Year 2 is Finished! Notes of wondering & celebration

I wonder…

Years from now, I wonder how we will remember this past year.

For most, this past year will be marked by the various implications of the Covid-19 pandemic, and we will look back and consider lingering costs and scars, lessons learned, memories of despair and loneliness, perhaps some surprising gifts, and hopefully some ways in which we see that God has met us and shaped us.

I am sure I am oversimplifying and missing what this past year has held for many, and I recognize that we are still in it, which makes looking back feel premature. That being said, years from now, I wonder how we will remember.

Specifically, I am curious to see how the 16 students of Act Five – this 8-month-long community residing at 75 Blake St – will remember this past year. While many are weary from loneliness, these 16 experienced perhaps the richest and most intense community life they have ever known. While many, through endless failed plans and unmet needs, have been left feeling aimless and wandering, Act Five students experienced a purposefulness to their year with new learning, experiences, formation and opportunity that has changed their life forever. Yes, there were still failed plans and expectations, of course, but these were housed within a greater whole that could absorb these disappointments and find opportunity on the other end.

As we all eventually move out of this long pandemic season, these Act Five students have experienced a year vastly different from their peers, families and the broader world around them. I wonder how they will remember.

Furthermore, I wonder how they have been changed from this year, now more prepared to live and lead and follow Jesus in the world that awaits. I am confident in what God has done this year but only He knows what fruit will continue to grow out of the various seeds that were planted and watered the past several months with us.

May God continue to prepare the way for these 16 young adults, and may they be gifts for others who have not experienced anything close to the fullness of life found at 75 Blake St this past year.

Click here to see the End-of-Year video produced by Shir-El!

We are finished.

Our students have all moved home.
Our staff team has debriefed and dispersed for the summer.
We have finished the year! We made it! And wow, there is much for which to be grateful.

Covid did not shut us down.
We had zero Covid cases among the Blake St household of 21.
We had zero students need to leave us for any reason at any point.
We had zero negative engagements with neighbours or partners or others in conflict over our Covid-protocols.
And we had zero seeds of bitterness allowed to take root among a group of young people who spent many a night together under one roof without respites away.

We saw 16 young men and women open their hearts and hands, palms to the sky, to receive what God had for them this year and to receive each other with grace and humility.
We saw these same 16 walk through pains and fears, sorrows and failures, alongside mentors and friends in a community centered on Christ. We saw them find life, joy, hope, and peace waiting for them on the other side.

We all – students and staff alike – met Jesus in new, surprising and life-giving ways this year.

And we saw God transform – each of our students, each of us on staff, and so many of those who intersected with us along the way as a testament to how God worked through our students and not just withiour students.

*If interested, re-read this Blog Post from August 2020 that highlights the amazing ways God answered prayers for us this past year.

We are left with much to celebrate this May as we rest, take deep breaths, soak in memories of this past year and consider its lasting impact on us in whatever comes next.

We celebrate that God is who He says He is, that His faithfulness is more authoritative than our own, and that to live in worshipful response to our God – a God who is sovereign, more powerful than we can imagine and more gracious than our wildest dreams – is the greatest joy in life, worth every cost.

We celebrate the new relationships that have been formed here and that each of these students and staff, held together in love and rooted in Christ, are now heading out to new places to keep learning and to live out of what has happened together this year.

Finally, we celebrate that our program, still in its beginning stages, did more than just survive this pandemic.  We have grown up as a program through this pandemic.  For whatever it is that Act Five becomes down the road, we will never forget the significant way we have been shaped by navigating year two of our program through the Covid-19 pandemic. There is much to grieve from the pandemic and recovery from this at every level will take work and time, yet we cannot dismiss the good that has come to the Act Five program this past year. It is in the face of all our limitations that God seems to speak, “Are you ready for this? Do you trust me? Let me show you what I have for you…”

For those of you who pray for Act Five, Thank You!
In this current moment, I invite you to pray for the following:

  • For our 16 students who just left us (and for our 12 students still from our first year), that they will transition well into their new places, new communities, and new challenges as well as to their home communities, their families, their friends of old. To experience what they have experienced in this season of life does not lend itself to easy and inevitable translation as they move away.
  • For Act Five as we continue to grow and move as a young program – that God will be preparing our incoming students for 2021-2022, that plans will come together well as Covid restrictions begin to relax, and that next year’s staff team will receive much needed rest ahead of what we are sure will be another amazing year.

As Act Five enters our off-season, we know that rest does not yet feel close to many.
May God meet all of you as you are, holding all that your life contains in its sorrows and joys, and may you know that His grace is sufficient for you every day.


Jon Berends

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