Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The End, a.k.a. The Beginning

The end is no longer just near, it is here.  This past week we welcomed people from all over the country as they came in to see our students graduate from the Kaléo program.  Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, even aunts and uncles were joined by pastors and church families as we all celebrated the incredible work done by our students over the past year.  

It was a wonderful opportunity to worship one last time with our students, to recognize their great work in every area of the program, and to give some special recognition for going above and beyond what we could ever have expected.  

These included five different awards each dedicated to an aspect of the Kaléo program: Tanner Kooistra, recognized for his dedication and excellence in ministry this year; Lindsey Grisnich, recognized for her perseverance and growth through the adventures, Marissa Burns, recognized for her contribution to community life here at camp; Trevor Martin, recognized for demonstrating Christ-like leadership throughout the program; and Nicole Pauls, recognized academically for having a 4.0 GPA which was the highest average out of all our students this year. 

Mitch Hogeveen was also recognized this year as our valedictorian chosen because he best embodied all five aspects of the program.  This honour came with the responsibility of addressing all those in attendance on behalf of our students.  Mitch did a phenomenal job both in capturing the essence of this year and in spurring everyone on to future greatness.

With the final worship practice having come and gone, the last class now completed, and the last papers already having collected dust the only thing left to do was say goodbye.  It was amazing to see our students' thankful hearts when given the opportunity to speak at the graduation banquet.  Thanks went out to staff that cared for them, walked alongside them, and served them both diligently and sacrificially.  Thanks went out to friends and families who made it possible for them to be here.  Thanks also went out to the leaders who without missing a beat thanked the students in turn.  We were glad to be able to express our gratitude, how proud we were of their growth this year, and how much we really grew to cherish them in these last eight months.  

It's too quiet now around camp without our students here, having only one table of staff at dinner instead of a room full or smiling faces to break bread with.  It's too quiet as you sit in the Fireside Lounge and can't hear the stomping of footsteps above, the soft melody of Tanner playing a song he wrote or the frustrated cry of a student trying to write a thesis statement.  Thankfully whether staff or student we will never forget the incredible experiences of this past year.  

Not only do we look back at what was but we look forward with anticipation and expectancy at what is still to come.  In a few weeks the pitter patter of feet will be those of staff getting ready for a summer here at Camp Qwanoes.  Soon after it will become the bumps and thuds of a new group of students arriving for Kaléo 2013.  And while it will be somebody new playing sweet melodies in the lounge and a different student crying out about their paper we can be proud of what our students have done and even more proud about what they will accomplish in the years to come.  

Our prayer is that you all continue to grow and learn, serve rather than be served, and do what is right rather than what is easy.  Remember that although it looks like the end it is simply the start of a new chapter.  

So this is the end, and also the beginning.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Scaling the heights of truth

This past week the students have finished up their last class, Introduction to Christian Worldview. It has been a grueling look at what we know and how we know it. Many students have exclaimed that their minds have been blown and pieced back together in a week. One of the most powerful revelations for students has been that truth does not matter unless it is lived out.

As the last few papers were being finished up we took a study break and went on a rock climbing adventure. It was an amazing day of sun and rock. Students were forced out of their comfort zones and scaled the heights of the Crest Creek Crags.

Our adventure started with snowshoeing into the climbing area. After our trek through the woods our guides set up 6 climbs of varying difficulty. Students spent the day working their way up cracks, crevices, and nubs straining to reach the top. It was great to see how they encouraged and challenged each other through the tough sections.

We are pushing to the finish line here in the program. It's been a fantastic journey so far and we're looking forward to graduation only a week away.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mystical Beaches

Last week we piled into the vans and headed west for a three day camping trip at Mystic Beach.  Mystic Beach is a gorgeous strip of waterfront that's a 2 km hike in from the parking lot and only has a handful of small sites where you can put up tents.  Even though we had to get cozy and place twice as many tents as you'd think could fit on each site it was well worth the effort.  Here we enjoyed campfires, hot chocolate made over a camping stove and we even had Kraft Dinner on the first evening!  No campfire is complete without marshmallows roasted on sticks so we enjoyed s'mores as we huddled around the fire for warmth.

The only drawback to camping on BC's west coast in March is that the weather can be unpredictable.  The weather would turn from sunny one moment to overcast and raining to hailing the next.  Looking around at times it appeared to have snowed quite hard but it was only slushy hail collected on our tents and tarps.  Thankfully our students are troopers and had incredible attitudes no matter what the weather had in store for us.

One of my favourite moments was doing leadership games in between bouts of hail and rain.  One student would be in charge of their team and would have to think outside of the box, give clear instructions or plan their group's activity on the spot.  It was a stretching but incredible opportunity for them which was made even more intense by the downpour that would intermittently overtake us.

The weather wasn't all bad though.  The last day we had glorious sunshine and the last evening we had an incredible sunset.  It was a trip where we experienced all different extremes from hail to beautiful sunshine, from huddling under tarps to laying on the beach reading and everything in between.

Back at camp the students are currently learning tons in Cal's Studies in Christian Worldview class and gearing up for this weekend's Juniors Retreat.  Christian Worldview is their last class of the year which means lots of celebrating but having to dig deep and finish the last few assignments.  This retreat is the last and largest retreat our students will be a part of this year.  They will be taking the lead in many ways from some planning roles to helping run games or learning what maintenance does during a retreat.  We're expecting great things from our students this weekend as we welcome more than 100 juniors ages 8 to 11.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Church Ministry in the Cowichan Valley

As part of the Kaléo program we have had to opportunity to get involved with churches in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. Each student was assigned a church in September and has gotten involved with ministries in the church. For the past 7 months I have been going to Warmland Community Church here in Crofton with Hannah, Mike and Mitch. It has been a great experience to get to know the people in the church, seeing them every Sunday and occasionally being invited into their homes for Sunday lunch and games.

Every Wednesday night we take the long five minute drive up to Crofton and hang out with the Junior Youth. Since September we’ve had the opportunity to play some sweet games with the youth and have a lot of laughs. As the year has progressed we have gotten to know the youth more and more and I will be sad to say goodbye.
Photo Scavenger Hunt: Everyone in a pyramid
Photo Scavenger Hunt: Everyone with a lawn mower
Live Action Clue: The suspects
 Additionally, we help with Sunday school (or “Kidsland” as it’s called) on a few Sundays a month. Our involvement has included leading small groups and every once in a while teaching the main lesson and leading songs. It has been wonderful to get to know the kids and see that though they are young they can have a hunger for God.
Hannah at Kidsland with her pre-school class
All in all I’ve enjoyed my time at Warmland. We’ve been able to bless the church but also be blessed by the church. And though my time there can’t last forever I am glad that I got the chance to get involved and get a small taste for Church ministry.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Omnipotence, Omniscience, Omnipresence, Omnivore

Last week our students took Intro to Christian Theology with Merrill Dyck which challenged and stretched them in many ways.  The week began early on with an explanation that the issues they'd be tackling are those that many thoughtful and faithful Christian thinkers have disagreed on for many ages and still do today.  One of the ways they worked with these issues was by being split up into groups on opposite sides of an issue and told they were going to have a debate at the end of the week.

As the week progressed one group researched the Peccability of Christ (that he was capable of sinning) while the other researched the Impeccability of Christ (that he was not capable of sinning).  Neither group was trying to prove that he did sin but rather they were debating whether or not he was even able to sin in the first place.  

The other groups were split on the issue of is it okay to lie if the truth would cause harm to somebody else.  Regardless of personal stance the groups had to defend their argument which involved careful research and lengthy discussions.  This in many ways allowed them to see both sides of a difficult issue giving them a much greater empathy for those who would disagree with them on disputable issues.

A very challenging course for many, Christian Theology made our students think about things in new and deeper ways than they ever had before.  Jon, one of our students, explained that this course challenged him to re-examine how different people could draw different conclusions from the same passage of Scripture, eventually coming to "different [conclusions about] what Scripture has to tell us".  This question of how two people can carefully examine the Scriptures and come to two very different interpretations is one that was at the forefront of their learning in this course.  While there is no simple answer, the students learned to approach this with humility, grace, and understanding.

Be in prayer for our students as they finish up the post-course work for this class.  Tomorrow they hand in their research papers for Christian Theology so continue to pray that the deep theological issues they are writing on and researching have a deep and profound impact on them as they work.

Looking forward we'll be heading out to Mystic Beach next week for a three-day camping out-trip and then transitioning into Studies in Christian Worldviews (their final class of the year).  Thank you for all of your support and prayers this year.  Continue to do so as our students try to finish well in the last four to five weeks of the program.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


One week ago our 21 students were scattered across the globe serving in a variety of capacities from filling potholes in Mexico to serving food in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.  One team helped with Northern Light Ministries in Mexico and the other came alongside New Beginnings Fellowship Baptist Church and Potter's Place Mission in Vancouver.  Bec, the female Intern, led the team in Mexico and Erin, the Assistant Kaléo Leader and I led the team in Vancouver.  Below Bec and I will each share some about our experiences in Mexico and Vancouver respectively.


For two weeks I had the privilege of leading 8 wonderful students on an exposure/experience trip to the small town of El Papalote, Baja California in Mexico. We partnered with a group named Northern Light Ministries that founded a Bible College and aims to train and equip Indigenous missionaries and offer further training to existing pastors in the area.

Our time was spread over many different activities, mainly focusing on children and youth ministry, and assisting in some of the construction that the mission was undertaking. We had amazing opportunities to lead a few of the church youth nights and Matthew had a shining moment of leading camp fire songs in English after the students tried (unfortunately without much success) to teach us some in Spanish.

A lot of soccer was played and some quality time on the tire swing was had enabling us to build relationship with the children and youth of the neighborhood. The most common frustration expressed throughout our team was our inability to communicate with words our love for the kids, but we endeavored to show them Christ’s love, to the best of our ability, through our actions.

Through the abundant generosity of the people that financially supported our team, we also had the amazing experience of blessing some families from within the congregations of churches in El Papalote. An elderly, and blind couple that attended one church, Neuva Era, was in desperate need of a bed. As a team we wanted to bless this couple and through some savvy haggling from Michael and Trevor we were able to provide them with a set-up that will give their bodies the rest that they need for many years to come. It was a very humbling experience for all of us, and one that we wont soon forget.

There were obvious difficulties that our team faced with the language barrier, but it was clear to see that God was working through that and I can safely say that every single one of us left a good friend behind in Mexico. 


Our team of 13 students and two leaders hopped into vans and drove to Vancouver, BC.  There we met up with Joe from New Beginnings and were able to partner with the plethora of ministries their church spearheads.  Much of their focus is on their surrounding neighbourhood which is made up primarily of single mothers living in subsidized housing units.  Many of these mothers are raising four, five or six children on their own and only have temporary live-in boyfriends who come and go.  This area is so full of hurt and brokenness but also so much hope.

Many of their ministries focus on helping reach the children in this area by tutoring elementary school children with their Say Yes program or helping send kids to camp for a week.  Many of these kids don't have parents either willing or able to make sure they are being fed, going to school, or doing their homework.  These things that we typically assume as being basic and necessary are not happening and the children suffer as a result.  These children then grow up and are unable to help their own children in these ways which creates a vicious cycle.  They have seen some wonderful success stories of children who came through these programs and the church's youth group and eventually went on to graduate High School and even University.  This is unheard of for many of these kids and by seeing people in the same situations as them doing so well gives them hope and something to strive for.

Other ways that New Beginnings helps their community is by donating and delivering furniture to families in need.  Our students were a huge help as they moved couches, dressers, lamps and tables on and off the the delivery truck.  For many of these single parents they don't have the resources or ability to get some of these things and so having our students help them so practically made a huge difference in their lives.

Whether helping with youth group or cleaning people's homes, our students dove in and helped wherever they were needed in this Inner-City Vancouver area.  Part way into our two weeks our team headed further downtown to East Hastings which is the heart of the Downtown Eastside.  There we partnered with Potter's Place Mission in running their two daily services from leading the music to helping in the kitchen to preaching.  Twice a day they serve a meal to whoever would like it but in order to eat they must sit through a service comprised of music and preaching.  This was a very stretching experience for many of our students as they suddenly had to tell their testimony, preach, or sit with and talk to somebody who was hungry and broken.

Much of our ministry at Potter's was coming alongside and speaking with the people who came for the services.  Hearing their stories, praying with them through their struggles, sitting and eating with those whom the world has turned it's back on broke our hearts and will stay with us always.  Never before had many of them painted a building while standing next to a drug dealer or walked down the street handing out roses to prostitutes as a reminder that they were beautiful in God's eyes.

Our time spent on East Hastings was wild, emotional and stretching but we wouldn't trade it for anything.  This trip moved many of our students (and leaders) deeply and will surely inspire us to help the orphaned, the widowed and the poor in their context wherever we go.  This trip has changed us all and the people of Vancouver's Inner City will not soon be forgotten.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

His Team

At 8:30am today, 15 members from our Kaléo program will be leaving for the mainland where we will be working in the Eastside of Vancouver for two weeks. (The rest of our group left last evening for Mexico!) We will be helping an organization that works among street people and with a church doing children's and youth ministry. Our schedule isn't super planned out yet, but there will be lots of things to do while we are there!
We are looking forward to our two weeks with an attitude of expectancy. We know that we will be stretched and taught flexibility, for sure. We are trying not to go into the two weeks with expectations, but we do know that God is going to do some really cool things in and through us if we are bold and faithful. (Step Out!?)
The best part is knowing that God has been in Vancouver before we will get there and He will be there long after we leave. Really, we are just joining Him in spreading the hope and freedom He offers through Jesus. We are excited to be on His team.
Thanks for thinking of us. You can continue to keep us in your prayers.