Stories that move

Fittingly for a Canadian story, Randy Klassen observes, it began with hockey. Bethany College mission instructor Trever Godard took a group of second-year students to the Olympics in Salt Lake City to practise and develop their discipleship in a concentrated, unfamiliar context.

This learning experience was so valuable, the mission module was repeated the next year, closer to home. Second-year students spent a week on a northern Saskatchewan First Nations reserve – where the wacky, quintessentially Canadian sport of broomball overtook hockey as the recreation of choice.

This launched more than a decade of exchange between the school and several reserves. Though the students were different each year, as Bethany kept returning, trust was built with the host communities. The trip’s purpose came to resemble a family visit: less task-oriented, more relationship-building.

Bethany College set aside Feb. 5–6, 2015, to tell stories from this decade-plus of service learning at the third and final Discipleship and Context event (a mission conference). “The Art of Storytelling” was a time to recognize God’s transforming activity in students and the ministry partners.

With the school’s pending closure, the event was flavoured with bittersweet memories, but avoided syrupy nostalgia.

“Storytelling is an essential part of discipleship,” said Bethany college professor Luke Heidebrecht. It requires discipline to artfully open our experiences to insights about God’s work in the world.

Easter is the greatest example of how God not only teaches but redeems us through story. God in flesh among us gave us the four dramas – Gospels – that frame our belief. Those accounts and the ones that follow in the book of Acts, enact what life as a Christ follower might look like.

We also discover lessons about living on God’s mission in the stories that come out of our own lives. Through reflection, retelling and listening to experiences, we learn about God and ourselves.

Snippets of insight from Bethany stories:

  • Second-year student Matt Janzen expected the trip to Beardy’s reserve would be characterized by brokenness; instead, he was impressed by the intentional, vibrant, caring community – where one of the elders adopted the good-natured young man as a son.
  • Residence director Dynel Weber realized on her first-year trip that she doesn’t necessarily have answers. Now, as she practices listening and getting to know the people before offering help, she has received the blessing of discovering ordinary people living out extraordinary faith in their contexts.
  • Over 10 years of connecting with Hall Lake reserve, Bethany faculty Jerry Letkeman is convinced “it’s never a bad idea to pursue friendship without
    an agenda.”
  • A group of women who spend one day a week in a correctional facility have learned to recognize their own brokenness and addictions alongside women whose lives have been destroyed by their poor choices. And yet, “your crap can fertilize relationships and healing for others,” one put it baldly.
  • Over eight years of leading teams to Beardy’s, professor Randy Klassen has seen God go before. The stories he’s lived there have shown that the way of Christ is not power or fear, but solidarity and humility.

At the Herald, we believe in storytelling. We believe that by recounting how God has worked in and through his people, our readers are encouraged, challenged, convicted and inspired by the theatre of God in us and our world.

As we practice this art, are our stories the end or the beginning? Our greatest, most compelling narrative – Christ’s death on the cross – launches a new story for our transformed lives, one characterized by repentance, love, sacrifice, hospitality.

What kind of stories are we living and telling that move us into this new reality?


Karla-Braun—Karla Braun

One Comment on “Stories that move

  1. Great article. And thanks very much for highlighting Bethany’s gracious, relational way of relating to its neighbours. I look at this story as a potential model for us all.

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