Marc Hovingh’s faith played huge role in his life and work

The mobile sign in front of Mindemoya Missionary Church serves as a testament to the way Marc Hovingh lived his life, both while on duty as an OPP officer and in his everyday community interactions with the people of Manitoulin.

MANITOULIN – Fallen Provincial Constable (PC) Marc Hovingh’s loss has been felt strongly among the Island faith community and especially among the congregation of Mindemoya Missionary Church, where each of his family members have been devoted parishioners for decades.

Ben Quackenbush, a physician who serves as the youth ministry director at Mindemoya Missionary Church, said the news still feels unreal. He has been meeting with members of the church community in recent days to help them process the past week’s events.

“We’re all pretty heartbroken. It’s a small island to begin with and a very tight-knit church on top of that. It’s hard to lose a member of your church family, especially so unexpectedly like this, but it’s good that we do have each other for support. Hopefully, we’ll find meaningful ways to be there for Lianne and the kids,” he said.

Pastor Ray Kloetstra retired from his duties at the church earlier this year and moved to St. Thomas to be closer to family. He has known the Hovingh family since they first came to Manitoulin more than two decades ago.

“It’s a real shocker for us,” Pastor Kloetstra said. “We’ve been keeping in touch with people back home and from the things we’ve seen on Facebook, this is having a big impact on the whole Island.”

The retired pastor is planning to return to the Island for a special service at the church this Sunday, November 29. He will offer one-on-one counselling for parishioners who need extra support.

“We share very much with them in their heartache and grief. Marc was a man who served; that’s what he was known for. He served his family, he served his church, he served his community. We might look at this tragedy and say it’s a great waste, but none of our lives are wasted. None of us knows the impact of our lives on our neighbours, our families and people who we might think aren’t even looking or who might not even notice. Marc’s life is going to leave a big impact on a lot of other lives,” Pastor Kloetstra said.

PC Hovingh’s shift work meant it was difficult for him to take part in some church activities but Pastor Kloetstra said he always found unique ways to contribute, often behind the scenes where people might not have seen his efforts directly.

The Hovingh family name is synonymous with several families of Eritrean refugees who first settled on Manitoulin Island before relocating to other parts of the province. Lianne Hovingh, PC Hovingh’s wife, took a lead role on making sure they were comfortable and welcomed in their new homes.

The community hall in Gore Bay was the site of a candlelight vigil Saturday night, where community members paid their respects to fallen OPP officer Marc Hovingh.

The Hovinghs also hosted regular gatherings in their home to offer support and life advice.

“Marc was known for his cooking, too. Several times when there was an illness or tragedy, Marc would prepare a meal and deliver it. He was caring but he served in hidden ways. Those hidden ways are often the most impactful,” he said.

Both PC Hovingh and Ms. Hovingh grew up in Reformed Christian households, said Pastor Kloetstra. They joined the Mindemoya Missionary Church family in the absence of any Reformed churches on the Island and shared Dutch heritage with the retired pastor.

Pastor Kloetstra said Marc’s faith has ensured that he is now receiving comfort in the Lord’s presence and that the church family looks forward to the future resurrection when all things are restored and justice is made right.

“One day, we who trust in Christ with Marc will participate in that great resurrection. That eternal life gives us hope even in the midst of tragedy,” he said.

The church opened its doors Thursday evening for an open prayer session where community members were invited to pay their respects in the hours after the incident.

Dr. Quackenbush said Ms. Hovingh has always been heavily involved with the children’s and older youth programs, both on Sunday mornings and during the week. She serves as the children’s ministry co-ordinator at the church and her children have grown up to become leaders of such children’s programs themselves.

“Marc was always involved to help out with big special events with the teenagers. Every year at Halloween we have a community-wide scavenger hunt throughout Mindemoya and there was always a stop at the police station where Marc always had some elaborate shenanigans planned,” said Dr. Quackenbush, adding that PC Hovingh enjoyed taking children out tubing behind his boat at the church’s end-of-year party.

“Marc was always around and always willing to help people out with anything,” he said. “We’re going to miss him. But as hard as it is for us and his colleagues, it’ll be that much harder for Lianne and the kids, so I’m just glad we can be there for them.”

On Saturday, November 21, physically distanced crowds gathered at Mindemoya Missionary Church, where the Hovingh family were parishioners. Church members organized a candlelight vigil to co-incide with the Gore Bay event.

At a memorial service on Sunday morning, parishioners exchanged stories about their fallen community member.

Minister Joel Lock, who manages Strawberry Point Christian Camp on Ice Lake and serves at The Island Community Church, presided over the service. He shared a story of when a substantial amount of funds was mistakenly directed into someone else’s account instead of going to the church. 

PC Hovingh volunteered to look into the matter and worked for two years to recover the missing funds. The camp finally received their money back within the past month because of his persistence.

Minister Lock announced that the $3,000 sum will be held in trust on PC Hovingh’s behalf for children whose families might not be able to afford a camp experience.

Mindemoya Missionary Church also hosted a vigil on Saturday evening, as did the Town of Gore Bay under the leadership of Lyons Memorial United Church’s Reverend Mercedes Hughes.

Rev. Hughes led a reading of Psalm 23, the Lord’s Prayer and a passage from author Jan Richardson, titled ‘A Blessing when the World is Ending.’