Esau, John (1927-2009)

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John Esau: minister and church planter; born 6 March 1927 in Plum Coulee, Manitoba, the eldest of 10 children of Jacob J. Esau (5 June 1906 – 7 September 1985) and Anna (Froese) Esau (12 October 1908 – 22 July 1989), 1926 immigrants from Orenburg, USSR. John married Eva Retzlaff on 25 November 1948 in East Aldergrove Mennonite Brethren Church. John and Eva had four children. John died on 28 July 2009 in Abbotsford, where he was buried.

John spent his youth in Manitoba and moved with his parents to British Columbia (BC) in 1947, settling in the Mount Lehman area west of Abbotsford. Soon after relocating to BC, John accepted the Lord as his Savior and was baptized on 1 August 1948. John became active in the church, singing in the choir and teaching Sunday school. In 1949 he began teaching in Brookswood, an extension work of the East Aldergrove MB Church.

Recognizing his need for further education, John attended Mennonite Brethren Bible Institute in 1952-53 for one year before returning to work at Abbotsford Lumber Company. In 1954 John was asked to help out with the work at County Line Gospel Chapel. After his second year of Bible school concluded in 1955, John and Eva were asked to become full-time workers with the West Coast Children’s Mission. John concluded his Bible school education in the spring of 1956. John was ordained to the ministry by the East Aldergrove congregation on 24 November 1957 and continued to work full-time at the County Line church until August 1960.

In September 1960 John and Eva moved to Prince George to begin work at a new MB church plant called Peden Hill MB Church (later called Westwood MB Church), serving here until 1963. They then moved to New Westminster where they worked at the Queensboro MB Church half-time. John also worked at the Grace Mission in Vancouver on a half-time basis. After a year, John became the director of the Grace Mission, serving until 30 June 1974.

On 1 November 1973, while working at the Grace Mission, John was stabbed in the stomach by an addict. While doctors were operating on him, cancer was discovered in his stomach. Two-thirds of his stomach was removed a week later, requiring a recovery period of two and a half months. However, between the time of his stabbing and his second operation, John called for his family to come to the hospital. Three of his pastor friends prayed over him and anointed him with oil. The removed part of the stomach was tested again but no cancer was found. John attributed this to God’s healing and he lived another 35 years with only one third of his stomach.

John became associate pastor at Clearbrook MB Church in February 1976, serving until April 1979. John then planted churches under the BC MB Conference Board of Church Extension in Squamish (Valleycliffe Christian Fellowship, 1980-1981), where they had to resign due to Eva’s health, and Keremeos (Similkameen Christian Fellowship, 1982-1984) before returning to Clearbrook in 1985. After retiring from the ministry, John was employed as an assistant at Woodlawn Funeral Home in Abbotsford.

John loved to tell people about Jesus. His friendly spirit, quick laughter and easy going ways endeared him to everyone he met.


Ratzlaff, Erich L., ed. The Clearbrook Mennonite Brethren Church: A History of the Clearbrook M.B. Church 1936-1986. Matsqui, BC: The Church, 1986: 55.

Author(s) Richard D Thiessen
Date Published January 2011

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Thiessen, Richard D. "Esau, John (1927-2009)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2011. Web. 1 Dec 2021.,_John_(1927-2009)&oldid=131222.

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Thiessen, Richard D. (January 2011). Esau, John (1927-2009). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 1 December 2021, from,_John_(1927-2009)&oldid=131222.

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