Remembering – A word (& a lot of photos) on Pittsburgh & Placements

After returning from our trip to Pittsburgh last week, I sat with a coffee and scanned through our photos.

A visit to Lamppost Farm that provided amazing food for thought (and just amazing food), warm hospitality, great conversation, and a restful spot for a night.

A stop at Pittsburgh Urban Christian School that presented a rich imagination around Christian education and what it looks like to take seriously the call of the gospel in all things.

Dinner and stories at Tish Harrison Warren’s home.  Homestays among the Christian community of Pittsburgh and the CCO.  A visit to Rippey St where communities have been inspired to live out Kuyper’s call toward “every square inch” in profound ways over the past 40 years.

And that was all before the Jubilee conference.  Jubilee 2020 gave us a weekend packed with important moments for all of us, through the speakers, worship, workshops, community, concerts and a beautiful new city to explore.

Sifting through these photos led me to remember the stories from students of rich learning, meaningful moments of reflection and discernment, and significant movements toward, by and through the Spirit among our community.

It is amazing what God is doing in our students – how He is growing them in their faith, shaping their character, entering into their relationships, and leading their processes of discernment.

But then there were also photos of meals together, grocery shopping, and being in relationship together.  Time of exploring, holding chickens, laughing, prepping food, singing & eating together.  These are the photos that lead me to a deeper gratitude for what has become the new norm for these students, as their learning translates to their living in every area of life.

As I remembered this and seek now to invite the students to do the same, I wanted to share some thoughts from 2020 to this point, with 2 months remaining in our program.

January and February proved to be a challenging couple of months for several within our community.  In my role, I watched our students pursue Christ in various ways through hard things.  I watched the struggles of a community of young adults navigating their own senses of identity, vocation, and commitment to Christ.  While there were moments of rich joy and formation, it was hard.

As a staff we are beginning to see more and more of our students step out of these hard seasons into new life, with new perspective and hope.

Throughout January and February, I also have watched our students settle into their placements throughout Hamilton.

I hear beautiful stories of Rianna and Michael forming relationships in their roles among the core members of the l’Arche community.

I have received feedback of Robyn blowing her supervisor away at City Kidz in her work in production, while her and Arissa struggle with the realities of pursuing a placement on the Six Nations reserve among a people that are not eager for their presence.

Seth is thriving in his woodworking with John Terpstra and his program work at City Kidz.  Autumn is leaning faithfully into her companion role among refugees while supporting the work of the Barton Village BIA – along with Matt and Angela – as it commits to serve the businesses working to revitalize one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Hamilton.

I watched Angela grow in steadfastness and wisdom as she navigated a failed placement before stepping into work at 541 and Re-Create with gratitude.

Matt steps into everything he does at the BIA and 541 with grace, humility and wholeheartedness.  Jacob has fallen in love with the community of Living Rock Ministries.  Lauryn has done the same in her work with Restoration Project as she completes woodworking projects among adults with disabilities.

Jamie is learning invaluable lessons as she has the opportunity to pursue videography, while also being deeply stretched in her work at 541 and Re-Create.  Dean has experienced more than he could have imagined in his work with Indwell, as they have invited him into rich opportunities in their project management work, affirming his gifts.

These stories go on and on.

Amidst all of this, dinners and chores continue.  Mentorship, times of prayer and worship, theological discussions, discernment over next steps, learning to live and love among community, listening to stories of faithfulness, meeting neighbours, wrestling with the radical calls of the gospel… that is all just part of normal life with Act Five.

I am often humbled to be in the role that I am in, to be able to witness the kingdom of God coming in and through these 12 students of Act Five’s first cohort.  I see and trust that the impact of this program ripples beyond these students as well.

As we enter into this final stretch – six more weeks of placements, the True City Conference, visits to Owen Sound and Toronto, more stories, Art Crawls, final assignments, Holy Week, a backpacking trip along the Appalachian Trail – please pray for us.  Pray that God would complete the work He has begun in this chapter of these students’ lives, and that this completion would be a launching point into all that awaits them when they leave us on April 25th.

Thank you for your continued support.


Jon Berends
Director of Act Five

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