What difference can one person make? A lot, when God is the one who gives the call.
If you were to walk around Trinity Western’s campus today and ask a student — or even a professor — about the history of the Strombeck Centre, you’d not likely get much of an answer. Far away and on the edge of campus, this building doesn’t appear to be very significant. But that building is a miracle. Both it and its namesake played a crucial role in the early days of the school.
Even though classes were scheduled to begin in the fall of 1962, Trinity Junior College was still an infant school and lacked many of the necessary facilities and resources to be considered a strong, viable option for many students. In those days, the closest thing they had to a library was a room containing a handful of books. This was a problem, and not one with a simple solution.
There was a man who had a burden for this need. His name was Helmer Anderson. He was a member of the Evangelical Free church, and had a desire to bless the newly established school with a donation of his book collection. Anderson believed in the vision of the school, and wanted to ensure that there would be a flourishing library for the students. But before he was able to do much to support this goal, he passed away.
This was disheartening news for Trinity’s first president, Calvin Hanson. But, rather than despair, Hanson lifted this request up in prayer. He then wrote an article for The Evangelical Beacon, outlining this need to any who might be interested.
God heard Hanson’s prayer, and began working on a solution south of the border, many miles away.
Vernon Strombeck was a simple businessman from Moline, Illinois. Late one night, while he was relaxing alone in his home hoping to unwind from his busy day, he decided to do some reading. He had hoped this would help him fall asleep. At the time, Strombeck knew little of the needs of Trinity, but a simple article in the Evangelical Beacon would change that — and his life — forever.
“Helmer’s untimely death leaves us with no one as far as we know who has a specific heart burden for the library at Trinity Junior College” Hanson’s article read. “Who will take Helmer Anderson’s burden?”
Those words jumped out of the page at Strombeck, followed immediately by him jumping out of his chair. “Holy smoke, that’s me!” he exclaimed to the empty room. Strombeck knew that God was calling him to serve the school in this way, and from that moment on, it would become his new mission.
In September, 1962, Strombeck came to the school to drop off his daughter, Mary. It was there that he met and shared his vision with Hanson for the first time.
“Mr Strombeck seemed drawn to share himself with me and to reveal to me not just an interest in this new college venture, or simply a curious kind of concern, but a sense of burden for it,” writes Hanson in On the Raw Edge of Faith. “It became apparent to me that already God was preparing this man for something special in relation to this fledgling college.”
Although Strombeck helped the university in many ways, the library was always first and foremost on his mind. He knew without a doubt that this was the thing that God had uniquely tasked him to do. At first, the library was nothing more than a wing in the chapel building. Then Strombeck helped upgrade it to a unit designed to hold 200 people. Within a few years, the school outgrew that unit, and so he anonymously donated all of the money required to build the first real library on campus (which was eventually named The Vernon Strombeck Library in honour of his generous donation.)
Strombeck could have invested his money elsewhere. He could have used it to build his own kingdom, or to spend on his leisure. But he didn’t. And even though that building is used for classes now and is no longer a library, it still serves as a testament to what can be accomplished when one person heeds the voice of the Lord and puts the things of God above themselves.