May 23, 2017

Building God’s Kingdom on Earth

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(Original article written by Krista Dam-VandeKuyt of Christian Courier and shared with permission)

How is our story part of God’s story of restoration? How does God’s kingdom come here on earth? These are some of the foundational questions explored at a recent visioning conference in Ghana where educational leaders, both teachers and administrators, worked together to understand the concept of a transformational Christian worldview and its relationship to education.

EduDeo, a Canadian, Christian organization dedicated to transforming communities, connects teachers globally through their Walking Together program. Through professional development, Canadian teachers can mentor and share concepts of Christ-centered education with teachers in other countries while also being enriched through these global relationships. The International Needs Ghana (INGH) Visioning Conference held this past January with the Walking Together program was the first step in building these relationships in Ghana. 

After connecting with EduDeo Directors Hank DeJong and Tim Bootsma, INGH’s Executive Director Edmond Vanderpuye invited the Walking Together program to facilitate their five-day conference in hopes of establishing a strong vision for Christian Education in Ghana. Elco Vandergrift, one of the Program Coordinators for Walking Together, volunteered as a learning leader.

Vandergrift joined the EduDeo team in November 2016 after serving as Executive Director at the Prairie Centre for Christian Education in Edmonton, Alberta and in various teaching and administration roles in Western Canada. Vandergrift, seeing the goals for the conference, knew he needed to ask Darlene Eerkes to join the team as a teaching partner.

Eerkes taught at Edmonton Christian School for 18 years and then was a principal for nine years. She now works at King’s University as sessional instructor in their education program and as part of a government program that evaluates new teachers for permanent certification.

In their respective education roles in Alberta, Vandergrift and Eerkes had previously worked on many projects together and Eerkes was delighted to become part of this conference. As various family members had been involved in missions and education in several African countries, this continent had been on her heart for many years.

Prior to the conference, Vandergrift and Eerkes had the opportunity to visit two of the Christian schools in Ghana and gain a better context for the goals of the conference. In coming to Ghana, the purpose of the conference was to help educators design a vision statement for Christian Education in Ghana.

More than Chapel Time

International Needs Ghana, whose headquarters is in Accra, Ghana’s capital city, held the conference in their retreat centre in the rural town of Adidome, two hours east of Accra, in the Central Tongu region. The retreat centre is situated beside on the Volta River and next to a Girls vocational school. The conference was made up of 16 teachers, principals and educational leaders, a great size for the workshops that Vandergrift and Eerkes led.

While the desire to explore worldview and how it relates to Christian education may have started with Edmond Vanderpuye’s vision, after the first day of the conference it quickly became the vision of all the attendees.

“In many communities, they don’t necessarily think about Christian Education besides Bible lessons and chapel time. To think about Christian schooling being infused into everything we do [is] a new thought for those in Ghana,” Vandergrift said.

“It was delightful and inspiring to see a group of people embrace an idea that we can make God the Lord of All Things,” Eerkes added. 

The hope to design a vision statement for Christian Education in Ghana came to fruition, but not until the fourth day of the conference after the participants really grappled with their Christian faith and its relationship to teaching.

“It couldn’t come together right away because of the learning they were doing about Christian education,” Eerkes explained. The first three days of the conference laid out the key principles of Teaching for Transformation, a framework developed by Prairie Centre for Christian Education and rooted in developing curriculum that challenges students to be Kingdom builders by exploring transformational themes such as justice-seeking and community building.

They used Ghanaian Curriculum and looked at specific units, searching for “The God Story” within each one. They discovered how themes like justice and being servant-workers could be integrated into subjects such as science while framing it with the long term view of “Who do you want your students to be when they graduate?”

Down to earth

Attendees were very excited to explore these themes using their own curriculum and spent time brainstorming how they could make the key themes of transformation come to life in their classroom. One attendee commented he was marvelling at how our faith needs to be part of everything we are.

Then by day four, they were ready to design their vision statement (a process that will sound familiar to members of Christian school boards in Canada). They worked word by word to put together their vision as educators: “Shaping Hearts and Minds through Christ-Centered Education to Transform the World,” a vision that looks beyond local communities and encompasses global transformation.

A unique addition came on the next day, when a teacher from the local girls vocational school pointed out that they were missing something. For the transformation to be active they need “hands”! And for the first time in the process, the entire group unanimously agreed.

“Shaping Hearts and Minds and Hands Through Christ-centered Education to Transform the World.”

The final days were also spent putting together an implementation plan – practical ways to carry this vision forward to their schools. Highlights from the conference for both Vandergrift and Eerkes included times of praise and worship, and, above all, seeing educators grasp the vision and then embrace it. 

“They expressed their deep joy and discovery with a new Christian Education worldview that makes us active participants in bringing the kingdom of God to earth as it is in heaven,” said Eerkes.

 

EduDeo Ministries is grateful to and thankful for International Needs Canada for it’s crucial initial role in bringing EduDeo and International Needs Ghana together and for financial support to enable this learning event to take place.  


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