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.


Polaris Moments

Seeing the students from Edmonton Christian Northeast and Edmonton Christian West schools head off to winter camps these past weeks, reminded me of one of my favourite creation-enjoying moments from my 15 years of winter camping with Edmonton Christian Schools’ students.  I wrote the following for a school newsletter, more than 20 years ago:

God gave a group of winter-campers from West School a special gift that night.  Sure, I know that God is good and that every good thing in our lives is a gift.  But this gift was different.  It was special–the kind that comes just at the right moment and leaves you with a feeling of warmth and wonder.  I can’t show you the gift, I can only tell you about it and hope to share just a tiny bit of that warmth and wonder.
Leonid_MeteorThirty three winter-campers were on a small hill on their walk back from Narrows Lake [near Athabasca].  The night was dark, much darker than it ever gets in the city, and the minus thirty temperature had us all thinking about how we were going to stay warm during the night. But even the cold temperatures and the anxiety about the night could not keep us from looking upward at the spectacular night sky.
We stopped on top of that hill to teach the grade 8 students one more survival lesson for the day: the simple survival skill of locating Polaris (the North Star) in the night sky.  The students located the Big Dipper and then used the pointer stars to find Polaris…
But God had a lesson plan too.  Just at the very moment our whole group was standing focussed on that one small part of the big night sky, God summoned up a meteor to streak past Polaris.  There was an audible expression of awe from the entire group.  Although it had lasted only a second or two, it was a gift that each of us could take with us as we turned and continued down the path to our lean-tos
We all gathered a little later that night for a brief devotional.  It really wasn’t necessary though.  God had already lead a devotion that couldn’t be matched.  In doing so He had given us a gift.  Maybe that’s why minus thirty didn’t feel quite so cold that night.
West Weekly, Feb 1992

TFT Creation Enjoyer (2)With today’s instant access to pictures and videos, awe is in short supply and in our celebrity focussed culture it is often misdirected.  The February through line, Creation-Enjoying, invites us once again to be awe filled.
May we not miss the “Polaris moments” that God gives us. May we find pure wonder, joy and awe in the skies and marvel at the beauty of the earth. May we find life’s direction in those moments and may we then sing, “Our God is an awesome God!”

by Brian Doornenbal,  ESCE Storyteller.