“You’re awesome Pr Jono” was the voice that greeted me at the door the other day as I visited one of our many school families.
I’ve been serving as the Chaplain of Southland Adventist Christian School in Invercargill for 1.5 years now, and each week the students continue to inspire and uplift me with their joy and happiness. Whether it be excitedly showing me their drawings or insisting that I come and play a different sport with them today they continue to add meaning and value to my role in ministry. I truly am blessed to be serving as a chaplain here.
My goal in chaplaincy is to be a positive reflection of God’s love into the lives of our students, staff and families.
SACS is a Primary School consisting of 72 students. Whilst most of our students are Christian, the majority do not come from Seventh-day Adventist families. As a result, we often don’t get the opportunity to connect with our students during the more formative years of adolescence. This means we must make the most of every opportunity to create a strong foundation where the students know that there is a God who loves them.
Each week I visit the school over lunchtime on Tuesday to Thursday and on a Friday morning to do bible studies with the older students, play sport, connect with the staff, take staff worship, and to share stories during chapel. I also enjoy the odd excursion and school camp throughout the year.
I enjoy my time at the school so much, that I often find myself using the library desk as an opportunity to do my pastoral paperwork so that I can continue to be around the staff and students of our small school.
Chaplaincy also incorporates pastoral care for families of our school as well. Each week I try to plan a home visit for two of our school families as an opportunity to get to know the entire families, pray with them, find out whether the children are enjoying school, and ask if there is any way our school or church can support them better. I often find these visitations to be very interesting as I meet people from all sorts of walks in life.
Primary school chaplaincy differs to pastoral ministry as it is less about focusing on the facts and doctrine, and more about making sure the students feel valued and know that they are loved by God.
I truly believe that Adventist Education is one of the greatest opportunities that we have as Christians to be the “light of the world.” Whether you are a staff member, a parent or local church member, our schools give us the opportunity to connect with people from the community in ways that our churches are not yet able to.
My dream for our school is that our students will one day leave knowing that the staff cared about them, and that there is a God who loves them immensely.
– Pr Jonathon Gillard, SACS Chaplain, Invercargill.