A Word from the Director

It’s happening. And it’s just the beginning.

As the inaugural cohort of Act Five comes to the end of its first month, I want to take a moment to step back, recognize where we are, and celebrate God’s faithfulness.

Almost two years ago, conversations among Christian high school educators began to intensify toward the imagination of a new venture that served high school graduates: those wrestling with their identity in Christ, their place in the world, and their sense of direction.

And over the past year and a half, God has breathed His life into this idea: Act Five was born.

As mission statements and goals were drafted, as budgets were negotiated, and as the vision was caught by communities within and surrounding Redeemer, the sense of God’s faithfulness in this venture grew more and more evident. Moment after moment, I found myself humbled by the reminder that this project was not my own, was not primarily Redeemer’s or any of our partner high school’s, but was bigger than us. We were being asked to be obedient as we joined in what God was doing. Over the months of preparations, we connected with donors and partners who believed in this project, we were provided a perfect home, and we received commitments from our first cohort of students.

And by the time September 3rd came – our opening day – we were ready and filled with anticipation.

As students and their families flooded into 75 Blake St for the first time, moving in, admiring our vintage wallpaper and shag carpets, meeting their housemates, I paused for the first time of many this past month to pinch myself.

“This is actually happening,” I repeated to myself.

This is happening.
This is no longer an idea or a hope or a collection of good plans.

As a real, breathing, messy, and Jesus-centered collection of 12 students (and 3 staff members) living together and being led through 8 months of transformative opportunities, community, service, worship, discernment, mentorship, meals together, and ordinary liturgies – Act Five is finally here.


This past month has seen us move through our first welcome week, with lessons from canoes in Cootes’ Paradise, students repairing bikes with New Hope Community Bikes, John Terpstra welcoming students from the top of the Niagara Escarpment, and students singing around our piano.

We traveled up to the Temagami region with Coldwater Canada, where students began to “lean in” to this community. As we packed food and gear packs, worshiped and prepared to head to the Wilderness for nine days, I delighted in seeing the foundation of this community being laid. As we paddled for nine days, pushed our limits through a nine-portage day, laughed together in ways that only happen when fully unplugged, listened to stories of an indigenous elder, and experienced the joys of community and accomplishment, I continued to pause – It’s happening. It’s all finally happening.

I saw students learn to pay attention, and watched as they met Jesus in each other and in His creation.

And now, as students have returned to 75 Blake St these past two weeks, as they are halfway through their course, “The Six Acts” with John Bowen and Josiah Bokma, as they establish their covenant together, complete chores, bake banana bread, explore the city, and meet with their mentors, we are at the point where the transformation of Act Five begins to take root beyond just the “mountain top” moments. The life at 75 Blake St – or “Blake Haven” as it has been aptly named – presents our 12 students with the opportunity to step into a life of discipleship established within rhythms and habits that I pray will be sustained well beyond this year. And as I watch all this, slowly but surely, in beautiful and simple ways, I again find myself at frequent moments of pause – It’s happening.


I believe that God’s Spirit is among us as we pursue this new venture. And as we navigate the realities of an old home and an 8-month pilot program involving real people and not just good ideas, I see God’s faithfulness woven through all of this.

In one week, students head home for Thanksgiving. Following this, we prepare for a week on the Six Nations reserve, we help students to discern placement sites for our second term, and we prepare students to head off to Zambia with EduDeo Ministries for four weeks. In all of this, our rhythms of home, study, recreation, worship and mentorship continue.

And as this happens, our applications have opened for 2020-2021, and plans for year two have already begun.

For those praying for us, thank you. As you pray, remember our 12 students, that they might continue to lean into this community and all that God has for them here. Pray for our resident leaders and mentors who are deeply invested in the formation of these 12. And pray that we might continue to be faithful in responding to God’s leading this first year and beyond.

For while Act Five is finally happening, it is just the beginning.

May God’s Kingdom come on earth – in Hamilton, on Blake St, with Act Five – as it is in heaven.


Jon Berends
Director of Act Five

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