What’s Your Superpower?

If you had a choice, what superpower would you have? Flight? Invisibility? Time travel? Breathing under water?  That’s fun to think about and it makes a great conversation starter at a dinner party.  If dinner parties aren’t your thing, there are multiple websites on which you can take a quiz to see which superpower “matches” you.  


We know, of course, that super powers don’t really exist the way Marvel Comics and Hollywood portray them. They are just an entertaining fantasy.  But what if we already have a power, and  what if we can use it in super ways?  Good news!  At Edmonton Christian we do, and we did!




IMG_4733The superpower we all have, in this loud world, is a voice to speak for love and justice.  In the last weeks, Gr 7-10 students at Edmonton Christian Schools have used their powerful voices to promote and protect  human rights.  They used their voices, in love, to save lives.  In a world where racism bubbles through thin veneers of equality, where millions of women are treated as property rather than as people, where children are made soldiers and slaves, where terror grips hearts and where ruthless leaders beat down, kill or imprison anyone who dares question their authority, our students channelled their voices onto paper in the annual Amnesty International Write for Rights campaign.  By sending those voices to people in authority all over the world, they will play a part in some prisoners being set free, in some human rights violations ceasing and in promoting new and better laws in some places.  



Isaiah 61 (1)This isn’t just a party-game-conversation about superpowers.  Amnesty International’s history is filled with examples of lives being saved, captives being set free, violence decreasing and basic human rights being respected.  This gives us the hope that our voices make a super-powerful difference. But it’s more than just hope in a less than perfect organization like Amnesty.  At Edmonton Christian Schools we believe that because of the Child whose birth we will soon celebrate, we are invited into a story where flawed people can be used by a faithful God in acts of restoration.  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me (us) . . .to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”  That’s a superpower that not even the brilliant imaginations at Marvel can touch!

by Brian Doornenbal

The Diviners

Moraine_Lake_17092005Mere existence is not really an option for the universe. God created it to flourish! If you’ve ever snorkelled above a healthy coral reef, seen the northern lights, watched a butterfly feed or stood on top of a mountain, you are witness to a creation that does more than just exist.  If a piece of music has ever gladdened your heart or if you have ever experienced the love of another person, you know what it feels like to flourish.

IMG_4648There are many characteristics of thriving communities and flourishing people; one such aspect is beauty.  That is why one of the Biblical through-lines that shapes our work at Edmonton Christian Schools is Beauty-Creating.  The senior high students, guided by Mrs. Knol, Mr. Epp and Mr. Boschman were beauty-creators as they rehearsed and, last week, performed The Diviners, a classic play by Jim Leonard Jr..  Following are some pictures taken at dress rehearsal.  Hopefully those that did not attend a performance can sense  how the beauty of this superbly acted and produced play joined the rest of the universe in singing the praise of our Creator and contributed to flourishing in our community(ies).







The limited skills of the author to take pictures in low light means that Mr. Boschman,  and perhaps others, do not appear in this blog.  Sincere apologies if the lens missed you.  Thanks to ALL for your beauty creating!
by Brian Doornenbal


From Dunker to Doctor (Part 2)

Support on the Path:  Family and Friends

It could be said for all of us.  Unless someone has walked a mile in our shoes ( or tool belt or business suit or chef’s apron, . . .) they can’t fully understand our daily work.  

Mark scrubs (1)Without walking a mile in Mark’s scrubs, it is difficult for us to imagine the challenges on the pathway to becoming a surgical specialist.  One hundred hour (plus) weeks. Life and death situations.  Overwhelming pressure from both the long hospital hours AND the studying.  Child cancer patients. Unsuccessful surgeries. Delivering bad news to families.  It has been a challenging path.   

 “I haven’t really had second guesses about medicine, but I definitely have had second guesses about surgery.  It is one of the longest residencies, one of the hardest residencies, and the sheer hours in the hospital and on call are difficult,” reflects Mark.   “There are lows when you are overcome by studying, and by what you see and by [the toll it takes] on family life.”

Mark has no illusions about how important that family life has been and continues to be on this path.  Mark, Connie and their two children are in this together!   

“It’s support that makes it possible.  It’s not me being good at things.  I have an incredibly supportive wife who is doing 100% more than her fair share.  She’s a single mother raising two children ….or three,” he adds with a self-deprecating grin.  “Also,” he continues, “my parents are in town, and they are always willing to babysit or help.

Mark's family

The support Mark experiences from Connie and from other family is of course about much more than just helping him get through his training as a surgeon.  The hospitial work shapes him as a surgeon, but he speaks of being shaped by his family in this way,  

“I might be a better Resident if I was single, but I would not be a better person.”

Mark also acknowledges that the friendships he made with people who attended Edmonton Christian Schools have  helped him become who he is today.  He remains very close to a group of guys he went to school with.  They do what friends do. Sports. Social gatherings.  Building each other’s garages. . . .   Oh, and yes… still plenty of goofing off.

Mark buddies

These friendships have not only been important for Mark, but since many  of these friends, are married and have young children Connie has found herself with a supportive group of friends who have much in common and do much together.  Family camping trips.  Barbeques.  Shared child-care and playdates.  Girls nights out.  

“When we came back to Edmonton from Dordt, I was curious how it [reconnecting with friends] would go.”  

As it turns out it has gone well and will continue to play an important role in both in Mark’s vocational journey and in the story of his family.

It’s important in all of this to circle back to the fact that this is part of a bigger story.  God’s story has a place for all.  The path isn’t always easy but the same God who provides the lilies of the field with what they need to be beautiful in this world provides each person as they “toil and spin” with all they need. God places people around them who help them become who God wants them to be.  And just like with the lilies, that is a beautiful thing!

(Part One of this story can be found here:  From Dunker to Doctor)
by Brian Doornenbal

From Dunker to Doctor

IMG_4268Alumnus Mark Dykstra’s Story

More than thirteen years after his last slam-dunk on the basketball courts at Edmonton Christian School, Mark Dykstra is still a student.  As a Chief Surgical Resident at the U of A with an upcoming Surgical Fellowship in colorectal surgery  at the Unversity of Calgary, Mark’s schooling will continue until June 2020.   When an ECHS alumnus spends 15 years in post secondary studies, just the basic timeline of events becomes too large for a single 500 word blog.  This is a story we will do in two parts. Part one looks at the narrowing path that has been this surgeons’s journey.

Part One:  The Narrowing Path

IMG_4269After doing grades K-9 at Edmonton Christian West School, Mark Dykstra, a normal-in-every-way- student who did well in school, loved athletics (especially basketball) and did his fair share of goofing off with friends, continued on to Edmonton Christian High School.  It was there he found the “wide entrance” to the career path he is now on.

“In high school I really liked biology. Mr. Van Eerden was amazing,  and Mrs. Krol.  They were the two main teachers that taught my Science classes.”    

Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 3.42.05 PMAfter high school graduation in 2004, Mark enrolled at Dordt College (Sioux Center, Iowa) as a Biology major with an idea that his place in God’s story might be defined either by doing research or by practicing medicine.

“ I pretty quickly decided that I wasn’t as interested in the research side so I went into pre-medicine.”  


The pathway seemed to stop narrowing for a brief time when upon completing studies at Dordt in 2008, Mark, who married  Wisconsin native Connie in July of that year, did not get accepted into any of the American or Canadian med schools he applied to.  He would need to apply again a year later.  This time, while Mark worked a construction job in Edmonton, applications were sent only to Canadian med schools.  He was accepted into the University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine.  He began there in 2009, aiming to become a General Practitioner.  There was however more narrowing of the path when Mark graduated from med school in 2013.   Mark’s experiences at the U of A  and in the electives he completed in Calgary, Halifax and London (ON), helped him to choose a five year General Surgery Residency at the U of A beginning that fall.

“One of the things that drew me to the  surgery side was there are a lot of acute issues with very fixable problems. For my personality I see a problem and I want to fix the problem.  Surgery was a better  fit.”  

Mark scrubs (1)

Since then, Dr. Mark Dykstra has been in on nearly 2000 surgeries and he is currently the Chief Resident leading  a team of ten surgeons at an Edmonton Hospital.  In July 2018, the path will narrow again as Mark will begin a two year Surgical Fellowship in colorectal surgery at the University of Calgary.  In 2020, at age thirty three, he will complete his studies and find employment as a surgeon specializing in, as he says,  “all those exciting things to talk about at the dinner table.”

It’s been a long, continually narrowing  path for a high school kid who, at 18, headed off to Dordt College on a basketball scholarship to begin a biology major.  A path first entered at ECHS with teachers that helped him love science (and basketball!).  It was that love of science that God eventually used to bring Mark to the role of being a surgeon, where he says one of the best things is, being able to give them [patients in crisis] options and hope, and then actually being able to help them.”

“I think I’m where I’m supposed to be in life. It’s pretty easy to see in medicine that you are helping people.  But it is so easy to forget that.  You really question some things.  It is hard to keep the perspective that you are not working for the end of the shift, you are not working for the senior resident. You are working for God.  It’s when I can stop and think about that that I am very confident I am where I should be.  Without trying to sound cocky, there comes a point where you recognize that you are good at something and you know that’s where you are supposed to be.”

 We deeply hope that Edmonton Christian Schools can continue to be that “wide entrance” that leads each of our students on the narrowing path to their vocational role(s) in God’s beautiful story.

(watch for Part two–Support on the Path:  Family and Long-time Friends)

Lions’ Prime Time

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 3.26.46 PM
As a community focussed on our children’s learning, wouldn’t it be great if there was a Miracle- Gro for the brain?  You know… Miracle-Gro… the fertilizer we put on that tired plant in our office (that probably really needs re-potting)…the stuff we might use to try and optimize our garden’s tomato yield…our secret to those show-stopping flowers in our front yard.    Too bad there’s nothing like
that for young learners’ brains!

IMG_4073Hold on, says Dr. John Ratey, associate professor at Harvard and author of the book Spark.  “ Exercise is the single most powerful tool that we have to optimize the function of our brains.  Exercise IS miracle-gro for the brain.”  Dr. Ratey points out that most people exercise to stay healthy or lose weight, but, “Exercise is really for the brain.  [People who exercise] are activating more cells in their brain than any other activity we do as humans.”

That, in brief, is why Brady and Heidi VanRy volunteered to start Lions’ Prime TIme at ECNS.¹  Using the turnkey, grassroots training and lesson materials from a program called BOKS Kids, ² Lions’ Prime Time sees 90 to 100 elementary students meeting in the gymnasium from 7:15 to 8:15 Mondays and Thursdays to get some of that miracle-gro for their brains.  IMG_3989



Building Our Kids Success by using physical activity to prime their brains for a day of productive learning is the goal of the BOKS program.  In the richness of God’s story, Lion’s Prime Time adds two other key goals:  1. Cultivate community and  2. Worship God with our bodies.  This wholistic approach, taken by the leaders,  means the encouraging high fives, the joyful laughter and the recommended 50-60 minutes of physical activity are all deliberately included in each morning session.



IMG_4104 (1).jpg

IMG_4099 (1)


Healthy, ready-to-learn brains. . .Growing cross-grade friendships…  Active bodies-as-temples worship to the One who made it all.  Some might call that kind of growth a miracle!

IMG_4165 (1).jpg

¹Other staff members, especially those with children in the BOKS demographic often join to help out.
²BOKS is initiated by Reebok and the Reebok Canada Fitness Foundation, and is funded in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Football League and PROPEL Centre for Population Health Impact. See bokskids.ca for some excellent information on this program and how it works.
by Brian Doornenbal

Chew On This

Chew on this

What I can do, I will do.

A will-do attitude is a way of living God’s story in a broken world.  Because we believe it is still a God-with-us world,  Edmonton Christian Schools instils a will-do attitude in students.  But, as the issues of food security and food safety come up in the Science 30 curriculum, what can our students do?  Can they feed all 860,000 Canadians (one-third of which are children) who use Foodbanks each month?  Or, can they address the plight of all 4.9 million Canadians (1 in 7) who struggle to pay rent, feed their families and meet basic needs?  Can they even help just those in Edmonton facing yet another winter on the streets?*        

The answer is no; our students cannot solve these massive issues.  They know that, yet despair is not paralyzing them.

What I can do, I will do.

Postcard for Minister Jean-Yves Duclos

“We can raise awareness of poverty, and join the Dignity for All Campaign” Chloe

“[We do this because] it informs people about the poverty that is going on in our society and encourages people to get involved and help each other out.”   Aliscia

“ For Canada to be an inclusive community for all people I think it’s important for individuals to be servant workers; it’s important for the individuals to care about the collective.”  Deborah

“If the roles were reversed and we were on the streets begging, wouldn’t we want someone to care and help us.”  Braedan

“Supporting [local] organizations such as the Mustard Seed and Jasper Place Health and Wellness is something everyone can do . . .”  Shannon.

“I can donate food to the food bank . . . As Christians it should be our goal to help everyone.”  Joshua

No paralysis here!  On Oct 17, The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Mrs. Krol and twenty five Science 30 students joined thousands of others in more than 80 events across this country to be a voice for people who live in poverty.  Their efforts were part of the Chew On This initiative through an organization called Dignity for All.**
IMG_3405The Science thirty students not only lobbied the Canadian government to develop a comprehensive policy to deal with poverty, but they invited the rest of the school to join them . They made more than three hundred “Chew On This”  bags containing a small food item (which they purchased) , a fridge magnet and a postcard to be sent to the Minister for Families, Children and Social Development. In order to widen the awareness of this important issue, they invited each student in the school to take home a couple of bags to give to their neighbours.

What I can do, I will do.

Certainly there is more to be done, but on October 17, these students DID what they COULD do. Take a moment to chew on that . . . . Taste and see that God is good!

*Excellent infographics on poverty compiled by CPJ, can be found here:  break20the20barriers
by Brian Doornenbal




Learning to See

“What did you learn today?”

That’s a question often asked of our students around a dinner table.  It’s a great question, but not just for students!  Why not ask the teachers at Edmonton Christian Schools the same question this week?  “What did you learn at your teachers’ convention?”

No doubt, there will be a wide range of answers to that question.  Let me offer you one answer, coming out of the keynote speeches of pastor and author Skye Jethani.Seeing differently

skyejethaniWe learned that we need to see the world the way Jesus did.   With no naiveté regarding the “Place-of-the-Skull” dangers all around,  Jesus had clear vision of God’s purpose being carried out in this world and saw that ultimately we are safe because it is a God-with-us world.  We are safe to love both our friends and our enemies.  Safe to serve.  Safe to heal and restore.  Safe to sacrifice.  Safe to be joyful and flourish!

At Edmonton Christian Schools, we want to see differently.  We desire the eyes of Christ.  It is our deep hope that our students know in their very hearts that they can flourish in a God-with-us world as they fearlessly find their role in the grand love story God writes.  May God give us eyes to see.

Converge Convention, jointly organized by the Prairie Centre for Christian Education (PCCE) and the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) took place in Calgary, October 19,20, 2017.
by Brian Doornenbal