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Faculty and Staff Stories Bring the Spirit Alive During Spiritual Renewal Week

Faculty and staff who shared personal stories during the week: Justin King, high school principal; Wendell Shank, Spanish teacher; Shannon Roth, government teacher, Patsy Seitz, director of academics and English 7 teacher.
Faculty and staff who shared personal stories during the week: Justin King, high school principal; Wendell Shank, Spanish teacher; Shannon Roth, government teacher, Patsy Seitz, director of academics and English 7 teacher.

Personal stories by faculty and staff members brought the Holy Spirit to life for students at Eastern Mennonite Middle and High School during Spiritual Renewal Week September 17-21. The week’s theme connected with a year-long chapel theme on the Holy Spirit. Instead of the usual guest speaker format, a faculty or staff member spoke each day.

“I’ve attended a lot of Spiritual Renewal Weeks” says junior, Julie Weaver. “And this is the most memorable one I’ve been a part of.” Hearing teachers and faculty share from personal journeys as insecure and questioning high school students, about interactions with loved ones and about how they were changed by experiences in other cultures “really connected with me and helped me grow personally,” said Weaver.

Shannon Roth — government teacher, senior class sponsors and chapel planning committee chair — shared vulnerably and candidly on Thursday about a period in her life as an EMHS student when she spent an hour each morning choosing clothes and applying makeup. “I was trying to hide who I was, blemishes and all. I wasn’t letting my real self shine through.”

When her family moved to Jamaica during her junior year, Mrs. Roth found a culture that celebrated people for who they are, regardless of flaws. “It was so liberating,” she said. “I realized that God made me perfect in my imperfections and that people care more about how I treat them, than how I look.”

Well-loved for her boisterous personality and animated teaching style, Roth urged the students to recognize that the Holy Spirit shines light differently for everyone. “Every one of you has a gift that is needed. God didn’t make mistakes in creating us differently,” she admonished. “Be confident in your own gifts and spend more time focusing on your relationship with God and others than thinking about your imperfections.”

Diane Burkholder, children’s minister at Lindale Mennonite Church, catches up with Grady Harman and Sienna Kauffman of her congregation during a reception for pastors of EMS students.

Pastors of students were invited to attend chapel Thursday and an appreciation reception in their honor along with students form their congregations. Paul Leaman, head of school, acknowledge and thanked the pastors for their support of their students and the school through attendance at events, and reminded them that they have a “free pass” to all events and lunch at the school. He also acknowledged theri work in the broader community as “we walk through the joys of weddings and births, and tragedies of sudden death and loss. Your work on behalf of all of us is profoundly important,” he said.

The week culminated with a prayer service on Friday in which faculty and staff members offered prayer one-on-one with students who went to them at various spots around the auditorium. Mrs. Roth also had a print out of every student, teacher and staff member from which she prayed quietly during the service. “That way, even if you don’t go and ask for specific prayer on your behalf, for someone else, or for a situation, know that you are being prayed for,” she said.

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