Thursday, 24 September 2015

Highlights from the Grade 12 Retreat

Grade 12 students led chapel at Smithville Christian High School, sharing stories and music from their three-day retreat to Silver Lake Camp last week.
Chapel began with Grade 12 student praise team leading in worship with “Multiplied,” “My Redeemer Lives” and “Hallelujah – Grace Like Rain.”

Spiritual life director Gord Park then took over, thanking the Grade 12 students for the privilege of playing, worshiping and growing with them.

“You are an awesome group of people,” Park told them, urging the students to allow the spirit of community and cooperation from the retreat to infuse the entire year.

Park described the great weather, team-building activities and healthy food they enjoyed at the camp, and shared a few photos from the trip. 

(See more photos in the Grade 12 Retreat album on Facebook).
As part of the worship time at the retreat, students had an opportunity to share what God is doing in their lives. Sabrina accepted the invitation to share her story again for the whole school, at chapel.

She spoke of a ministry trip she made this summer to Los Angeles, working as a volunteer at the Dream Centre, helping at a local food bank and praying with people who requested prayer.

Sabrina said she was profoundly affected by the experience, and knows that “God is calling me back. So that is what I am going to do, go back for nine months,” she said.
Sophie shared a devotion about relying on the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, in good times and bad.

On our grade 12 retreat, we talked about being in relationship with God and what that meant,” Sophie said. “The pivotal point of being in relationship with someone is communication. Good communication involves asking and answering questions, as well as listening to the other person speak. In your faith walk with Christ, it is so important to remain connected with Him. He speaks to us in personal ways, we only need to make ourselves aware of His voice and how He chooses to connect with us.”
Sophie urged students to dig into God’s word, to worship him and be used by him “in radical ways.”
“Awesome things can happen,” she said.

The Grade 12 student praise team led in two more songs, “Build Your Kingdom Here,” and “Thrive,” inviting their entire class forward to join in leading.
Mr. Robb presented Jay and Sam with their prizes for reading the New Testament this summer.
Oh, and Mr. Robb also shared two stories from his recent trip to Israel. He said while he was in the Holy Land he met a mathematician who hated negative numbers. He said the mathematician hated them so much, he would stop at nothing to avoid them.

Robb also said that in the airport he met a young boy who had a box of animal crackers. Instead of eating the crackers, the boy was lining all the animals up. When Mr. Robb asked the boy what he was doing, the boy replied that he was looking for the seal. Why? Because a warning on the box said “do not eat if seal is broken.”

Chapel is (usually) held on Wednesday mornings at 9 a.m. All are welcome.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

We were made to thrive

The spiritual life theme for the 2015/2016 school year at Smithville Christian High School is “THRIVE.”
Borrowing from the Casting Crowns song, “Thrive,” spiritual life director Gord Park told students that they were created for much more than mere survival.

“You were created and born to thrive,” Park said. Being a Christian is “not just a get-out-of-fire-free card that you put in your wallet and then wait and wait for years because you are going to go to heaven some day. You were created and born to know God and to make him known,” he said.

Just as a seedling can only thrive when it is positioned to have the right soil, sunlight and water, so we must position ourselves to ensure we have the right conditions to thrive, Park said. One of the ways in which we can do that is to follow the teaching of Jesus in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus said whenever we care for the hungry, the poor or the imprisoned, we are caring for him. That means if we are caring for someone, we are in the presence of God, and when we are in the presence of God, we thrive.
Park said many of Jesus’ miracles occurred when Jesus had compassion on those who needed his help. Similarly, when we respond with compassion to those around us, “that’s when miracles happen.”
Park told a story about a group of teenagers who travelled this summer with a Serve team and who were assigned to help an elderly woman with painting and clean-up at her house. At the end of the week the woman testified to the teenagers’ compassion and caring, and she told the students how she had prayed in desperation for help. In their simple acts of painting some walls or trimming some weeds, they had been the answer to her prayers.
“If you are made to thrive, the opportunity is here at school every day,” Park said. “In the ordinary moments, when Christ allows you to feel his heart for that situation, you are thriving.”
We have daily opportunities to show compassion and understanding, to smile, to introduce ourselves to someone new or to pray with someone who is having a bad day.
When we do these things we help others to thrive. “And because you brought compassion, you are thriving too.”

Students are still auditioning for this year's praise teams, so we were led in worship by a staff praise team. We sang "10,000 Reasons" and "Blessed be the Name." 

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

What will they say about you at grad?

On the first day of school for the Classes of 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, students at Smithville Christian High School were asked to think about their legacy.

Principal Ted Harris said he has been recently pondering his own legacy, prompted partly by the death last week of school supporter and family patriarch Richard Hoekstra of Dunnville. Hoekstra’s funeral program included pages and pages of testimonies to his loving Christian character, posted by his grandchildren on Facebook. Many of those grandchildren are graduates of Smithville Christian High School.

Harris said June’s graduation ceremony of the Class of 2015 was similarly a chance to reflect on the characters of the students. As the graduates received their diplomas, the commentary which described them included words such as “called by God,” “love for the Lord,” or “spiritual leadership that enabled others to thrive.”

Thinking about what one’s legacy will be is part of what it means to live for Christ, Harris said, “thinking about what our impact will be.”

Quoting Psalm 78:4 Harris said our lives lived well can “tell the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,” and the way we do our schoolwork, or use our gifts or interact with others becomes part of our legacy.
“You need to understand that every single one of you can be a blessing to others here,” he told students. He urged Grade 12s to use their personalities and gifts to shape the culture of our school, the Grade 11s to dig in to their studies and their gifts during this year of academic rigour, and the Grade 10s to be as welcoming and hospitable as they can to the Grade 9s.

To the Grade 9s Harris said they are in a powerful position.

“Today you start forming your learning community, which becomes your legacy,” he said. “Form a strong bond. Be inclusive.”

The opening chapel also included prayers of thanks and blessing from representatives of the various people who make up the community of Smithville Christian High School. Spiritual life director Gord Park prayed for teachers, student council member Brandon Masselink prayed for students, teacher and parent Robert Gerryts prayed for parents and board member and parent Lorraine Vermeer prayed for the board and community of support that surrounds the school.

We also introduced new students and welcomed the new art teacher, Amanda LeBlanc.

Students were also invited to get involved in things like homework club, computer gaming and robotics, yearbook, praise team, boys volleyball, girls basketball, athletics council, cross country, yoga or art club.

Student Tamara Ng'ambi thanked students for praying for her as she obtained her visa to travel from Zambia last year and for making her feel so welcome.

Student Harrison Exelby thanked students for praying for him last year as he battled cancer. Harrison and his family showed their gratitude for the way the school was part of the praying community that supported them by sharing donuts with everyone after chapel.

We were also pleased to welcome so many parents to the opening chapel. Everyone is always welcome at chapel, held Wednesday mornings at 9.

We’re off to a great start!

Friday, 4 September 2015

How do teachers get ready for school?

In addition to making lesson plans, stockpiling supplies and organizing their classrooms, how do Christian school teachers get ready for back to school?

They hold meetings in beautiful locations.

They worship together.

And they learn together.

At the Niagara Christian schoolteachers’ back-to-school breakfast, held the first week of September at Smithville Christian High School, elementary and secondary teachers heard an inspiring and challenging message about power and perfection, from educator and mother-of-four, Sara Pot.

Pot, who has two daughters who have complex special needs, urged teachers to consider how God’s power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9) and how true power seeks the flourishing of all because all people are worthy of love and belonging.

“We are all disabled,” Pot reminded her listeners. “Some of us are just better at hiding it than others.”
Pot said she and her husband did not choose to be “forever parents” of children whose every aspect of life is affected by their abnormalities, and life for them can be like “living grief, although no one has died.”

There are many unique struggles in life that can be compared to the idea of "living grief," she said. How we deal with our own shortcomings and our own struggles will also affect how we help our students.  When we assure our students that though they will struggle, they are all worthy of love and belonging, we allow for God's power to move - and the students will flourish in their own way.  Just as Jesus, in dealing with Blind Bartimaus (Mark 10: 46-52) or another blind man (John 9) did not care why the men were blind, so we are called to compassion and acceptance.  That compassion and acceptance, in the form of God's Grace, reminds us all to forgive and to persevere, knowing His power will ultimately prevail.

“When that co-worker hurts your feelings, when your students don’t listen, when your lesson fails miserably, when that parent phone call goes south instead of smoothly, lift your head,” said Pot, citing the lyrics of “Keep Walkin’” by hip-hop singer/songwriter TobyMac.

I know your heart been broke again
I know your prayers aint been answered yet
I know you're feeling like you got nothing left
Well lift your head
It ain't over yet

Seek comfort in God's grace," Pot said. "Life won't be pretty, it will be messy, but we are all worthy of love and belonging. Each day brings a choice: you can choose joy or you can choose the alternative.

Oh, and one more thing. At Smithville Christian High School, where progress on renovations has been hampered by a delay in shipment of structural steel, back-to-school also means tiptoeing on slippered feet to avoid tracking dirt and dust, cheerfully accepting disruption and temporary classroom locations and joyfully acknowledging that the most important things about school are the relationships between teachers and students and students and students.

Our building may not be finished yet but we are excited for the students to arrive. We’re ready, whether the walls and windows are or not! See you Wednesday morning!

Read more from Sara Pot at her blog thepotfamily.blogspot