Frances, 14-year-old Rebecca Geense and her 13-year-old-sister Jessica can barely speak about moving, leaving their friends and the home they grew up in, without tearing up.
The two youngest daughters of Tony and Gloria Geense have spent most of their childhood in Fort Frances and they will be leaving with their parents at the end of the month for Paisley, Ontario.
Tony is the Pastor at Bethel Baptist Church and they are moving to pastor another church.
“The younger two were the last ones to know. We wanted to know everything was set because it was really hard for them,” Tony said.
For the whole family, leaving is going to be bittersweet.
“It’s going to be exciting to move on to a new chapter in our lives, but at the same time, this is where our friends are,” Gloria said. “When I drive out of town, I’m going to have to get the kids to mop my face because I know it’s going to be hard.
“I was homesick as anything when I moved up here. We started going to Bethel, and there were certain families that just made us part of their families.”
For 20-year-old Rachel and 18-year-old Jennifer, the Geense’s two older daughters, the move has a very different meaning. Both girls attend Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario and will now be close enough to drive home for the weekend.
At the same time, they will always consider Fort Frances their home.
“This is home. I will miss the small town where everyone knows me. It’s not going to be home for me, it will be Mom and Dad’s house,” Rachel said.
The Geense family has been in Fort Frances for 11 years now, when they had originally only intended to stay for five years.
“This was the only place we could get a job,” Tony said. The family originally moved here for Tony to work at Green Funeral Home. He was there for four years before taking over as the pastor at Bethel.
Tony said that part of what he will miss in Fort Frances is the many different roles he’s had in the community.
“You can walk around, and people know you as the funeral director and they want to talk to you. Then I was the pastor, and people know me because of that. Now I have been coaching football at the high school and I get people saying ‘Hi, coach.’”
Gloria is also involved throughout the community, spending lots of time at J.W. Walker school and at the library, as well as babysitting many kids throughout the years.
The Geense family has had many experiences with the ministry in a church and Tony explained that some people don’t realize how it is just like any other job.
“With any job, you have good days, you have bad days. You have good situations, you have bad situations. You’re working with people and there is always going to be unpredictable situations—it’s a matter of working together.”
Tony said that one thing he has tried to do during his time as pastor at Bethel and will also try to do at his new church is to build on assets that already existed in the community.
“We’re not a big church, so you can’t do 15 programs. You have to find the things we do well and focus on those,” he said.
One program that Tony has seen grow since he took over as pastor is the AWANA program (or Approved Workmen Are Not Afraid). It is a program for children that runs on Tuesday nights. For Tony, it was a challenge at first, but ended up being very rewarding in the end.
“I didn’t see (working with children) as a strength I had when I started here, but there was a need in the AWANA program,” Tony said.
Tony did not see it as a strength because he was afraid to get up and teach in front of the children and he found a very creative way to overcome that fear.
“For a while, I was Corky the clown,” he said. “I put together a clown outfit and I could hide in the persona of Corky the Clown to teach.”
After a while he no longer needed to hide behind Corky to be comfortable. Tony said that now through the program they have been able to teach and train other adults and the program can continue running without them.
The decision to leave Fort Frances has been one that Tony and Gloria have been back and forth on for a while, but when they made the final decision this spring, both felt it was for the best.
“I think it’s time, and not just for us,” Tony said. “There are things that I think the church needs: a new vision or a new passion. There is nothing wrong with what they are doing, I just think there is some gifting that I don’t have that they need in order to progress forward. When I resigned, I said to the congregation ‘The easiest thing to do would be to stay.’”
Gloria explained it would be the easiest thing “because things are going well.”
For Tony and Gloria, the church in Paisley seems like a new challenge and new experiences. It will also bring them closer to all of their family.
Tony, Gloria, Rebecca and Jessica will be leaving for their new home the last week in July. Rachel and Jennifer will be in Fort Frances until the end of the summer to finish up their summer jobs before going back to school.
Tony’s last service will be on Sunday, July 23.