CONNECTIONS Winter 2018

CELEBRATING OUR CHRISTIAN HERITAGE IN NEW(ISH) WAYS

MARTIN LUTHER’S REFORMATION

biophoto-Winter2018-Connections-Reformation

The kids could grasp the basic ideas of all the stations because we do some of these things in school already—like ‘Pray and Do.’ They could grasp the big idea, and then the station activity put it into a concrete idea, and gave the kids something to hang on to.

A police car, a SWAT team truck, a fire truck, and a tractor all pulled up to the front curb at South Side Christian School on a beautiful October morning. No fire  was in sight, or even any emergency, much less a plowed field, and all the drivers hopped out in full uniform, big smiles on their faces.

It was South Side’s celebration of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Thesis being nailed to the Wittenberg Church back in 1517. And of how that event 500 years earlier has changed the way we think about so many things in our daily lives, including our work, prayer, worship, our Bibles.

South Side staff created the morning exhibit at the request of the Christian Educators Association (CEA) who wanted the staff to present on their “Reformation Day for young learners” experience at this year’s October CEA convention, held at Holland Christian High School. After a short explanation on who Martin Luther was, and why he wanted change, each class took turns rotating with their teachers through seven different stations, each focusing on a different aspect of transformative Reformed ideas presented at a first and second grade level—certainly a challenge on so many levels!

“The kids could grasp the basic ideas of all the stations because we do some of these things in school alreadylike ‘Pray and Do,'” said South Side second grade teacher Michelle Dryer. “They could grasp the big idea, and then the station activity put it into a concrete idea, and gave the kids something to hang on to.”

One station, called “Pray and Do,” focused on the gift of prayer, and how we get to pray directly to God, and be heard by him. Students prayed for kids in Eastern Africa dealing with various health issues including jiggers, which are small sand fleas that enter bare feet, burrowing into the skin possibly leading to paralysis, even death. So after praying for those kids in Eastern Africa, South Side students created small medical care packages for Eastern Africa kids to care for their feet and remove jiggers.

Another station celebrated the Reformed idea that we can serve God in our daily lives even through the work that we do, which is why all the emergency vehicles pulled up in the front of school. “We believe that God has called us to serve in His kingdom and to work. We do our work to the best of our ability because we believe this brings honor to God and glorifies Him,” said South Side principal Miska Rynsburger ’92, who oversaw the morning schedule. So kids got to “touch a truck” and clamber into the fire truck and police cars, even try on a SWAT team vest and feel the full weight of it, realizing that each of these professions serves the Lord on a daily basis through their important work.

Students learned at an outside station that “every square inch of the universe” belongs to Jesus Christ. They celebrated this idea by planting throughout their playground flower seeds embedded in paper they markered as “God’s,” then making their own head bandanas, also marking them as “God’s,” and wearing them throughout the day.

“It was great to be able to take so many Reformed ideas and make them applicable to a kindergartner,” said kindergarten teacher Karen Strikwerda ’83. “And it was precious to see the children wearing their bandanas stating that they also belong to God. It was meaningful and tangible.”

JEWISH SUKKOT

You don’t often think of learning God’s laws listed in Leviticus from first graders. Or of it being necessarily very exciting. But thanks in part to Rose Park 1st grade teacher Sheila Dokter’s trip to Israel this summer, that very thing happened on the day before Thanksgiving break: A slew of Rose Park parents and grandparents clustered around several wooden 2×4 structures in the Rose Park gym to learn about the Jewish Festival of Sukkot (pronounced sue-coat), as described in Leviticus 23. You may recognize it as the Feast of Booths, or Feast of Tabernacles, as it’s often called in the New Testament. It’s a seven or eight day festival that works like a week long Jewish Thanksgiving Day celebrated after their harvest, but it also commemorates God’s care while the Israelites traveled through the wilderness for 40 years. It was a time throughout the New Testament, and even into modern times, when the Jewish people acknowledge their complete dependence on God, a time when they remember first leaving Egypt and living in tents (or booths, tabernacles) for those 40 years in the desert, and recall God’s complete protection and provision for them.

“As teachers, our hope and prayer was that through this new worship experience, the children would be drawn to God and express heartfelt gratitude to Him,” said Karina Schebor, 1st grade teacher at Rose Park. “God certainly answered this prayer!”

“We can all understand just a little bit more how God teaches through metaphors—concrete pictures that help to teach spiritual realities,” added Sheila Dokter.

As is customary, a week before their final feast, the first graders built and decorated their own sukkot, or “booths,” (sukkah is singular, sukkot is plural) fortunately with the help of Mr. Russ’ HCHS junior Bible class also studying the topic. They really needed the “big kids” since they had to use saws and hammers and lots of big cardboard boxes to build the temporary shelters that Jewish people would typically eat in throughout the week of celebration.

biophoto-Winter2018-Connections-Sukkot2

We can all understand just a little bit more how God teaches through metaphors—concrete pictures that help to teach spiritual realities

Then they decorated their sukkot, because “one of God’s requirements for the sukkah was that it had to be beautiful. We decorated our sukkot with paper chains; each link named a blessing that a child wrote as a thank you to God,” explained Karina.

Another special moment came when they invited their 4th grade buddies to join them for devotions in their sukkot one morning, since “hospitality and community are integral in the celebration.” As the 4th graders gathered, their 1st grade buddies invited them in to pray and read scripture with them. After the older kids led devotions, the first graders answered questions  about the Festival of Sukkot that the 4th graders wondered about. They were honored to explain why there were branches on the roof, why the Jewish people celebrated Sukkot, and they also shared the important ideas of the festival.

The next week, the first graders finished their celebration of Sukkot by explaining its meaning to their parents and grandparents. Students broke down the celebration into its main elements, including thanksgiving, worship, community, hospitality, trust, and prayer, explaining how each aspect was represented through the waving branches, the shelters, the funny bumpy fruits, and how each element still plays an integral part in our modern faith in the same God. After reciting psalms, singing God’s praises, waving the palm branches to hear the rain sound, and clicking lots of pictures, everyone finished by feasting happily together on kosher Middle Eastern food, including lamb sausage, chickpea salad, hummus, figs–and PB&J pitas!

One of God’s requirements for the sukkah was that it had to be beautiful. We decorated our sukkot with paper chains; each link named a blessing that a child wrote as a thank you to God.