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).

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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

 

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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.”  

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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.”  

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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)

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.

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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
**https://dignityforall.ca/
by Brian Doornenbal

 

 

 

Drawing Straight With Crooked lines

2425658-Andrew-M-Greeley-Quote-God-draws-straight-with-crooked-linesA former colleague and Principal of ECNS closed all her e-mails with an Andrew Greeley quote : “God draws straight with crooked lines.”  It was a reminder that God can use flawed people, like me,  to do God’s purpose.  As good as that lesson is, there is a second lesson I am seeing more and more:  the pathway to finding our role in God’s story is often a very crooked one, filled with zigs and zags.

IMG_2906That is what 2008 Edmonton Christian High graduate Dustin Zuidhof is finding out as he zigzags through life.  Dustin is remembered by teachers of the Northeast  and Senior High schools as a soft-spoken, shy,  lanky student who was academically strong, especially in the sciences.  Yet today, he works for Power to Change (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) on the University of Alberta Campus, reaching out to unsaved people.  A serpentine path indeed!

After graduation, Dustin enrolled in Biology at the U of A.  He had been challenged by his teachers at Edmonton Christian School to think about science in a different way and he had appreciated how faith and studies in a Christian community had shaped him.  He was confident in his faith and so he says, “I enrolled at U of A because I felt like seeing the world outside of the Christian bubble.”  With 20-20 hindsight he recognizes that it was a mistake to cut ties with the community he thought was a bubble.   “It maybe was not the best idea. I felt really lonely my first year.”

That loneliness was used by God to help Dustin accept an invitation in his second year to a Power to Change (P2C) Bible study. He participated in that group which focussed on the great commission (Matt 28:19-20).  “I didn’t really like that focus, because I didn’t really love the people the commission was speaking about.  But P2C challenged my ‘tribalism’ of seeing Jesus as only relevant to myself  and to those with faith.  I prayed for a desire to love unbelievers.  I really felt God answer that prayer.”

The next part of the crooked line was going into nursing which Dustin saw as a “vocational ministry in which he could love people in a very Christ-like servant way.”  The actual work with patients was very fulfilling, but Dustin struggled with his experience of a mean-spirited, gossip culture in the profession itself.  “It was changing me in ways I did not like,” he shares.  “The decision to walk away from nursing was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made.”

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By now Dustin was married to Lesley, who worked for P2C.  He spent a year in a job at Home Depot and when Lesley’s colleague on the U of A Campus moved on, Dustin decided to volunteer with P2C for a year.  That volunteering has now turned into employment.

Zigs and zags in the life-line that brought Dustin to where he is today.  “I was a shy soft-spoken science nerd (I think I still am), but now I talk and listen to students every day about deeper things in life, about what they believe their purpose is, who God is, what they value. I think the zigzag of life really equipped me for this.”  Only a gracious loving God could draw so straight with crooked lines!

by Brian Doornenbal
Dustin and Lesley each have to raise 100% of their salaries for their ministry on the U of A Campus.  They do this through supportive churches and individuals.  If you would like to support their work, contact Dustin  and Lesley at dustin.zuidhof@P2C.com or lesley.zuidhof@p2c.com

A number of other alumni stories have been published on this blog:    Miracles, Mud and MLAs,    Slow War–Ben Hertwig Shares His Story,     To Iraq and Back,      “I Didn’t See That Coming!,   Pastor Who?    They Walk Among Us!,       Throwing Pasta  

Gifts in a Garden

sheldoncooper1More than one televison show  or movie has made us chuckle at a character who often takes things literally.  Someone says to that character, “Hop to it,” and we laugh (or groan) as they leave the room, hopping like a rabbit.  

 

Now, I know that the ECNS students and staff aren’t like those comic characters.  They don’t take this year’s school theme literally:   “dig deep. cultivate community.”   But I have to admit, I did smile as I saw Grade 9’s gather side by side with a few people from The Mustard Seed* to dig potatoes, carrots,  onions and more at Ladyflower Gardens**.  I didn’t laugh; I definitely didn’t groan; but I did smile!  Maybe there was even a joyful chuckle.  They were digging deep.  They were finding the gifts of community with eachother and beyond, cultivating a garden.

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ECS Alumnus, Abbi welcomes student to her workplace, Ladyflower gardens.
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Jared, a Mustard Seed staff member, speaks to the students.

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And for the students, the community-building did not end there.  The majority of the food harvested will be donated to the Edmonton Foodbank. What isn’t donated will be used by the Food Studies students to make soup for the Mosaic Centre.***  Students will reflect on their experience and perhaps it will help shape their Social Studies discussions of economics and poverty,  or their Science discussions of biodiversity, or it will give them their next idea for writing in Language Arts class. . .

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IMG_2693At Edmonton Christian Schools we know that forming healthy relationships within our schools and in the communities we live in is as important as the books we open. It’s something we dig deep to do.  If there just happens to be a potato, carrot or onion at the bottom of that dig . . . it’s just another gift from God!

by Brian Doornenbal
*The Mustard Seed provides community and support for marginalized people in both Edmonton and Calgary.   Find out more at https://theseed.ca/about-us/
**Lady Flower Gardens, is a special place.  It is a place of experiential learning about growing food and growing community. Find out out more about their amazingwork http://www.ladyflowergardens.com/
***Mosaic Centre is located in Northeast Edmonton where it serves the vulnerable people affected by poverty, hunger and  homelessness.  It has been “ a partner” with Edmonton Christian Schools since it began in 2009.  Find out more at http://www.mosaiccentre.ca/

5 Thoughts on This Year’s Theme

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Photo credit: http://www.liketreesplanted

 Another school year.  Another school theme: “ dig deep. cultivate community.”   It’s pretty easy to read the words and then skip right to the next thing that vies for our attention.  But moving on too quickly could leave some richness undiscovered.   A good theme, after all, will anchor us to a good story.  A good theme will orient our eyes, ears, hearts and hands towards that story.  A good theme will invite us into the story and will nurture within us a desire to be active in that story.  

Five thoughts I’ve had (so far) about dig deep. cultivate community:

  • God’s story is a story of deep love and mysterious, unlimited grace.  As God’s people coming together in a school community, we need to burrow into that love and grace.  We need to go deep!
  • Digging deep is something that requires work.  It is easy for a landscaper to scrape off a bit of topsoil.  But if trees are to be planted, take root and bear fruit, some sweat and muscle will need to go into digging deep.  We cannot shy away from the challenging work  that is required of a Christ-following school.
  • Going deep needs to guide our academic pursuits.  At Edmonton Christian Schools, we dream of our students going well beyond the facts and content that are contained in the curriculum of their grade.  We strive to be a school that goes deeper by inviting and empowering the students to live what we call biblical through lines.*  Going deep means we and our students can practice being Justice-Seekers, Earth-Keepers, God-Worshippers, Beauty-Creators, Idolatry Discerners, Servant-Workers, Image-Reflecters, Community-Builders, Creation-Enjoyers and Order-Discovers.
  • Albert Einstein said, Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”  We want Edmonton Christian School to be a place where going deep leads to wonder.  A place where we can marvel at the complexity, intricacy and sheer beauty of the created universe and be in awe of the Creator.
  • IMG_2006Devotions at the beginning of the day, monthly chapels or a few “God words” thrown into an assignment will never be enough.  Gardeners don’t just throw seeds onto the ground and expect a bountiful harvest.  They till the soil, water the plants and pull weeds.  They cultivate.  Every day, in every activity and subject area, we will need to faithfully cultivate community that is rooted in God’s love for us and that is faithful to God’s call to love our neighbours, both here and around the world.  And, when we fail, we will dig deep to do the challenging work of forgiveness and restoration.

One last thing.  You might have wondered why the theme often appears in lower case letters.  I have too.  Perhaps it is a reminder that these words aren’t platitudes, entitlements or mere bulletin board material; they are our daily vocation, our calling.  At times this vocation will be joyful and at other times it will be a grind, but it will always be worthwhile.

What are your thoughts on this year’s theme? (feel free to leave a comment!)

by Brian Doornenbal
*a brief description of the Biblical Throughlines that help shape learning at Edmonton Christian Schools can be found HERE

Miracles, Mud and MLAs

A Throwback-Thursday Glimpse at the Life of Alumnus Janelle Herbert

“Every day is a miracle!”

 The smile on Janelle’s face grows as she shares how, as a farmer, it is hard NOT to recognize that we are in God’s creation. “You put a seed in the ground and it grows.  It’s amazing and you can’t take any credit for it.”

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ECHS Yearbook, 1999. Janelle’s K-9 schooling was at ECNS

Tiny seeds growing into wholesome food, is not the only miracle to be found here at Riverbend Gardens*,  the home of Aaron and Janelle Herbert and their three children, Evelyn, Layne and Carly. Ten years ago if you had  told Janelle , a member of the 1999 class of graduates from Edmonton Christian High, that she would be a business woman, a farmer, and a land steward fighting for the very survival of this special piece of land in NE Edmonton, she, in her own words, “would have run!”

“You never know where you’re going to be in ten years,”  she acknowledges.  This is part of the miracle and that is not lost on Janelle.  She recalls how her parents never put pressure on her or her siblings to take over the farm.  Upon her graduation, Janelle worked for a couple of years before going to Grant McEwan College where she became an Occupational Therapy Assistant.  She was able to immediately find employment working with developmentally disabled children.

At one point, not long after she was married to Aaron, Janelles’ parents inquired about whether or not they had any interest in operating the farm.  Aaron, a city boy who was working at a metal shop, immediately said, “Yes!”  Could this young couple, neither of whom had farming on their career list, miraculously make this work?  They could in God’s story!  “He [Aaron] loves work.  He’s like a workaholic.   I like running a business, so we are a good team.  He loves working on the farm and I kind of run the business . . .steer the business,” shares Janelle.  “It all falls into place.  It’s no accident.”

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Aaron helps host a recent field trip by grade 1 students from ECNE.  Helping city people understand farming is part of what Janelle and Aaron do.

IMG_0395One of the things Janelle continues to learn is that God’s miracles in our lives do not mean our pathway will be smooth.  Concerns about growing seasons and markets and weather conditions are always there.  Taking the farm from growing wholesale crops to doing Community Shared Agriculture has not been easy, but that’s a story that will have to be for another time.    Add in the threat of losing this special piece of land to a proposed roadway/bridge development connecting to the industrial heart of Fort Saskatchewan** and it is clear that God’s miracles often require our participation!

Copy of Richard Rohr quote“With farming has come a whole host of challenges:  dealing with government and  being a landowner and public engagement and all that. It was something I didn’t anticipate being such a huge part of what I do.  So that has been challenging. You wear so many hats.  One minute you could be teaching a teenager how to pull weeds and the next you could be sitting in your MLAs office.

“It is important to have God lead where you are going and then you will be where you are supposed to be, even if it’s hard.”

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So for now, Janelle and Aaron are making a difference in their small part of God’s story.   Where will they be 10 years from now?  Will food still be growing on this land?  Or . . .will tanker trucks and cars be rumbling across a new bridge, banishing the serenity of plant filled fields?  No-one knows.  But we do know this:  God will continue to work in the lives of Edmonton Christian School alumni like Janelle.  As a school, we plant the seeds.  The miracles?  Those are from a loving God!

by Brian Doornenbal
*If you would like to find out more about Aaron and Janelle’s farm:  CLICK HERE
**more details about the expropriation threat and ways you could get involved  CLICK HERE
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Gr 4 at West recently held a games carnival to raise money to help conserve this land through Edmonton Area Land Trust.