VCS Recognizes Orange Shirt Day
A parent who was visiting a Christian school once remarked to me, “This is the first ‘Christian’ building I’ve been in since I left residential school.”
On another occasion, a mother who was participating in a new family admissions meeting said, “After residential school, I was angry and hurt. I fell into bad things. In order to get my child back, I had to learn to let go of the anger.”
The lives of both parents were forever changed by their experiences in Canadian residential schools that were run by the church, with the support of the federal government. One parent experienced significant abuse while at the school, while the other witnessed classmates being harmed. As adults, both are still dealing with complex feelings regarding Christianity, their own indigenous culture, and how to help their children avoid the physical and psychological harm that they could not. They are both strong and resilient people with gentle hearts.
As we recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, we as a Christian school community hope deeply that we will never become an obstacle that stands in the way of another person, all who are made in God’s image, from experiencing the love and saving grace of Jesus.
Our staff will recognize this important day in varying, age-appropriate ways, and all students are invited to wear orange, or an orange ribbon, on Thursday, September 29th. We do so not because we are expected to, but as an act of love and respect for our indigenous neighbours.
Dear VCS Families,
Sometimes in life, we have the experience of feeling both fear and awe at the same time. The feeling is both uncomfortable and life-giving. Or perhaps the perception of one’s life possibly being at risk heightens the joy of being alive!
While backpacking in early August in Cape Scott Provincial Park, a remote park on the northern end of Vancouver Island, we encountered a large black bear. The bear was feeding at the end of an expansive, sandy beach near the outflow of a river into the Pacific ocean. Regrettably for us, it was close to a small creek that was our only source of drinking water, which we badly needed after a long day of hiking through thick rainforest.
It was unnerving. To observe and be watched by the two grizzly bears in their enclosure at the top of Grouse Mountain is one thing - they are separated from you by an electric fence. To be watched by a large black bear on a remote beach with nothing but 100 meters of sand separating you from the bear produced feelings of wonder and frankly, I was a bit scared! If the bear chose to charge, there was nothing but my single can of bear spray to protect us.
The bear watched us and we watched it. This was the bear’s territory and it was unlikely to move on. We needed water. We had no choice but to cautiously navigate in front of the bear in order to reach the water that sustains life. We continued walking steadily towards the creek. With great relief, we saw that the bear chose to keep feeding on seafood!
Later, as I reflected with wonder on what we’d seen and experienced, I asked myself if what I felt might have been a slice of what Moses felt when he encountered God on Mount Horeb or in the burning bush. I thought about Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom...” Perhaps to fear is also to feel a deep sense of reverence and awe for the majesty of who God is, and the fact that a God so great could care for a person so small and sinful as me.
As we walk the trails that a new school year brings, we are grateful that at Vancouver Christian School we can explore the majesty of who God is in the lives of our children and teens. God is not compartmentalized into Bible lessons or chapel or prayer time, but who He is and His majesty infuse everything we do - every lesson, every subject area, every interaction with others - this is our hope and prayer.
The awe I felt seeing that black bear is nothing compared to the majesty of our God. His power is impossible to understand. We step forward in hope because we know that this great and powerful God holds all things together (Colossians 1:17). Life is beautiful, complex, and often messy, but because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we have hope. We serve a risen Saviour and an awesome God whose love is vast and deep.
Welcome to the 2022-2023 school year!
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