Throughout this school year, I’ve been meeting with VCS parents, grandparents, and supporters of the school. I’ve appreciated and valued these meetings - I’ve had about 30 of them so far. They’ve given me an opportunity to get to know you and listen to what you love about VCS, as well as hear your input regarding our rooftop project and VCS in general. I wish I was able to meet with more families at a faster pace!
Recently, I met with a parent of two children who recognizes that we are a diverse community and will not always be uniform in our understandings of Scripture. However, she so loves that VCS teachers desire to be in relationship with students and pray for them. She talked about how the staff get to know her kids and show real, true care for them.
2 Corinthians 5:14 & 17 reads:
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and
therefore all died…Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!
I also find The Message translation of this passage helpful:
"Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they
look….Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah
gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life emerges! Look at
it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him,
and then called us to settle our relationships with each other."
In Genesis 1:26-27 we learn that all people are made in the image of God. As image-bearers, all people ought to be treated with respect, dignity, and care. God desires to be in relationship with each of us and to see us follow Him.
In the New Testament, Jesus encounters Pharisees who attempt to trap him by asking Jesus which of the laws was the most important. Jesus replied, in summary: Love God, love others; all the law hangs on these two commands. (Mathew 22:37)
Jesus calls us to love and respect others, our neighbours. That sounds straightforward but as we all know, it’s not. Life is complex and messy. Kids are complex and sometimes do surprising things. Sin impacts everything and every relationship. We need Jesus and lots of forgiveness too!
As we raise our children and work with our students, how do we help them understand that we love and care for them even as we guide them in ways they may not like or understand? It’s hard.
What’s clear to us is that Jesus invites us into a relationship with Him and each other. As Christian educators, we are taught that relationships are extremely important.
Jesus consistently challenged the legalism of the religious leaders, who valued the law, rules, and traditions above relationships. Need healing, but it was the Sabbath? Jesus chose to heal, rather than follow the strict Sabbath rules, even under threat of death (Mark 3:1-6).
When we focus on relationships we can still guide, correct, and help students learn accountability. It’s not one or the other. To be focused on relationships doesn’t mean we’re soft pushovers.
It’s easy to get frustrated or down when it seems that our investment in relationships with our children or students isn’t paying dividends, isn’t producing fruit.
A pastor reminded me that the process of being made new in Christ often happens gradually. That’s so true. And that’s why we try to take the long view when working with our kids. We may not see much growth from week to week, but if we believe and trust that the Spirit is present and working on their hearts, we can have hope that through our relationships God is at work.
Even as Jesus continually works on our own hearts, as we ourselves are slowly transformed, we are less likely to see people for who they are not, and rather see them for the image-bearers that they are.
Following Jesus means we’ll continue this hard, redemptive work in a fallen world, of loving others, of building relationships.
Let’s be encouraged by the vision cast in Revelations 7:9. One day we will be at the foot of Jesus, worshipping him with people from every nation, every tribe, every language. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, transformation is a living reality. That’s reason to give thanks!
My wife and I spent five of the most impactful years of our lives in Kyiv, Ukraine where we taught at Kyiv International School from 2003-2008. One of our children was born in Kyiv and our oldest daughter spent the first three years of her life in Kyiv, where she played daily with Ukrainian neighbourhood children and learned to speak Russian as quickly as English.
We worked closely with Ukrainian colleagues who warmly welcomed us to their country and helped us adjust to a lifestyle that was very foreign to us. They patiently taught us the language and helped us to negotiate better prices in the fruit and vegetable markets. I recall playing soccer with a Russian colleague, Pavel, who had relocated with his wife to Ukraine - a former fighter jet pilot in the Soviet military. Pavel would often choose me for his team - I think he liked my work ethic despite my relative lack of talent!
Ukraine holds a special place in our hearts - our Ukrainian friends and colleagues are dear to us and we worry for their safety. Recently, one told me by email that explosions were happening near his family’s apartment. Another friend was able to leave Ukraine but is terribly worried for her husband and extended family who were unable to leave with her. Some of her family members are taking shelter in a small, underground vegetable cellar.
Please join my family in praying for these people, for all who are suffering and impacted by this needless war.
We pray for peace and an end to the fighting, we pray for justice, we pray for hope and we pray for protection for the millions of innocent people who are at risk in this conflict.
During such times, we thank God for the freedoms we enjoy in Canada, which we too often take for granted, and we pray for Ukrainians as they defend their nation and freedoms.
As Christ-followers, we are a people called to love our neighbour and so we pray for all who suffer as a result of this war - Ukrainians, Russians, and others. We know there are ongoing conflicts in other parts of our world, and so we take this time to pray for all who are impacted by injustice and oppression in our hurting world, including here in Canada.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
Hope is an easy word to say but a tough one to live out sometimes. We are living through challenging times and it can be difficult to sustain hope from day to day. Over the past month, we’ve experienced snow, ice, floods, lots of fog, probably cranky children (or spouses), and of course, Omicron. On Monday, January 10, I attended the funeral of my grandfather (in-law). He was 97 years old and lived a full life so the day was filled with mixed emotions, as well as concerns about icy roads at VCS.
My wife’s grandparents moved from the Netherlands to Canada in 1960 with their five children. My wife’s grandfather, Grandpa Lammert Slofstra was a pastor in the Netherlands and then at several Christian Reformed Churches in both Ontario and BC. He deeply loved the Lord, which brings us tremendous hope even in his passing.
The stories we heard about his life were impactful. One that I hadn’t previously heard involved the strict instructions regarding vital elements of every sermon that he gave to his two eldest sons as they studied to become pastors. Grandpa Slofstra made clear to them that every sermon must 1) Point to Jesus, and 2) Preach Jesus with passion!
At the funeral, my family also learned that Grandpa Slofstra was presented with a Certificate of Courage by the Republic of France after WWII. Unbeknownst to us, as a young man Grandpa assisted four French paratroopers who landed on his family’s farm in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation. He had never shared this story with us.
Perhaps the most comforting and hope-filled story we heard at the funeral was that even Grandpa Slofstra had doubts about his faith at times. Even he did! As pastor, husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, he was a man committed to serving Jesus throughout his entire life. He preached the Word week after week in two different continents to numerous congregations, and yet even he had doubts.
Doubt is a common element of faith. Doubt can even stretch and lead to a strengthening of our faith. Doubt is evidence that we are imperfect, and are wrestling with this incredible story of Jesus and the implications of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection on our own lives.
Our faith is not demonstrated by the absence of doubt, but rather, our willingness to follow Jesus despite not having all the answers. As we trust and follow Jesus with our daily decisions, “He will make your paths straight”, says Proverbs 3:6.
A passage from John 10 was a great comfort to Grandpa Slofstra when he was experiencing doubt, especially the last phrase of the verse:
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand (John 10:27-28).
No one will snatch them out of my hand.
How do we help our children know that their imperfections, their mistakes, and their doubts will not cause God to love them any less?
We serve a God who welcomes and seeks out the imperfect and the doubters. How can we help our children to see and experience this welcoming God? It’s not necessary for our kids to achieve perfection in their faith, their school work, or their behaviours in order to be accepted by us. We will show love and care for them regardless of the mistakes they make, because Jesus does the same for us.
Despite the challenges you face during these times, remain steadfast in hope and faithful in prayer, for as Grandpa Slofstra taught us, God has you firmly in his hands, always and forever.
—Jeremy Tinsley, Superintendent
Growing up in Abbotsford, during our Christmas Day church service each year I can vividly remember singing the Dutch hymn “Ere Zij God” (Glory to God). Although I don’t speak Dutch, singing the foreign words was a powerful reminder to me that Jesus came for all nations, tribes, and people. As the congregation triumphantly sang out those words, I thought of the faith in God that my grandparents had when they left their home in the Netherlands and immigrated to Canada after WWII with very little money and nothing but a fragile plan for an uncertain future.
These days, I watch or read the news for a half-hour most nights to stay caught up with current events but it’s been hard to take in without feeling increasingly concerned about the future. Frankly, watching the evening news has not been the greatest way to wind down my day and prepare for a restful sleep!
The world seems far from a place of peace or certainty. The news stories seem to be a continuous list of difficult and heavy headlines.
During Advent, we take time to reflect on the peace that Jesus brings into this world and into our lives. We remember that peace, and a deeper shalom, are not out of reach no matter how difficult the news headlines.
The unimaginable love that God has for each of us led Jesus, in flesh and blood, to a very humble place in Bethlehem and later to the cross. We hold fast to the assurance that His great love will overcome the difficulties of this world. We trust that through the gift of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit, we can experience peace in our hearts and serve as peacemakers in this world, even during these times.
Jesus, the Lord of lords, King of kings, the Rock Eternal, was born to a teenage first-time mother with extremely limited resources and no solid plan for the future. We all know the story of Jesus’ birth in a stable - He was not born in a top-notch hospital with first-class heath care. Our Messiah’s humble and uncertain beginnings demonstrate that He came for all people. Regardless of our wealth or lack of it, our talents, or our worldly successes and failures, Jesus came for all.
In these turbulent times when the future seems unclear, can we still trust Him? As much as we want to plan out our kids’ future and ensure their success (however we define that word), Jesus’ birth to teenaged Mary reminds us that our best-laid plans are fleeting. As my grandparents tried to do 70 years ago, we are called to seek Him instead of certainty in this world. Jesus promises us His peace in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” and also blesses those who serve as peacemakers in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.”
Despite all that’s happening in our world and the struggles of our own hearts, when we serve as peacemakers in this world the Holy Spirit transforms our hearts and Christ’s love is made evident to others. Pray that God gives you faith to trust His plans and purposes for your family, and provides opportunities for you to serve as a peacemaker in our unsettled world. All for the Glory of God!
My lifelong passion for current events has lagged a bit these past months, especially as so much of the bad news is right in my own backyard. It’s overwhelming and hard to process at times. More than ever, I find myself asking, “What is my responsibility? What should I be doing? Who’s right and who is wrong? How do I help move things forward? What should I be accountable for collectively and individually? "
We all want to fix the world, then I remember something my mother did years ago that’s helped me get some much-needed perspective.
My parents immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands in the 1950s after experiencing five years of German occupation during the Second World War. The war years were very tough times but they survived and came here looking for a better life for their children. Which they did, successfully, in Alberta.
When I was about 15 in the mid-1970s, my parents purchased a new home. They obviously did not do their due diligence because, horror of horrors, we ended up right next door to German immigrants who also came after the war. And to make it worse, we strongly suspected that Mr. Schmidt, not his real name, had served in the army.
You may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? The war had been over for about 30 years at that point!” Well, it was a big deal. My mother’s childhood home had been appropriated by a German officer. He lived upstairs and my grandparents and mom had to live in two cramped rooms on the ground floor. They had to put up with this while one of my uncles was in a work camp; the second was imprisoned for hiding Jews; and the third had died during the early war years because of a shortage of antibiotics.
My father, on the other hand, worked in the resistance, his home turned into a hiding place for Jews, weapons, radios and an illegal printing press. Friends were arrested and shot by the Gestapo and Dad’s family lived in chronic fear for four years, expecting the knock on the door.
So, 30 years doesn’t really seem that long when you have experienced the trauma of war. Traumatic memories have a way of searing themselves into your soul.
My father refused to talk to the Schmidts, but it was worse than that. He mumbled the odd nasty comment across the fence and threw sour looks every chance he got. He just wasn’t nice to them. I caught on pretty quickly. Mr. Schmidt was probably a card-carrying Nazi, maybe even guilty of war crimes. He likely had a Nazi shrine down in his basement!
I am quite sure the Schmidts were well aware of my father’s disdain and undisguised anger toward them. They scurried away back into their house any time we were outside. Even though I was a typical self-centred teenager, I did sense their isolation and they seemed weighed down by life.
My mother, on the other hand, had a nose for sensing hurting people and her inner world of reflection was not as black and white as my father’s. And so, one day, she gathered some fresh baking onto a plate and hurried outside. I watched through the window as she called Mrs. Schmidt’s name. Before she had time to rush back into her house, my mother called her over and handed her a plate of cookies over the fence. I don’t know who was more shocked, Mrs. Schmidt or me.
My mom never said much about this but over time, the two women shared hellos over the fence and chatted a bit about their children, the weather or whatever it is people talk about over the fence. And then there was the day my brother tragically and suddenly died. There was a knock on the front door which I answered and there stood the Schmidts. She wordlessly handed me a bouquet of flowers and I remember the tears in her eyes as she turned and quickly left. There I was, surprised again.
I never learned anything more about our neighbours or about their role in the war. No great revelations. All I know is that my mother handed some cookies over the fence and a fence was partially mended. I gleaned something about the complexity of life even though I so yearned for the black and white. Oh yes, I also learned something about kindness, forgiveness and grace. Those little things.
As I contemplate the news these days, I feel my mother’s nudge. I may not be able to fix the world but I certainly can share some cookies over the fence, even when the barrier seems impossibly high.