Deep Hopes for Our Students

What are your deep hopes for your children?  More specifically, what do you hope for when, each day,  you send them off to Edmonton Christian Schools (West, Northeast or Senior High School)?  These are great questions because deep hopes are at the centre of what we do at Edmonton Christian School.  After all, we are part of God’s story, a story filled with hope.  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for God who promised is faithful. (Heb 10:23)

It isn’t news that the frenetic pace of life can often make us forgetful people.  In fact it has been said that forgetting is the default position for humans. It could also be the default for Edmonton Christian Schools.  That is why staff have been spending some early dismissal time lately deliberately articulating and discussing the deep hopes they have for the students they see each day.  Here are just a few of those deep hopes drafted by teachers from all three of our schools.* 

My deep hope is . . .

K-9 Deep Hope (1)

Div 2 deep hope

SH Deep Hope

K teacher deep hope

Div 2 Deep Hope

Div 2 deep hope (1)

Div 3 Deep Hopes

Staff at Edmonton Christian Schools hope deeply that your children will find their place in God’s story.  How would you express your hopes for your children?  It’s a conversation worth having in our community as we continue living in the grace of a  faithful God whose promises give us unswerving hope!

* graphics  and visuals have been added by this blog author without teacher input.
by Brian Doornenbal

Hope Sandwiches

Recently our teachers have been thinking about their deep hopes for the students that attend Edmonton Christian Schools.  Many of these hopes, in one way or another,  speak about our students being people who love God and love their neighbours.

(Watch for an upcoming blog about DEEP HOPES)

But like the people in Jesus time, we sometime need reminders about who those neighbours are.  If we don’t live in the downtown core, are the people who live life largely on the streets our neighbours?  Does God call us to see and treasure His image reflected in the 1800 plus people in our city who are struggling with homelessness?

Dan explains the work of the Mustard Seed to the students.

Some classes at Edmonton Christian Schools answered those questions with an emphatic “YES” last week as they used opportunities in their studies to actively love some of the people on the margins of the society we live in.  Both groups made sandwiches for the Mustard Seed and it’s partner programs in Edmonton.  These sandwiches will help someone on the street bridge a gap until their next meal or will become a child’s school lunch or will supply the energy for one of Edmonton’s working poor, heading off to their job.  Simple sandwiches providing hope for the day.

Mrs Piers and her grade 8 French class at ECWS made over 200 sandwiches as a learning experience in their FSL unit on Food:



Two days later, at ECHS, Ms. Tsang and her Foods 10/20 class along with Mrs. Krol’s Physics 20 class that had raised some money for the sandwich supplies also made 200 sandwiches:


Writing messages of love and encouragement on the sandwich bags.
“Today I choose to be a History maker in the lives of those around me.”


 Growing as servant-workers,  community builders and justice-seekers.  Recognizing the image of God in all people.  Finding their role in God’s story.  This is all part of what we hope for the students of Edmonton Christian Schools.

This time, that hope was realized in the simple act of making a sandwich.

by Brian Doornenbal

A Christmas Card for You

A  Christmas card from Edmonton Christian Schools to you:

In these long days of darkness, God-With-Us has come.  “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” Isa.9:2.  That’s God’s story.  The darkness does not last!  That’s the Christmas story.  And it is our story!  “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace to those on whom God’s favour rests” Luke 2:14 

This, our Christmas card, comes in the form of pictures and messages carried by the voices and instruments of students in all three of our schools.  We join them in wishing your families the renewed hope that comes in this season of God changing things around, calming our fears and inviting us to be people of love and light.

🎶When down is up and up is down,

Our God can change things around.”🎶

Edmonton Christian West School K – 6 (slide show may take a few moments to load on your device)

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🎶“Sleeping Adonai,

Calm the waves, then calm my fears.

Light the world, then light my way,

Sleeping Adonai.” 🎶

Edmonton Christian High School Band&Choir, ECWS & ECNS Junior High Bands, ECNS Gr 7 Choir (slide show may take a few moments to load on your device)

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🎶All around us people are hurting . . .

We are meant to be as his hands and feet

To share God’s wonderful love.”🎶

Edmonton Christian Northeast School Gr 1-3 (slide show may take a few moments to load on your device)

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by Brian Doornenbal

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.  


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!




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.  



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

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).







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


From Dunker to Doctor (Part 2)

Support on the Path:  Family and Friends

It could be said for all of us.  Unless someone has walked a mile in our shoes ( or tool belt or business suit or chef’s apron, . . .) they can’t fully understand our daily work.  

Mark scrubs (1)Without walking a mile in Mark’s scrubs, it is difficult for us to imagine the challenges on the pathway to becoming a surgical specialist.  One hundred hour (plus) weeks. Life and death situations.  Overwhelming pressure from both the long hospital hours AND the studying.  Child cancer patients. Unsuccessful surgeries. Delivering bad news to families.  It has been a challenging path.   

 “I haven’t really had second guesses about medicine, but I definitely have had second guesses about surgery.  It is one of the longest residencies, one of the hardest residencies, and the sheer hours in the hospital and on call are difficult,” reflects Mark.   “There are lows when you are overcome by studying, and by what you see and by [the toll it takes] on family life.”

Mark has no illusions about how important that family life has been and continues to be on this path.  Mark, Connie and their two children are in this together!   

“It’s support that makes it possible.  It’s not me being good at things.  I have an incredibly supportive wife who is doing 100% more than her fair share.  She’s a single mother raising two children ….or three,” he adds with a self-deprecating grin.  “Also,” he continues, “my parents are in town, and they are always willing to babysit or help.

Mark's family

The support Mark experiences from Connie and from other family is of course about much more than just helping him get through his training as a surgeon.  The hospitial work shapes him as a surgeon, but he speaks of being shaped by his family in this way,  

“I might be a better Resident if I was single, but I would not be a better person.”

Mark also acknowledges that the friendships he made with people who attended Edmonton Christian Schools have  helped him become who he is today.  He remains very close to a group of guys he went to school with.  They do what friends do. Sports. Social gatherings.  Building each other’s garages. . . .   Oh, and yes… still plenty of goofing off.

Mark buddies

These friendships have not only been important for Mark, but since many  of these friends, are married and have young children Connie has found herself with a supportive group of friends who have much in common and do much together.  Family camping trips.  Barbeques.  Shared child-care and playdates.  Girls nights out.  

“When we came back to Edmonton from Dordt, I was curious how it [reconnecting with friends] would go.”  

As it turns out it has gone well and will continue to play an important role in both in Mark’s vocational journey and in the story of his family.

It’s important in all of this to circle back to the fact that this is part of a bigger story.  God’s story has a place for all.  The path isn’t always easy but the same God who provides the lilies of the field with what they need to be beautiful in this world provides each person as they “toil and spin” with all they need. God places people around them who help them become who God wants them to be.  And just like with the lilies, that is a beautiful thing!

(Part One of this story can be found here:  From Dunker to Doctor)
by Brian Doornenbal

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.”  


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.”  

Mark scrubs (1)

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)