A Word from the Director

Exactly one year ago…

I remember sitting in my office sifting through our first handful of applications.  Act Five was still just an idea being worked out in schedules, marketing materials, budgets, partnerships and curriculum.  We had no home, no staff, no students, and no stories.

It is amazing how much can change in a year.

As I now sit, preparing to sift through (substantially more) applications for year two of Act Five, I do so amidst the fullness of a program off and running.  Act Five is now no longer just an idea but a collection of 12 students, 3 staff, 2 completed Coldwater trips, a week on Six Nations, a month in Zambia, and too many memories to recount of life together in a big old home in downtown Hamilton. 

I enter this second season of prospect interviews knowing much more clearly what needs to be asked and what needs to be said, and I am filled with story after story to be told.

When I think back to the earliest days of dreaming of and planning for Act Five, I remember the moment we landed on who we felt like God was calling us to be – in a way that we knew was faithful and distinct.  We honed in on how we wanted to be a program that 

  1. was place-based with a homebase in downtown Hamilton, 
  2. fostered a Christian life through habits and community living, and 
  3. prepared young adults – in their faith, character and sense of vocation – by setting them up with 200 hours of placements throughout downtown Hamilton.

No one was doing what we were proposing and more and more people were getting excited about this with us.

Today, therefore, marks a significant day.

Our students have indeed become part of this place, they have been growing in their life with Christ through the formation of habits within community living, and today is day one of sending our students off into the city to work in their placements.

Two students are beginning work in the Day Program with L’Arche Hamilton.
Two students are in the middle of their first shift with 541 Eatery & Exchange.
One student is apprenticing with John Terpstra as a woodworker.

One is at Indwell working in Project Management, one with Open Homes supporting refugees, and one with Living Rock Ministries working alongside other youth.

Two are preparing to head to the Six Nations Reserve starting tomorrow to work with children, the elderly and those served by Ohsweken Baptist Church.

One will be working with Helping Hands Street Mission and the True City Network, two begin with Re-Create, while another will be working in a Montessori home kindergarten class.

Five will be involved with CityKidz, one with DeVos Tree Care, one with Shalem’s Wraparound services, and two with Restoration Project learning skills in woodworking with adults with developmental disabilities.

Three are partnering with Rachel at the Barton Village BIA joining the work of supporting Barton St’s businesses and community.  In Rachel’s words,

“Bring us more students. This city can handle Act Five growing to four times this size.”

At the beginning of the year, John Terpstra welcomed students into Hamilton.  His refrain included the line, “You’re going to love it here. Just wait,” and concluded with the line, “Welcome to the healing, of which you may be a part.”

As we watch our students head into placements each with their own mix of necessary angst and encouraging excitement, we have seen them learn to love it here and are excited for them to perhaps become part of the healing of this place.  Furthermore, we anticipate that this place might become more deeply part of their own formation as God uses these placements and the people they encounter to shape, teach and direct each of them.

Join us in praying for these next months as our students dig into life in this city more fully than we have as of yet, as they put into practice what we have been learning, and as they step outside of their comfort zones in exciting ways expecting God to show up, though not sure how.

Finally, stay tuned over this term for specific stories that come out of our placements, as you’ll be introduced to our students, their work, and some amazing organizations in this city.

With grace,

Jon Berends
Director of Act Five


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