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 www.kiva.org
by Brian Doornenbal

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.

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


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. . .




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/

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.”

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.”

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.”


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
Gr 4 at West recently held a games carnival to raise money to help conserve this land through Edmonton Area Land Trust.