The spirit of serving others is catching! Community service, like packing meals for the Ukraine above, volunteerism, and relationships are parts of our everyday life as a school as we aim to cultivate empathy and active concern for the vulnerable.
These faith practices are shared at Freeman Academy and at more than 30 Mennonite schools in the US and abroad:
1. Students know they are loved and valued by God which enables them to value and love each other.
2. Peacebuilding, including the use of restorative discipline, is regularly modeled and practiced as a lifestyle of nonviolence, seeking justice and being part of a reconciling faith community.
3. Our school values and is responsive to cultural, racial and socio-economic diversity.
4. Our school provides a welcoming community where it is emotionally safe to raise questions, to value and learn from differences, and to care for each other.
5. The school enables students to practice global awareness, cultural sensitivity, anti-racism, and compassionate living.
6. Students grow in their understanding of stewardship of all God has entrusted to them, including the natural environment.
7. Staff members in our school are committed to modeling the life of Jesus Christ.
8. Students grow in understanding the process of biblical discernment by asking questions, practicing spiritual disciplines, and engaging with other Christians.
9. Students are encouraged to grow in relationship with Jesus and to follow Jesus daily in life through attitudes and practice.
10. Our school does everything it can to eliminate the obstacles that exclude or hinder the ability of students to receive a faith-infused, education of excellence.
11. Stories and symbols of faith and reconciliation are regularly shared in our school community.
12. Our school invites parents to become partners in the faith formation of their child.
13. Our school is a community that lives the gospel message through praying, serving others, and enabling students to grow in understanding that they can make a positive difference in the world globally and locally.
14. Our school builds a strong faith and learning community in which students and staff support each other.
15. Our school enables students to live a life of curiosity, wonder and mystery as they join with God to bring the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven.
While all students have Bible classes, faith discussions and prayer happen every day in and out of Bible class. Teachers strive to model the life of Christ as they walk with their students and they welcome opportunities to relate faith topics with academic lessons and school life.
All ages use the Encounter Faith Formation Curriculum which is enhanced by each teacher to fit their age group. Here are a few examples:
Kindergarten Teacher Katie Baumgartner introduces Bible stories through reading and music.
Grades 1-3 Teacher Karla Rupp integrates Bible study with English Language Arts lessons and students use the Shine On Bible which is written for young readers. Students also learn Bible basics so they feel comfortable navigating the Old and New Testaments.
Above – Grades 1-3 shared the Easter story with kindergarten students through a presentation using Resurrection Eggs and an Easter egg hunt.
Grades 4-6 Teacher Amber Bradley’s world history lessons align with Biblical history. Her students take prayer requests in chapel and then pray for our world and school concerns.
Grades 7-8 Each day begins with devotions in Clara Beseman’s 7-8 grade classroom.
Grades 7-12 Spiritual Life Groups meet on Monday and Friday afternoons to discuss faith topics, share concerns, pray, and build community within our school.
Grades 9-12 High school students rotate through the four classes listed below and complete a Capstone Project focused on a faith area they want to explore.
· Creation and Promise – Old Testament Survey
· Jesus’ Story – New Testament Survey
· Global Christianity – Christian History plus a review of other faith traditions
· Kingdom Living – Ethics
Each Wednesday, classes pause for the Freeman Academy community to gather and focus on faith together.
Weekly chapels start with a mix of contemporary praise and worship music or hymns followed by prayer requests and then a speaker or faith-building activity.
Activities include a range of interactive experiences such as Bible Bees, virtual escape rooms that use Bible verses for clues, or creating art with a faith theme guided by an alumni artist.
Students’ pastors often share the devotion but staff, parents, students, seminary professors, missionaries, and ministry leaders do as well. The breadth of content helps students build an awareness of faith traditions and ministries that reach around the globe.
Here’s a sample of devotion topics from students’ pastors:
Pastor Kristi Holler, Emanuel Presbyterian Church in Marion:
“Let’s learn Acts 17:28: ‘For in God, we live, and move, and have our being.’ God helps us with a path in life. God uses our education, our curiosity, and sharing our stories so we can inspire each other.”
Pastor Corey Miller, Salem-Zion Mennonite Church, Freeman:
“What did ‘Messiah’ mean to the people of Jesus’ time? Justice Maker, military might, healer, or political king? For Jesus, ‘Messiah’ meant the way of the cross. It meant saving people from their sins.”
Pastor Aaron Kilbourn, First Baptist Church, Parker:
“We have to remember who our savior is and he is alive. I challenge you this morning. Go all the way with God. See where he is going to take you.”
Our Spiritual Emphasis Day focused on heart, mind, and spirit.
“Our spiritual, mental, physical, and relational health are all related,” said keynote speaker Kate Friesen, master of divinity graduate from Sioux Falls Seminary and 2007 Freeman Academy alum. “Today we gave students tools to address each area because they are essential for developing a whole, healthy person.”
After worshiping with the high school praise band, grades 7-12 took personality tests designed to identify their spiritual temperament. Afterward, students discussed each temperament, for example Caregivers and Contemplatives, and how they connect best with God. Afternoon breakout sessions focused on spiritual gifts and relationships.
Grades 1-6 were led by Administrative Assistant Jill Hofer who is studying for a degree in pastoral care. “They we eager to learn and we had fun making ‘I am’ jars which helped them learn that we are all unique, special, and made just how God meant to make us.”
One of the first chapels of the year started in the Chapel but moved outside. Students and staff took time to pray over campus during the fall Prayer Walk. “It’s a good opportunity to pray for the people and activities on our campus, and to just have a few minutes for quiet, fresh air, and reflection,” said Chapel Committee Chair and Academic Dean Dr. Brad Anderson.
In years past, the high school praise band began Chapel worship services. Now music videos often take the place of live music and singing. This week a short time lapse video of nature gave students time to focus on God’s creation before the speaker.
“It’s difficult not being able to sing together as a school,” Anderson said, “but we’re deliberate about making time for musical worship and meditation, and we look forward to singing together one day again.”
COVID hasn’t changed everything. Area pastors, missionaries, and others still share devotions during this weekly time of fellowship and student leaders continue to
take prayer requests and to pray for the needs of their peers, staff, and families.
Friday mornings at 7:30 a.m. is early but a simple breakfast and peer devotions helps students start their days off well.
20-year Faith Legacy Driven by Teens
How often does anything last 20 years? Let alone a ministry organized and led only by students. Since Freeman Academy students first organized a Bible study group in the late 1990s, the leadership baton has been faithfully passed down teen to teen. Alumni students, Luke Allison and Jessica Qiao Sun led the legacy during their senior year.
“Our hope was to help students have a better understanding of God’s relationship with us and to reflect that in our lives,” Allison said.
While Freeman Academy students have Bible classes every day, this study provides an opportunity to process their faith with just peers.
“It was encouraging when friends share their faith,” Sun said. “It maked me want to trust God more.”
Sun and Allison had tailored the study to student needs and ended each session with requests and a closing prayer.
Freeman Academy Senior Devotions
“I am convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love which Christ Jesus our Lord shows us.” Romans 8:38
I love driving. I love when it’s the perfect weather to have the windows down and the sunroof open, but I also love when it is the beginning of winter, and the snow is falling beautifully, but not blizzardy, so you can still drive and actually see where you are going. Now, am I a good driver? Well, yes, but it depends on who you ask. My love of driving has something to do with my earliest memories; driving home from church with a gospel CD playing on the stereo and my sisters and I in the backseat singing like there was no tomorrow. Many of my good memories happened while we were driving, and that probably is because of all the road trips my family and I have taken over the years. So far, I have been in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Tennessee, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and California. Each of those states has its own special “something,” and I have loved seeing what those “somethings” are.
One of the things that hasn’t changed since we first started going on fun road trips is prayer and the attention we give God. Every single road trip that I have taken with my family always starts and ends with a prayer of the rosary. It’s our way of preparing for the long journey ahead of us. Now, when driving anywhere, I have gotten into the habit of saying a little prayer before and after I have arrived.
This Bible verse stood out to me because I have found God’s love for me, for us, even while driving. It doesn’t matter where I am going to anymore or what I see; it could be a nice little house on the side of a highway or down the streets in Tennessee, where my older sister goes to college, and I still get a sense of peace. I feel calm, well, except when there’s a lot of traffic and the person in front of me shouldn’t be driving. I feel closer to God the further we are away from home.
You just have to look for his love in the people you see, the places you visit, and the journey it takes to get to wherever you go; it may take a while, but someday you’ll feel and appreciate it, and that is a blessing in itself.
“Lord, please help me to see your wonderful creations and feel the love that you have for me. Please keep me safe as I go on my journeys.”
Maria C is the middle daughter of Jesús and Dolores.
Psalm 107: 10-11, 13-14 (NIV) – “Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness, prisoners suffering in
iron chains, because they rebelled against God’s commands and despised the plans of the Most High…Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He
brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains.”
Those of us who have studied our fair share of the Bible should know the classic Psalm
23; “The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads
me beside quiet waters…” This Psalm is used a lot in meditation because of this calm and
beautiful scene it paints, where we walk hand in hand with the Lord, observing the beauty in
everything around us.
Contrast that bright and colorful picture with the grim, greyscale image we see in Psalm
107. Here, we find ourselves in this dark, painful place where we feel tied down by ourselves
because of ourselves. Things look bleak, painful. These chains are said to be made of iron, but they really symbolize that one corrosive relationship in our lives, or that one job opportunity that
we just have to take, even if it is only for the money. All we see around us are iron chains because we do not want to see that the iron is something we put there ourselves.
The author of this Psalm is trying to show us that he has been there and he knows many
others that have, too. He is trying to show us that there is a way out. There is a way past these
binding chains, and that way is by redirecting our focus onto God. By chasing these fleeting
desires, we are twisting and turning, wrapping this chain around us until we cannot move
anymore. The only way to get out is to have someone undo them for us, and that someone is
none other than Christ.
God, thank you for meeting us where we are. I know that our lives are not always
beautiful. Things get grim and painful, and sometimes it feels like there is nothing to do but
suffer. Thank you for seeing this suffering and caring so much that you would pull us out, and
all we have to do is ask. Please keep your hand on us as we continue into the next week, and if we need your grace at this moment, lay it on our hearts to ask. Amen.
Son of Shawn and Heather Hofer, Noah is a high school junior at Freeman Academy. He
participates in several extracurriculars including soccer, golf, and theater
Growing up I finally became able to see the difference between a true friend and a fake friend. I had to learn the hard way to finally come to understand that not everybody would like me or care about me. Feelings of loneliness were part of my weeks and the desire for acceptance was chasing me on a daily basis even though I was surrounded by my so called “friends”. Trying to keep those toxic relationships made me feel little and unimportant. I grew out of it eventually by finding real friends. Yet, I still didn’t quite fully understand love and friendship. I had to go further back in my story to find my answers. In 1 John 4:19 it is said that “We love because he first loved us.”
This verse implies that we cannot understand love and love others without understanding God’s love. For God so loved the world that he gave his only son to die on a cross to carry all of our sins. God loves us and knows us from our mother’s wombs. He knows exactly how many strings of hair we have on our heads individually and see value in us. He knows our hearts, our feelings, desires and personalities and overlooks our trespasses as soon as we ask for forgiveness because he calls us his children and values us as such. His love was a sacrifice to save humanity. It is only when we understand this idea that we understand our value as children of God and it’s only then that we can love others with a sincere heart.
Loving God is loving ourselves, and loving ourselves calls to love others. Have we been giving that love back to God? Are we giving ourselves the same value as God gives us? Do we love others by giving them as much value as we deserve?
Dear God, thank you for the beautiful person that I am. I am grateful for your love and mercy that you show me day after day. I pray that you help me to love myself and love others just like you first loved me.
My name is Samuela N. I am from the Republic Democratic of Congo, which is a country in central Africa.
Ecclesiastes 3:12-13: “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to
do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their
toil — this is the gift of God.”
The late-seventeenth century polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz did everything under
the sun and then some. From philosophy to politics to engineering, if you can name it, Leibniz
probably did it. Through it all, his optimism shone bright. He believed that, out of all possible
worlds God could have created, ours is the best.
But he didn’t stop there. He was determined to make our “best” world even better.
Alongside Isaac Newton, Leibniz co-invented the branch of mathematics known as
calculus, which provides a systematic way to deal with problems that involve
constantly-changing quantities, like velocities that vary over time. However, while the word
calculus often conjures up images of mathematics, it can also be used to simply denote a
general method of computing something. After inventing the infinitesimal calculus of
mathematics, Leibniz began to wonder if he could invent another type of calculus — a type of
calculus that could be used to answer any and all questions about our world.
With that goal in mind, Leibniz set out to develop an entirely new language that,
eventually, even the massive mechanical calculators of his time could use in computations. If
anyone ever wondered whether a tomato was a fruit or a vegetable or if buying an extended
warranty would be worthwhile, Leibniz’s new calculus could be used to determine the answer.
There would be no need for endless debate on issues of ethics, for philosophers could simply
exclaim “Calculemus!” (“Let us calculate!”), set about calculating, and arrive at an unambiguous
answer. Using Leibniz’s computation-focused language, the very future itself could be accurately
and precisely predicted.
Leibniz never completed his ambitious project in his lifetime, but that’s fine with me. He
wasn’t afraid to dream big. He was okay with aiming for Mars and only reaching the Moon. He
was optimistic — and his optimism will never cease to amaze me.
You might never invent an entirely new branch of mathematics or a system that can
remove the ambiguity from life, but you can still strive to make this world — the best world of all possible worlds that God created — even better.
Prayer: “Architect of the Universe, we thank you for the magnificent world you have given us
to live in. We ask that you pour your love into our hearts, so that we might better serve our
brothers and sisters in Christ and establish your kingdom of heaven here on Earth. Amen.”