School principals, deputies and education directors from around the South Pacific gathered at the joint Adventist Schools Australia (ASA) and New Zealand Pacific Union Education leadership summit in Brisbane from May 15 to 17 to be filled and empowered to lead their school communities.
With the theme “Every Praise” this was the first time in four years such an event had run. Reflections on the theme kicked off every day with Dr Tracey Mafile’o sharing messages on praising with silence, praising through the valley and praising with purpose.
“The theme of every praise is so important since Covid,” said Dr Jean Carter, ASA director. “We’ve all come through difficult times and so often it’s easy to focus on the negative things in life but to remember to praise God just brings you into a whole different state and mental being.
“That is where we need to be to lead our children to reveal Jesus to our school communities every day we need to have Christ in our heart and we need to remember to praise God.”
Sandra Entermann and a team of singers, accompanied by Dean Banks on the keyboard, shared led a praise and worship segment each day.
“It’s been such a blessing to see the leaders of Adventist education across the South pacific coming together to praise God,” said Dr Carter.
Keynote speakers included Stephen Scott from EthicLead, who shared stories of his time in the airforce and some of the challenges of leading a failing squadron; Pastor Adam Ramdin, founder of Lineage Journey, who focussed on the history of Adventist education and it’s missional identity.
Supplementary presentations included Dr Kevin Petrie, who shared on a research project being conducted into school climates and passing on faith; and Leanne Entermann, who described the work of the Adventist Leadership Institute in encouraging and growing Adventist Education leaders.
Delegates from the New Zealand Pacific region had not joined the event for six years. “I think it’s great to be reminded we’re part of the wider mission. You can feel a bit isolated, but it’s good to come together and know why we do what we do,” said Cathryn Flynn, head of primary at Christchurch Adventist School, New Zealand.
Highlights of the event included the formal gala dinner that saw teachers get dressed up and celebrate and the launch and dedication of the Abide Bible, a Bible with reading guides designed to help teachers and school administrators connect with the Word and their purpose as educators.
Murray Hunter, who helped develop some of the material for the Bible, was honoured for more than 10 years of chaplaincy ministry in schools, with a plaque and Lemke Medal. He received a standing ovation during the presentation.
Times of reflection, networking, appreciation and prayer filled out the conference program. Some fun was had on the first night of the conference as attendees went into Brisbane city for a “great race” and dinner.
Australian Union Conference secretary Pastor Michael Worker did a session on religious freedom issues that face schools that was well-received. Evan Ellis, principal of Christchurch Adventist School expressed his appreciation for the in-depth presentation. “I appreciated Pastor Michael Worker, especially his reminder of the beauty of our theology and our belief system; how it makes us able to hold more nuanced opinions in the public square. It helped explain why I’ve felt uncomfortable and made a few things click.”
To close the conference, Dr Carter shared what she’d like to see come out of the conference and into the future for those who attended and their schools. Five simple principles:
- We must remain mission true.
- We must treat our people right.
- We must strive to be the best we can be (lead with purpose).
- We must work together (be strategic).
- We must take time to listen to GOD.
“The best thing for me is to see our leaders excited about sharing Jesus in their schools,” said Dr Carter.