More 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.
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. . .
Foods Class makes soup for Mosaic Centre
At 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 athttp://www.mosaiccentre.ca/
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.”
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.”
One 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!
“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
Talking about watersheds and wetlands is an excellent part of the curriculum in Grade 5. Talking about basic chemistry and chemicals is too! But talking doesn’t always equal learning. Facts and data apart from the story we are in have limited use.
A big part of our story as God’s people was given in the first days after Creation when God made humans the stewards (caretakers) of the Garden (Creation itself) This past week, ECWS Gr. 5 classes culminated their learning about water, wetlands and chemistry by doing a small act of stewardship. Partnering with Trout Unlimited’s Yellow Fish Road Program and the City of Edmonton, they reminded the neighbourhoods surrounding the school that we all have a role to play in the story of stewarding God’s good creation. They did this by using non-toxic paint by each of the storm sewers in the neighbourhood to remind everyone that dumping any chemical into a storm sewer has a negative effect on watersheds and wetlands. After painting the “yellow fish” reminders by the storm sewer grates, information explaining the initiative was hung on each front door in the neighbouhood. Attached to these door hangers was a student-written statement expressing the student’s desire to be stewards and earth-keepers in God’s world. Here are a few pictures of one of the groups in the McQueen neighbourhood.
Talking. Learning. Doing. Finding our role in God’s grand story!
Where is God? It is a question we have all asked ourselves at different moments in our lives.
This question has been the focus of a semester-long assignment in Biology 20. At the beginning of the semester, the students were challenged to keep their ears and eyes open, specifically in the course content, for places where they saw God. Students reflected regularly on this challenge and created a “Prezi” to organize their thoughts. Here are just a few of those thoughts, but to get a a sense for the content-rich depth of this work, you should check out at least one of the Prezis linked below.
Jacob’s full Prezi can be found HERE. (once there, use the arrows to advance the Prezi)
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.
Thirty 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
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!”