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February 27th is the anniversary of my father-in-law’s death from Mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. We often spend time in March reflecting on his life and legacy. Roger was a hardworking man, respected for his integrity but loved for his sense of humor, mischief, and charisma. To our kids, he was “Grandad.” He brought noise, excitement, and fun to every occasion and they loved him dearly.
In his retirement, Roger volunteered with organizations that sought restoration for the “least of these” at UGM and CoSA, as well as an organization he helped build with his wife Alayne, Partners in Hope. He also served his church in several capacities, including extended periods on the board. His funeral drew a packed house, with people from all walks of life—from means to margin.
During his final weeks, we visited Roger often, making the trek as a family from our home in South Surrey to North Shore Hospice. We asked teachers to excuse our kids from classes, extend deadlines, and arrange alternative test times. We were still new to SCS and while we expected the school to be understanding, we were deeply moved by the response from staff. Many of them reached out to us with personal messages of condolence and concern, as well as promises to pray for our family. In that time of raw vulnerability, it meant so much to know that our kids were supported by love and prayer while away from us at school, shouldering the heavy burden of grief on their own. In the years since this time, we have collected countless stories of the ways in which SCS staff have blessed our kids and others.
When I was asked to serve on the board last year, I wrestled with the decision. It was the second time I’d been approached. I declined the first time because I had recently accepted a position in leadership at work and was feeling overwhelmed. Nothing had become easier between the first and second invitation, in fact, in many ways, it had become harder. But as I committed time to prayer and discernment, I started to feel that inconvenient nudge of calling. I thought about Roger’s example of servant leadership. I recalled a quote by Theodore Roosevelt that he shared when he was leading his church through a difficult season:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Across all ten sessions, though, one strong and universal anchor of hope emerged, firm and secure: profound appreciation for the staff at SCS and the way they value, engage, and care for students. As parent after parent shared how their kids felt known, seen, and loved by SCS staff, I found myself deeply moved as it echoed my own experience of God’s love manifested at SCS.
I do take umbrage with Roosevelt’s dismissal of the critic. I have spent most of my life on the sidelines, playing the critic, and acknowledge the value of this role: keeping leadership accountable is important work and the only service some of us have the space to offer. But I felt called to step into the arena and serve a community that blessed my family so richly. While it has been difficult and demanding, and some days I feel “marred by dust and sweat,” it has also been rewarding.
One of the great privileges I’ve had so far was attending the Community Engagement nights in January. We invited the parent community to come and share their hearts for SCS over several evenings at all three campuses. We asked parents to consider three questions: what was going well for them at the school, what was challenging, and what were their hopes for the future. As a board, we committed to listening and resisted responding. Those who attended shared openly from their experience—raw, honest stories from the daunting arena of parenthood. We heard beautiful things but also hard things. We heard from parents wrestling with strong, often opposing, convictions; their deep love and concern for their children; and their hearts for the school.
Across all ten sessions, though, one strong and universal anchor of hope emerged, firm and secure: profound appreciation for the staff at SCS and the way they value, engage, and care for students. As parent after parent shared how their kids felt known, seen, and loved by SCS staff, I found myself deeply moved as it echoed my own experience of God’s love manifested at SCS. It gave me encouragement and inspiration to press on and do the difficult work of building unity, while protecting the school, its mission and vision.
No human institution is perfect. We will err, we will come up short, because, as Roosevelt puts it, “there is no effort without error and shortcoming.” But we can’t be afraid to step into the arena and do the work, to risk both failure and triumph while daring greatly.
My prayer for SCS is expressed by section 40 of our guiding document, Our World Belongs to God:
When we struggle
for the truth of the gospel
and for the righteousness God demands,
we pray for wisdom and courage.
When our pride or blindness
hinders the unity of God’s household,
we seek forgiveness.
We marvel that the Lord gathers the broken pieces
to do his work
and that he blesses us still
with joy, new members,
and surprising evidences of unity.
We commit ourselves to seeking and expressing
the oneness of all who follow Jesus,
and we pray for brothers and sisters
who suffer for the faith.