WHEN Michele Wilmer surveyed the jubilant 1600-strong crowd at an evening rally of Emmanuel Community’s Ignite Conference in late September she was overcome with pride.
Her son Alex and his son Lucas, guitarists in the emmanuelworship band, were leading conference participants in a dynamic, well-known and well-loved style of prayer and worship.
“(I felt) oh wow, they’re so good; when I see them play together I feel so proud,” she said.
Michele and her husband Nev haven’t yet seen Alex’s decades of commitment to the ministry waver and they delight in Lucas’ faith “being ignited” through opportunities to lead others to God.
“In the last couple of years Lucas has become involved and he is flying,” Michele said.
In the foyer outside, Alex’s wife Jaki Wilmer was part of the registration for the conference and their daughters were very involved in helping behind the scenes, all immersed and active in community life.
The Wilmers’ daughter Chantale Wilson has been a leader among youngsters at Ignite and within Emmanuel Community for years and her husband Arthur Wilson is also a key Emmanuel figure.
Their four children are “heavily involved” in Church circles, here and abroad, three of them working for National Evangelisation Teams (NET), one daughter from Canada.
All in all, the Wilmers, who live in Kallangur on Brisbane’s northside, can be proud of three generations of dedicated servants in the Lord’s vineyard.
Nev was candid about his upbringing and desire to know God.
“I grew up in Petrie about 100 metres from Our Lady of the Way (Catholic) Church,” he said. “I used to hear all the cars going to church on Sunday morning, never thinking I would join them one day. I grew up as a Presbyterian and my mother always made sure I attended Sunday School.”
The humble man of faith remembers Fr Denis Long as parish priest of Our Lady of the Way.
Fr Long encouraged him to “find” his “faith roots”.
Michele’s mother is a Catholic and her father, who has died, an Anglican.
She said her dad “miraculously survived the war” and met her mother, with an early married life of adventure to follow.
“When I was six my parents, along with my younger sister, went to live in East Africa, now known as Tanzania,” Michele said.
“My father joined the police force … (and) in the eight years we lived there we had a life of safaris and two extended European holidays.”
Michele said she, too, felt “called to the Catholic faith” after baptism in the Anglican Church.
Marvelling at their youth when meeting, as Nev was 18 and she was 14, Michele said they “had an instant bond”.
“I knew Nev was the one (for me) because I heard a voice in my head telling me that this man would change my life,” she said.
They married in 1968 and welcomed Chantale, lovingly referred to as “Chandy”, two years later and then Alex in 1972.
About childbirth Michele said she “will never forget the closeness to God … like joining with Him in creating a miracle”.
Admitting marriage “difficulty” through those early years the Wilmers “made a decision to try and work through problems”.
They were facing Alex’s ill health as a toddler at the time.
“Tragedy hit our family again when Alex became very ill,” Michele said of his staphylococcus septicemia, osteomyelitis and staph pneumonia diagnosis.
“It all happened so quickly. I had taken Alex to see three doctors, one asked me if this was my first baby, suggesting I was panicking for nothing,” she said.
“Later that day I drove him to hospital and they instantly took him off me. He started a violent seizure for 40 minutes and fell into a coma.”
Fragile Alex was in a coma for six days and Michele was touched by the faith of a nurse.
“I remember crying over Alex’s cot and this nurse put her hand on my shoulder and said, ‘I’ve seen miracles happen in this ward’,” she said. “I was praying for Mother Mary’s intersession. My prayers were heard and six weeks later I was able to bring Alex home.”
A further miracle happened quite unexpectedly and years later.
Nev, who had a television antenna business and is now retired, was installing a system for a nurse.
Through some discussions the women discovered they’d met before.
After trial and triumph the Wilmers began to plant deep roots within the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of the then Emmanuel Covenant Community, now known as Emmanuel Community.
“At that time there was an amazing outpouring of the Holy Spirit and people were being touched by God’s grace everywhere,” Michele, a counsellor, said.
“It was through Emmanuel (Community) that our faith grew.”
The couple was prepared for and received full membership in the Catholic Church, Michele saying she “was home”.
Their lives were “full and rich”, involved in many Church outreaches and as foster parents.
“We have fond memories of Nev playing the guitar during family prayer in the mornings and at Sabbath meals,” Michele said.
“The music was always joyful and fun.”
She described their daughter Chantale, a teacher at St Mark’s Catholic Primary School, Inala, as “the most amazing woman … a born mother and teacher”.
Of their son Alex, a carpenter with his own business, she said he’s “a man of generosity, solid inner strength and integrity and a great father”.
In turn Michele said her parents were “real community builders … amazing at hospitality and opening their hearts to those in need”.
“Extra guests and ‘ring-ins’ were a regular thing in our house growing up,” she said.
“Dad was usually dreaming up some way of engaging the neighbourhood kids in something creative and fun.
“Faith was talked about and it was lived in really practical ways.”
As grandparents, Michele said the duo reinforced “that a life of faith can be exciting”.
“I remember having dinner there when our kids were really little and as ‘grace’ Dad began to sing an old kids’ song,” she said. “We all joined in and when he got to the chorus he jumped out of his seat and started dancing and clapping around the table. Needless to say the kids were hot on his heels.”
Michele and Nev are proud and delighted to know their daughter and son married people of faith and “are raising children who are an inspiration”.
“Nev and I often have to pinch ourselves … we must have done something right,” Michele said.
“We dedicated our family and lives to the Lord and He has taken us on a journey to places and situations beyond what we thought was possible.
“God drew us out of the miry clay and set our feet upon a rock.”
For more information about emmnauelworshipís music including the new CD ìMercyî, with 10 original songs dedicated to the Holy Fatherís Jubilee Year of Mercy, visit www.emmanuelworship.com
To register for the 2017 Ignite Conference themed ìComeî go to www.igniteyouth.com.
By Selina Venier