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.  

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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!

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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.  

 

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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
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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)

Lions’ Prime Time

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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

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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.

 

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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!

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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.

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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

 

 

 

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

Digging Deep in Social Studies 7

IMG_2970Last week our schools observed Orange Shirt Day (as shown here in pictures from all three campuses).  It was a day to honour indigenous people who survived Residential Schools and to remember those who didn’t.  Wearing an orange shirt, especially in Oiler country is pretty easy.  But it was another small step in our walk of reconciliation.  It was another small step in cultivating community.

There was one group of students at West school whose observation of Orange Shirt Day seemed to go a bit deeper.  Here are a couple of phrases from their journals that day:

“…they act like we aren’t people and we don’t have souls.”

“Our whole race got wiped away…”

What brought out these strong feelings?  These grade seven students and their teacher, Mr. Hoover, didn’t know it at the time, but their whole month in Social Studies was leading them to more deeply understand what Orange Shirt Day was about.

In that first week of school, students got into groups and began creating a culture with all it’s beliefs, practices, languages, foods, customs and ways of life.   They really got into this.  They dug deep. They gave the cultures names like Arbré or Alrack.  When they were ready, cultures began interacting with other cultures by trying to explain themselves without the use of any English words. The language barrier was frustrating!  Subsequent classes saw the cultures decide on and participate in “events” such as expanding their territory, making alliances with neighbours, going to war,  farming new crops etc.    While the events themselves were student choices, the outcomes of these events were determined by the teacher rolling a dice.  There were peaceful times and times of conflict. Some cultures flourished and others were almost wiped out as their populations dwindled.

One day,  a new culture, the Hooverians arrived in their ships.  They had some different goods to trade for the resources the other cultures had. While some things worked well, overall their interactions with those cultures lead to distrust, conflict and in-fighting.  Hooverians moved into territory previously occupied by others.  They questioned and at times mocked some of the cultural practices.  The changes they brought and the effects these changes had on the other cultures were significant.  This was just a month-long simulation, but these students FELT it. (It’s impossible to adequately summarize a whole month of work in a few words, so if you know one of these 7th graders, ask them for details of their learning!)

With those activities as a background, Orange Shirt Day became more real.  This can be seen in some of the feelings the students journalled along the way.  Their last journal entries on Orange Shirt Day were poignant.  Here is one complete one from Alexa.

A man came. I saw him talk to the Chiefs.  He gave us tools and stuff. I didn’t trust him, and I was right. He took me and some other kids. Mama was crying. I was too. They took me away with the kids of other ages.  I went far, far, far away.  A big lake is now my view. They tell me that what I believe is wrong. I don’t know anymore. But one of my friends said something bad and I didn’t see him anymore. I miss home. I miss the forest. I feel sad and alone. No more Abré girl.  I’m not Hika  anymore. I’m Helen. Helen from the west.

Was this simulation a complete picture of our history with the First Nations, Inuit and Metis people in Canada?  Of course not.  Like the Blanket Exercise some students did last year, it gave only a glimpse.  It only helped us to dig a little deeper so that we can understand what our role in this reconciliation story might be.  After all, as broken people loved by God  this isn’t the first reconciliation story we’ve been part of!

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