10/26/2022
November 2022 Update

Giving Thanks In All Things

Moving into November, the month of Thanksgiving, I have been considering, simultaneously, the two paradoxical axioms of the human experience. One, that life, as given to us by God, is good and contains great joys. And two, that life is hard, and holds much sorrow. The unyielding tension between these two truths tears at us. We wrestle with Job to make sense of life which seems fickle, sometimes beautiful and good, and sometimes harsh and unfair. We struggle to make sense of the “big picture.”

 

As I reflect on the good things of life, my mind goes to the joy of crisp fall mornings. The delectable pleasures of pumpkin spice, the satisfaction of the time of harvest, the excitement of new life and birth, the merriment of fall weddings, and the anticipation of celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with family, friends, and, of course, a lot of food. Specifically with regards to our EMS community, I love the camaraderie and fellowship of competitions with other Christian schools, the rewarding feeling of finishing out the first quarter well, the festivity of our fall banquet, and the effective teaming together of our staff. It is good to be part of a community and enjoy the life and richness we are given. Thankfulness and blessing the Lord, perhaps, comes easy for us during these times.

 

On the other hand, our spirits cry out against the pieces of life that we sense “just aren’t right.” The headlines of people suffering from the randomness of continual shelling and being forced to leave their homes due to violence brings a heaviness. A constant barrage of negative political ads, designed to make the “other” appear as horrible as possible, leave a bad taste in the mouth. Even the uncertainty of the economic future can feel destabilizing and insecure. Closer to home though, the difficult things in our own lives gnaw at us and try us. Relationships are hard. Community is complex. Life brings bitter disappointments. We age. Our parents age…and with age, as Solomon notes in Ecclesiastes, often comes difficulty and sadness as our mortality beckons. In a deep way we begin to long for, as the poet said, the great glad here after life. And we are mystified as to why God allows difficult things to happen or why He doesn’t “fix things” right now. We see through a glass darkly but long to see clearly, face to face!

 

And yet, we are told by the Apostle Paul to, in all things, give thanks. We are instructed by James to count it all joy when we fall into various trials and testing. We are assured in Romans (which our community is memorizing) that all things work together for good to those who love God, that nothing can separate us from the deep and overwhelming love of God, that as a shepherd cares for his flock so Jesus cares for children, as a father welcomes his child home so Abba Father runs out to meet us, as a hen gathers her chicks, so our gentle Lord longs to spread his wings and give us shelter. As the rock is a shelter in time of storm, so our King fortifies and strengthens, as a strong tower is a sure defense, so the Almighty is our defender. 



This Thanksgiving let us come into the presence of the Lord abiding in his House. Let us rest in him knowing that our feet will not be moved and that our foundation is sure. In that confidence, as we experience the whole of humanity, the good and the hard things, we can move forward hoping all things, bearing all things, and believing all things. God is good. And we give thanks and bless the Lord.

 


 Mr. Joshua Good

Administrator

09/29/2022
October 2022 Update

For many people, October has a strong association with Halloween. This particular “celebration” is both quite a spectacle and a commercial “success.” Merchants look to capitalize on costumes, masks, jack-o-lanterns, and “haunted houses.” Recently, a float, at a small town parade attended by many young children, attempted to capitalize on this holiday by advertising their “horror” show with all sorts of creepy and darkly costumed figures. Needless to say, many folks weren’t happy about it. 

 

The history of Halloween is not clear. Most agree that at one point the church celebrated something called All Hallows Day (All Saints Day), though there is some evidence that the history of All Saints Day itself, may have been derived from pagan/celtic practices. In the old days it was not that uncommon for the church to “Christianize” pagan holidays. This practice of syncretism, merging some religious holidays/practices with pagan religions, some have argued is also behind why we celebrate Christmas on December 25, often accompanied by decorated trees and mistletoe. Whether or not Christian syncretism is “ok,” remains a point of contention in some circles. 

 

Regardless of the origins, I would urge our community to skip any Halloween celebrations. The current cultural association of Halloween, and preoccupation with, violence (ax wielding goons), death, sorcery, and often overt sexuality, make it a dim reflection for those who would follow Jesus. One only needs to research NYC Halloween Parade to discover overwhelming evidence of the above. While dressing up children may be cute, and getting candy may be fun, I would advocate for avoiding it altogether. (That said, if a family wants to give other neighborhood children who come to the house candy and a kind word, I wouldn’t argue with that.)

 

Despite the darkness of the celebration, the truth is we need not have any fear. As Paul noted in 1 Corinthians, an idol is merely stone or wood. It is nothing to us and holds no power over us. Similarly, idolatrous Halloween costumes are in the end merely cloth/accessories etc, with people created in God’s image underneath. We don’t need to worry about “demonic forces” overpowering us. We have Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the protection of the Most High Himself. And if He is for us, who can be against us? We win! His love conquers evil. We need not “shiver in the night” or have any fear of the evening.

 

October 31 actually has special significance for me because on that day I both asked my (now wife) to date me and then 2 years later to marry me (She said yes both times! =). The month of October is created by God and a beautiful fall month with a zippiness to the air that makes us feel alive. And many love to dress with the fall flair and layers. At EMS this year, we are redeeming Monday, October 31 by having our banquet on none other than this day. No, it wasn’t intentional, it was just the only day in October that Shady Maple had left when we reserved the date. However, I think there will be a sort of “poetic irony” to the idea of us getting together on that day to celebrate Christian education and a new Christian school being built that will be used to celebrate life, and light, and all things new and good and resurrected, rather than death, violence, and darkness. We will celebrate October 31 by reclaiming it for whose it always was, God’s. See you then!


Mr. Joshua Good

Administrator

 

09/29/2022
September 2022 Update - Teamwork & Christian Unity

As a school, our core value of the year is “teamwork.” A critical part of any effective team is unity. Unity of purpose. Unity of mission. Unity of character. Untold time and effort have been spent, even in the secular world, studying how to effectively create a unified vision for an organization. Because intuitively we all know that “teaming together” always outperforms “going it alone.” We are strongest when we each, authentically, bring the unique gifts God has given us. Beyond merely an increase in performance though, we are fundamentally relational beings who are created for, and who thrive in, relationships. Whereas in isolation we struggle. 

 

Despite this, sinful humanity strives with each other. Too often we argue, we fight, we are sarcastic, we assume the worst. We break relationships. As we divide into ever smaller “tribes and factions,” we arrogantly assume we are right and others are wrong.  And in doing so we lose the most important part of life, relationships. Our unity is fractured. Such is the human condition.

 

It would seem that Christians would likely be free from such divisions and would remain unified in purpose and Spirit. And yet, history shows us, too often we are not. In the Mennonite tradition, of which EMS is a part, the last century has been filled with church divisions and strife. Church “problems,” in my estimation, quite possibly have done more harm to the witness of the church and the spiritual health of their members than any outside “worldly” influence. 

 

To bear that point out, consider the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus. Jesus in this prayer cries out to the Father on behalf of His church and those who would come after him, that would be in his Church (that is, you and me). Interestingly in this prayer Jesus doesn’t pray for certain doctrinal purity, or specific Biblical “application.” Rather , he simply prays that His church would be one. Listen to the following where Jesus is appealing to the Father: 

 

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17 ESV)


That Spirit of unity that Jesus prayed for is what we are praying for this year at EMS, as Jesus prayed it for us also many years ago!  We are envisioning a beautiful community of students, parents, and teachers, from many various churches, working together in Christian unity. As the Psalmist wrote, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133 NIV)” Agree in prayer with us and with Jesus. Pray that we would be known by our love for one another. Pray that as a team we would spur each other on to good works. Pray that as a team we would let iron sharpen iron. Pray that as a team we would build the Kingdom of God. Even so come Lord Jesus!

 

 

Mr. Joshua Good

Administrator

08/01/2022
Welcome School Year 2022-23

In a few short weeks school begins again! And while we don’t know what exactly School Year (SY) 2022-23 holds, we know Who holds the future. It is an exciting season for Ephrata Mennonite. We are looking at, Lord willing, the last opening school day at 598 Stevens Road, after no less than 76 years. We can see the new school being built just up the road. Please pray that God would continue to guide the construction and funding of this project. Pray with us that God will allow us to be in the new school debt free! All that aside though, the most important part of school, the people, go far beyond any brick and mortar project. As a Christian school, we must never confuse our “what” (the school building/s) with our “why” (discipling students in the way of Jesus). The real mission exists even without buildings! 

 

We are humbled to be a part of the sacred and holy work of teaching and training our children. You, as families, bring to us your very best, your own children, to be taught and discipled according to the Word of God. I was reflecting the other day with Tonya, my wife, on the profound moments we are privileged to enjoy with you and your children - from their first day of school to their graduations and all the highs and lows in between. Our children are imago dei (Latin for image bearers of God) and it is a tremendous opportunity and gift to know them and to live life with them. They are our most valuable resource. People are the most important part of life and by loving and serving them, image bearers of God, we are loving and serving God. As Jesus himself taught us, in as much as we love and serve the least of these, we love and serve Him.

 

Please pray for us this year. Pray that we would be gifted with humility to learn and grow in Christ. Most importantly we want to “be.” We teach the most by who we are. The extent to which we are Kingdom Citizens, Lifelong Learners, Teamplayers, etc - is the extent to which our students will become these as well. A common folk proverb, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” articulates the principle Jesus taught, that when a student is fully formed he is like his teachers (which of course includes parents, ministers, youth advisers, etc).

 

Our core value of the year is Teamwork. We are envisioning a yearlong training for staff and all secondary students around what it means to be an effective team player. For this effort we will be using the work of Patrick Lencioni’s three books: 1) The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, 2) The Ideal Team Player, and 3) Six Types of Working Genius. Throughout the year periodically ask your children what they are learning about teamwork. We idealize graduating “Team players” who have the skills and character to function well as church members, youth team leaders, Sunday School superintendents, etc. So please pray specifically that we could build a strong team and class units here at EMS this year.

 

This year our children will have the opportunity to memorize most of Romans 6-8, a scripture that contains profound theological truths and joyous good news. As we walk into the year I’ll leave you with a portion of this scripture. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death…For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)

 

 

Mr. Joshua Good

Administrator

07/12/2022
July 2022 Update

Summertime Progress

I hope you are all well and enjoying a bit of a relaxed pace this summer. Incidentally, I often get asked, “So what are you going to do now that school is out?” To be sure  the atmosphere feels calm and laid back without the energy and vitality (and surprises) that 380 students bring to school every day, but this summer it also feels especially active as we are preparing a number of new initiatives (new Bible Reading program, new Math program), and of course, managing a new school project as well. 

 

The walls are still going up! The school is taking a definite shape. You can see classrooms, hallways, stairwells and many other things. Lord willing, this month, the gym will be erected. The building committee is meeting on a bi-weekly basis to go over plans and details. We have had a couple of generous people donate time to haul the bricks and blocks to the new site. The red brick is starting to be laid on the back of the school.  So far we have had a safe, smooth journey and progress is being made weekly. Thank God for good weather! 

 

Also, thus far we have enough funds to move to the next stage of construction.  We are praying that God would continue to provide funds for the project and that we can move in DEBT FREE in June 2023.  We praise God for all that he has provided! We are inspired by the story of Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath. By the power of God, her oil and flour never ran out! We are praying that likewise we will always have enough funds each month to pay Hoover Specialist the amount that is due. Please join us in that prayer!

 

We are still in need of approximately $4.5 million. Every dollar counts!! This month we are sending out a mid-year appeal letter. Please consider giving towards this project. A big thank you to all that have given. If you have any questions or wish to be involved in this work, contact Mrs. Tonya Good at tonya.good@ephratamennonite.org or 717-738-4266 ext 212.

 

Please continue to pray for us this summer. Pray we could plan well for the new year. Thank God with us that we had all our teacher/staff needs filled before the year was out. Pray that construction would go ahead of schedule and that prices for us remain resistant to inflation. Pray that the remaining bus/van drivers would be found. God bless you all this summer.

 

 

Mr. Joshua Good

Administrator