It’s been exactly 202 days since we moved into the new Illiana. We have new desks, new lockers, a new cafeteria, a few new teachers, a few new classes, and more! But something that has stayed the same is our mission of “Challenged to Serve”.
With our new building, I figured it was time to create a new promotional video showing off our students in the new space. Along with Roeda Films, we worked through the mission of “Challenged to Serve” and broke the phrase into a few distinct categories of Challenged to Explore, to Grow, to Play, to Compete, to Ask, to Share, to Help, to Trust, and to Serve. We were able to catch students in their everyday activities doing things that fell into these categories to highlight what Illiana is truly about. We will be able to use this video as part of our outreach to potential Illiana families, at school visits, via the website, and on social media.
Please help us by sharing this video link on your social media accounts or with families that you think should know about the Illiana community.
- Jenna Dutton, Director of Marketing & Events
Students at Illiana can choose take Senior Service as an elective Bible credit during their senior year. This course gives students the opportunity to volunteer two periods a day for a semester at Crown Point Christian School or Park Place of St. John. These students give back to these communities by helping grade papers, leading small groups, tutoring, and teaching lessons at CPCS or by playing games, helping with technology or visiting with residents at Park Place. Here’s what a few students had to say about their experiences last semester:
“These kids have a huge impact on my life... I can show the love of Christ to the kids and people at Crown Point Christian. This class taught me the importance of giving back to the community and helping out in any way I can. It was a blessing to be even just a small part of those kids’ lives. I am planning on becoming a small group leader for Sunday school at my church because I realized how much I love kids and how important it is to influence them in a positive way at a young age.“ - Isaac Gibson
“Senior Service has been the biggest blessing in my life this year. I learned so much about myself, teaching, and God. One of the biggest things I learned in Senior Service about teaching is how you don’t have to give up your other talents. It’s not a job that you have to leave all your passions and talents behind. I like to be creative, make crafts, song, and come up with fun games. I can easily incorporate this into my future of teaching. The Bible talks so often of children and how we can learn a lot from them. Being in a kindergarten classroom strangely taught me a lot. Children are so colorful and radiate joy and excitement everywhere they go… Kindergarteners don’t care about what you wear, who you’re friends with, and really who you are. They just love you and want to have fun with you. They are honest and have a faith that can move mountains. This is part of what Jesus meant when he said to have a childlike faith.” - Summer Ruiter
“Senior Service was a great experience that taught me many things. I learned how to work with elderly people at Park Place and how to be patient with them. It was an eye-opening experience, because it really made me realize how fast life goes. Sometimes the residents would tell me stories about their childhood… The residents were very excited to see me whenever I got there, so it made me feel very welcome and that I could be comfortable with them. One man at the Hope House talked to me about my future and gave me a lot of great advice, which actually really helped me. He was very interested in my future career and it was nice to talk with someone who has had so much experience in life.” - Alli Murrin
“Every day of Senior Service was amazing. I had so much fun. But more importantly I felt like I was doing such a good thing. I felt as if I was bettering the place and helping out so much. I felt accomplished. I felt as if I was changing their lives for the better. Whatever the residents wanted, we would do. Alli and I on most days would help the residents with electronics and technology. Helping them with such a small thing, changed their day. It put a huge smile on their faces. I am very thankful I got to do that with them and help them. This experience helped me spread the love and word of Jesus, which is absolutely amazing. This experience brought me closer to God and the community.” - Emily Poortenga
As you can see from these students’ comments, Senior Service can be a life-changing experience. We are so blessed to partner with these two organizations that share our mission of spreading the love of Jesus wherever we go and whatever we do.
Neil Zandstra, Guidance Counselor
As we wrap up our first semester at the new campus this week, we are grateful for themany blessings we have received since we have moved into this space. Today, I want to focus on one specific blessing: Common Grounds. There are many people to thank for the success of Common Grounds, but I will highlight a few. First, thank you to theCommon Grounds committee, including co-chairs, Janna VanEssen and Natasha Corcoran, Anita Beezhold and Gina Gaich. Their leadership and vision has taken
an idea and made it into a reality that services hundreds of kids each day. Thank you to Carol VanDrunen, our very own Common Grounds barista. Every weekday morning, she is up before anyone else making coffee, preparing the baked goods, and putting thefinishing touches on the menu for the day. She greets every student with a smile and a kind word. Carol has brought so much joy to this building and we appreciate her so much. Finally, thank you to all of the volunteers who come each and every day to spend time with our students. The students love seeing their parents and grandparents
come to school and then make them a mean hot chocolate. On behalf of the kids and Illiana, thank you.
Common Grounds has helped to continue building a culture focused on community in this new campus. It is so cool to see kids sitting down and drinking an iced coffee or hot chocolate and talking with each other. When a student is having a bad day, a friend will buy them something from Common Grounds. When a student has a birthday, someone will buy them something at Common Grounds. When they just feel like being generous, a student will buy a friend something from Common Grounds. Kids hang out
before and after school just to get a taste of our famous hot chocolate (move over Starbucks!). Kids interact with volunteers and workers, demonstrating how this entire community has a role in Christian Education.
As we move forward into a new semester, we are introducing a new ministry called “TheGrounds.” This is an attempt to continue to build community while simultaneously providing a place to talk about the gospel in small group settings. A couple of days each month, students will have the opportunity to sign up to be in a small group where we drink coffee or hot chocolate, eat a muffin and discuss the gospel of Jesus Christ. Students will be able to choose a time before school, during their study hall or after school. We will have themes each time, but this will also be a time for students to ask questions and wrestle with the topics that are on their hearts and minds. I will be running these groups, but I will also bring other people in from time to time, especially when we have a topic that might be above my paygrade. We are stronger together and these times will provide the opportunity to meet new people, strengthen old relationships, walk through the Bible, and engage in questions about life and the Gospel. We will be
introducing this concept to the student body next week, but we are excited about this new way to build community and the faith of our students. Because we have some amazing donors in our community who share our vision of growing the hearts and minds of our students for Jesus Christ, this will be free to students. Please pray that this will impact many of our kids and that a small cup of coffee will spur conversation that strengthens their faith in Jesus Christ.
- Lance Davids, Director of Advancement, Vision and Development
Joy of Christmas
I want to take a moment to thank all of you for your support this past year. It has been an exciting year as we closed one chapter in Illiana’s history and began another. It is a blessing to walk into Illiana every day and teach all of your children. Joy is a word that comes to mind often as I walk the halls of Illiana. Joy is most often talked about during the Christmas season, but the reality is, it should define us every day of the year.
A month ago, my family was at the Illiana Auction, intent on buying a white lab puppy. Many of you have seen our dog and she is adorable, but at the start of the auction she wasn’t ours yet. My kids were nervous all night. They couldn’t wait until the time came for the puppy to be auctioned off. The bidding finally started and it went back and forth for a long time. Every time the bid would go to me, my girls would jump with excitement. But when the bid went to one of the other bidders, they would freak out. It was a roller coaster of emotions for them. Back and forth for what seemed like an hour, but then
the time came, “Going once, going twice… Sold to buyer number 63!” She was ours! My girls leapt for joy and hugged each other, which doesn’t happen often. My youngest was so excited, she was crying. It was a fun moment for my family. The girls were so joyful that night because that was the day Leia (thenew dog) became a member of our family.
Hebrews 12:2b says, “For the joy set before him, [Jesus] endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” I have always wondered how there could be joy in the cross. Here it is: Jesus could have joy because he knew on that day through his sacrifice, we were added to the family of God. We are purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ and through Christ, we become sons and daughters of the King. That is true joy and it’s what we celebrate at Christmas because the joy of Christmas is made complete with the joy of the cross!
I pray this week as you celebrate our Savior’s birth with family and friends, you find time to thank and praise Jesus that we are part of his family because of his birth, life, death, and resurrection. Joy to the world, the Lord has come!