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Remembering Doug Monsma

It is widely purported that C.S. Lewis once said, “My prayer is that when I die, all of hell rejoices that I am out of the fight.”  In actuality,  the quote likely belongs to another author, C.T. Studd and the concept of Hell rejoicing is at very least debatable.  That debate will need to be left for another day.

IF hell could rejoice at the passing of one of God’s faithful servants, then on October 2, 2018 the party there was on, as Doug Monsma was taken out of the fight, much too soon.  Aside from the immeasurable role Doug played in the life of his family and friends, he was a giant in Christian Education. His work has influenced schools, classrooms, teachers and students worldwide.

DougI’m pretty sure that Doug would not be fond of me characterizing his work as a fight.  Whether it was his teaching and leading at Edmonton Christian Schools for 27 years or his work with the Prairie Centre for Christian Education for 6 years, he did it with passion and joy and an endearing sense of humour. Though he was an incredibly wise man, he sought input from others and used it to shape his work.  He established friendships with educational leaders. He influenced and shaped the lives of students, teachers, board members and administrators. One could enter an expanding number of schools in Alberta, BC, Manitoba, Ontario, Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Michigan and Washington to meet people and to observe Christian Schools being revived by thinking of their work as transformational in God’s story.  One could cross the oceans to Zambia and to Australia to find Doug’s passion for making sure Christian Education was relevant and story-filled spilling out into schools there.

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circa 2005?

It wasn’t a fight for Doug.  It was simply, his part in HIS-story.  Those who knew him knew that vocationally Doug had done, through his work, what he encouraged so many others to do; he had found his place in God’s story.

So, in Christ’s upside down Kingdom, it is actually God’s people who tearfully rejoice; Doug’s legacy will be lived on through faithful people who were mentored and inspired to find their place in God’s story as it is written through Christian Schools.  God’s people rejoice in knowing that Doug is with the Maker of All Things, beholding the beauty and wholeness that he championed in his work. Doug now sees the whole beautiful, epic story. Though we grieve his loss, it is us who rejoice in such sure knowledge.

by Brian Doornenbal


Curbside Hopes

On that first day of school it happened all across our city.  Parents watched their kids board a bus or they themselves pulled up to a curb to drop their children off at school.  Some may have gone inside with the kids to walk them to the classroom door.  Sending our children off to school on that first day is many things.  It’s a relief that school routine is back; it’s scary that school routine is back, and its an important part of good parenting.  More than anything else however, dropping our kids off at any school is an act of hope.


Bringing our kids to school is an act of hope on many levels.  When we see them off, we hope they’ve remembered their lunch or that they won’t lose that new pair of shoes on the very first day.  At a deeper level we hope that our kids will be safe and will spend days with a good teachers, teachers with the eyes and hearts to see who our child is.  Having good friends and being a good friend is something else we hope for our children.IMG_4933

IMAG0550But when the curb we are pulling up to, to drop our kids off is in front of a faith-based school like Edmonton Christian (West, Northeast or Senior High) we are acting on our deepest hopes.  Hopes of grace-filled spaces and interactions.  Hopes of our kids being seen as gifted image bearers of a loving God.  Hopes that this will be a school that lives out it’s mission to help kids find and play their role in God’s story.  These can be our deepest hopes– curbside hopes in a faithful and relentlessly loving God.


How would you express your deepest hopes for child/grandchild in Edmonton Christian? (you can answer that question if you like in the comment section below).

This is not only a question for parents/grandparents.  Students and teachers also are people with deep hopes.  The teachers at Edmonton Christian school are deliberate about approaching their students with deep hope.  See some of those deep hopes in this blog published last spring:  Deep Hopes for Our Students (sample below)

Div 3 Deep Hopes

by Brian Doornenbal

The Story Goes On

IMG_2924You’ve likely been too busy to notice..  A school year is racing to a conclusion. Summer days invite us to all kinds of family activities.  Soccer season is here. The lawn needs mowing. Who could be blamed for not noticing that around the beginning of May, the stories on this blog stopped?  The pictures of engaged students and active classrooms ended. The celebration of students at Edmonton Christian Schools finding their places in God’s story were seemingly silenced.IMG_4695

Let’s set it straight right now.  The blog and other social media accounts may have stopped, but God’s story at Edmonton Christian Schools has continued.  A medical diagnosis silenced the author¹ of this blog, for a time,  but let there be no doubt:   God’s work cannot be silenced. Even the rocks would cry out …hosanna! (see Luke 19:40)

God’s story is so much bigger than all of us. At Edmonton Christian Schools there have been all kinds of stories that have gone untold since the beginning of May.  The word cloud below gives you some idea.

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With the end of a school year upon us, we hope that you will celebrate the stories, that God wrote through the students, staff, parents, alumni  grandparents and supporters of Edmonton Christian Schools. Those stories tell us who we are–a people of God created for love, created to live lives of renewal. That’s a story that is unstoppable!

May your summer be filled with grace and wonder!

¹Brian Doornenbal is currently on medical leave getting treatments for multiple myeloma which was discovered in early May.

Hand Up

handsWe have all heard it said that when helping others we should “give a hand up, not a handout.”  While Jesus’ feeding of the masses,  his water-to-wine miracles and  the no strings attached healing provide examples of grace-filled handouts that Christ-followers must pay attention to, we must also pay attention to the lasting, life-giving that comes when we give a hand up.  The grade 2’s in Mrs. Otteson’s¹ class ARE paying attention and will be doing so for quite some time.  Let’s hear about it in the words the students collectively wrote in Language Arts class and then spoke publically to all the classes in the school:

Grade 2O is collecting money for a group called KIVA². Are you wondering what KIVA is?   KIVA is an organization that people can donate to.  KIVA takes the money you donate and loans this money to people who can’t afford to get a loan from the bank because they are too poor.We are trying to raise money to give [micro] loans to the farmers in a country called Kenya. KIVA will give the farmers a small loan.  [as little as $25]

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The farmers will use this money to buy seeds, animals, small tractors, wells, fertilizer, farming equipment and all the things they need to run a farm. As they make some money selling vegetables, eggs, milk, fruits, meat and other things, they slowly pay the loan back.  Once the farmers pay the loan back to KIVA, KIVA will contact us and let us choose who to loan the money to next.  This is like a big circle because the money can get used over and over and over by different people in poor countries around the world.

We want to do this to cultivate community in Kenya and around the world. We can help so many people! We hope to dig deep and cultivate community in our school because we want you to help us….

….Thanks for helping us to help the farmers in Kenya have a better future.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

When the classroom donations, the bakesale money and the generous gift from the Edmonton Christian Northeast Parents Council were all sorted, counted and graphed in Math classes, the students knew it was a large gift–$2500!   Connecting with other communities, which had been their focus in Social Studies, Bible lessons about serving and Language Arts lessons which included writing a proposal letter to the principal and thank you notes to various people were all real school work, done to meet the real needs of real people. Real farmers in Kenya.  As many as one hundred of them will get a hand up in the form of a microloan through Kiva. And as the grade 2 students said, the “big circle” will begin!  It’s the kind of learning experience at Edmonton Christian Schools, that we think challenges our students to play their role in God’s story!  

Kiva PC presentation3
Grade 2O showing the cheque from the ECNS Parent Council
¹TKU student teacher Micayla V. also played a key role in this formational learning experience.
² More about KIVA at
by Brian Doornenbal

Go Deep!

IMG_7721When writing about the things that happen at Edmonton Christian Schools, it is sometimes a burden to try capture the full depth of the stories that happen as the school lives towards its mission.  But as I set out to write the story of the Grade 12 Passion Projects which culminated in a celebration of learning last week, there is no such burden. Why? Because the story is far to large to BE captured in a blog.  It’s a story of 81 students finding ways to explore something they are passionate, or, at very least, curious about. It’s a story about lessons learned from success and from failure. It is a story of enthusiasm and procrastination.  It is a story about learning new things about God’s world and about one’s self.

In the end, it is actually a collection of 81 individual stories each with it’s own depth.  Stories of making meals for homeless people, creating art, coaching kids and starting a dance club.  Stories of travel to the developing world, working with seniors, helping in an immigrant community association, taking artistic photographs, and working from the back of a Salvation Army van to meet the basic needs of people who live on the winter streets of Edmonton.  (That leaves 72 more stories to list!)

The best that one short blog can hope to do is give you the breadth of this beautiful story and hope that it will prompt you to mine the depths by taking up a conversation with one (or more) of these Grade 12 students to ask them what they experienced, learned and hope for in the future.  If you are able to do that, you will begin to hear how, for many, this project is one of the pieces helping them to find their role in God’s story:

“I hope to be a teacher, and this was my first taste of what teaching and coaching might be like.  I really enjoyed this.” Gr 12 student who volunteered as a coach.

“It was powerful getting to know some of their stories.” Gr 12 student who worked making and serving meals at Hope Mission.

“Sometimes I just want to sit down and watch Netflix and not care about the rest of the world.  But when you do something, it connects you . . .it makes you think about what it means to be a Christian.”  Gr 12 student who volunteered in a Senior’s Care Facility.

“I found out I truly do love working with these kids and being in their lives.”  Gr 12 student who worked in a Grade 1 classroom at an east-side public school.

“I learned that I am a good hard worker and that I like helping out people in need.”  Gr 12 student whose passion project took him to Belize.

Bikes for Eritrea (2)


If you know one of our soon-to-be-graduates, see if you can find a chance to go deep with them about their passion project.  That’s better than a blog any day!

by Brian Doornenbal


Icing on the Cake!

Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 11.42.23 AMMy mom’s mocha cake was special, not just because it was sooo delicious, but also because she only made it on very special occasions, such as my dad’s birthday.  When that cake was brought to the table and the candles were blown out, the six kids around that table had already begun strategizing, figuring out a way to get the perfect piece.  You see, while Mom’s cake was delicious at the centre, the real treasure was found at the edges, and especially the corners, where ample amounts of that buttery mocha frosting could be found.

Danica, TKU student teacher, initiated the learning activity.

Often the stories we live and tell at Edmonton Christian schools are like that.  They are, by grace, good at the centre but they get even more special as we move to the edges of the story.  A bake sale put on at Edmonton Christian Northeast last week was like that. The goodness at the centre of this event was a group of Grade 3B students studying Communities in the World and deciding with their teacher Janine Bihun and student teacher Danica Ford* that they could be community builders by having a bake sale for Roots and Wings International Mission.  This is an organization, doing work alongside families in some of the poorest places in Mexico (  For the bake sale,  3B students provided baked goods to be sold to other students, raising $554 which will be used to help a marginalized family and the community they are part of to attain physical and spiritual wholeness.  That’s the centre– Grade three students playing their role in God’s story of love for all.  It is beautiful, delicious and satisfying!

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desperate-2040598_1920But there is a richness to be found near the edges of  this story as well. Like a finger full of mocha icing, we can get a taste of this richness by looking at just one other class’s part in this story.  Mrs. Hollingsworth’s Gr 3H class could be found that morning excitedly clutching their change purses and ziplock bags of coins as they awaited their turn to go to the bake sale. Some of them talked with great anticipation about which treats they were going to buy.  When the news came that the bake sale had sold out, all were disappointed and many tears were shed.  Disappointment, however, can be an excellent teacher. Through the tears, Mrs H was able to help the grade three students come to a gladness that the sale had raised lots of money and to the reluctant conclusion that that was even more important than “us getting treats.”   As this sunk in, the majority of the students decided to donate the money they had brought, even if they  gained nothing from doing so.** As word about this leaked out, another class brought their “extra treats” to be shared.  A grade two teacher dropped in to encourage the 3H students and to impress on them how their giving had touched her heart .  A mom who had helped out with the bake sale went home to bake a couple dozen more cookies to be delivered to the class as a thankyou . . .

God’s love for and through people is amazing!  When a community of people digs deep, celebrates sell-out success,  sheds tears of disappointment and  sacrifices in love for others … well … that’s the icing on the cake!

by Brian Doornenbal, Story Teller for Edmonton Christian Schools
*Danica and her husband will be travelling to one of the communities served by Roots and Wings Int.  She will be taking a book made by the 3B class with her.
**Note that more than just this class experienced the disappointment and still decided to donate their money.