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So much more to the ‘Easter story’ than chocolates and bunnies!

Focus verse: John 20: 31 ‘But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’ (NIV)

As you are reading this BYTES article, people throughout Australia are preparing to ‘celebrate’ Easter. For many in our secular world, these ‘celebrations’ will centre around a number of days of holiday away from the world of work. There will also be Easter eggs and chocolates in a variety of types and forms; the Easter bunny will make an appearance and, of course, there will be the aroma of freshly toasted hot cross buns dripping with melted butter! All in all, Easter would appear to provide us with a time of rest and relaxation with our families and friends.

This is certainly the picture of Easter that is being consistently painted by the world of advertising that surrounds us. Whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these individual pursuits, it does raise the question as to whether there is any deeper meaning to this season of Easter. I am pleased to report that this week at NCS concluded with the holding of a very special Easter Assembly. At this assembly all of our students had the opportunity to hear a different Easter story. We were presented with the Biblical understanding of Easter and reminded that there is, indeed, much more to this ‘story’ than chocolates and bunnies!

Students, staff and parents/carers were provided with the following welcome at the commencement of our assembly. ‘Welcome to our 2018 Easter Assembly. On this day before the Easter long weekend, we will look at the events of that first Easter over 2000 years ago and be reminded of who Jesus is and all that he has done for us. Today we will also learn a new name of God as part of our theme ‘The Many Names of God’. We will learn today that one of God’s names is ‘Saviour’. A savior is someone who saves another. We have learnt this year that our sins are a problem. What Jesus did that first Easter dealt with the problem of sin and, if we believe in him, he will be our Saviour too.’

The rest of the assembly was spent viewing a number of videos produced by our Primary students bringing to life some of the Bible passages that present the Easter story. A Secondary drama team also provided a powerful presentation that examined various viewpoints relating to what the cross symbolises for many people in our world today. There were opportunities to sing songs that confidently proclaimed who Jesus is and what he has done for us. Staff member, Mrs Stewart, then provided a creative presentation that especially focused on the message contained in John 20: 11-18 where we learn that the tomb was empty and Jesus is now our risen Saviour. As parents and carers, I would encourage you to further explore all of John chapter 20 with your children where we see the true meaning of the Easter story clearly conveyed to us.

So, what else has been happening during this past fortnight? For 22 members of our Year 10 class it meant a week away from school (19-23 March) as they participated in the RFS (Royal Fire Service) Training Program. At the conclusion of this week, our students each qualified for the receipt of 2 certificates. The first was the RFS Firefighter Certificate and the second was a Volunteer Project Participation Certificate. I had the pleasure of briefly visiting them on the Thursday where I found them hard at work completing a theory examination. They looked very impressive in their RFS uniforms and I am assured that they had demonstrated their competence to work in teams to assemble fire hoses and ‘hit’ the required targets!

On 20 March, 33 of our Years 5/6 students joined with other students from Shellharbour Anglican and Nowra Anglican College to participate in the FIT (‘Followers in Training’) Program. NCS was the host school for this event and the aim of the day was to encourage students to follow Jesus and to help them better understand how to serve God and others. I was delighted to welcome all students to this event. I then handed over to three members from Crusaders who are a Christian organization, aiming to present the gospel to school children through a range of engaging programs. All reports indicated that our students thoroughly enjoyed their day and learnt a great deal about how to share the key message of the Bible with others.

During this past fortnight, our Year 9 students have participated in 2 YAM sessions. ‘YAM’ stands for ‘Youth Aware of Mental health’ and these sessions are presented by expert external facilitators. The following statement provides a brief overview of the aims of the YAM program. ‘YAM is a universal evidence-based mental health program for 14-16 year olds. Role plays are extensively used to think about experiences of the past, present and future. Young people are invited to reflect by comparing, explaining and evaluating their actions or reactions. YAM provides young people with a resource guide of local mental health resources as well as of youth-centred organisations within the community.’

As has been the case for many years now, NCS once again entered a team in the local ‘Relay for Life’ program. Our NCS team consisted of 21 students drawn from Years 5-6. My wife Sharon and I had the pleasure of seeing many of our team members in ‘action’ at the Nowra Showgrounds when we visited last Saturday morning. It really was a wonderful sight to see so many different schools and community groups participating in this worthwhile project which raises funds for the Cancer Council. It is anticipated that our team will raise in the vicinity of $4000. Congratulations to all involved and to all those who provided sponsorship or donations to assist this commendable cause.

Today I was also delighted to go across to the MPC during the morning when our Year 12 students were together with their Kindergarten ‘buddies’. This is a very valuable ‘cross-age’ mentoring program where our Year 12’s are able to act as friends and role models for our new Kinder children. The theme for this gathering was the ‘Easter story’. The Easter message was presented in an engaging and interactive manner that fully captured the interest and attention of our two Kindergarten classes. The plan is for our Year 12 mentors to aim to visit their Kinder ‘buddies’ in the school playground on a weekly basis. I would wish to commend our Year 12 students for their willingness to commit to this on-going buddy program during their very busy final year of Secondary schooling.

This last fortnight has also been a very busy time for our parents and carers with three scheduled evening events available to attend. The first of these was our ‘Different Like Me’ meeting, held on 20 March. Mrs Dearsley, our recently appointed counsellor/psychologist, was our guest speaker and she shared a great deal of information that was of considerable interest and relevance to those in attendance. Two evenings later, we held the first meeting of our newly re-formed P/C & F. This was another exciting meeting which began with the announcement of our key P/C & F office-bearers. I am delighted to inform our NCS community that Cheree Miles will be our President and Cindy Pearce has accepted a role as Vice-President. Guest speakers for this event were our two new school counsellors who provided a very practical overview of how the counselling program will operate at NCS, especially in relation to the student referral system. And, finally, just last Tuesday evening, our KidsMatter Team organised a workshop presented by staff from Anglicare on the very relevant topic of ‘Growing Resilience for School and Life’. I would encourage all of our parents and carers to carefully read each edition of the BYTES and to closely monitor our NCS website as, throughout the year, we will provide advance details of a number of other excellent programs and presentations.

I wonder if you have taken the opportunity to relax over a delicious hot cup of coffee or chocolate on Tuesday mornings when the ‘Bearded Brewer’ and his coffee van are located beside the carpark between the school and the Baptist Church? It certainly provides a wonderful opportunity to sit down at one of the tables provided and to enjoy some moments of conversation with other parents and carers. One of the 3 key values identified in the most recent NCS Strategic Plan is that of ‘community’ and our Tuesday morning coffee sessions are deliberately designed to foster this sense of belonging to community. Don’t forget that you are most welcome to join us and share conversations with ‘old’ friends and also to meet new members of our NCS community for the first time.

You may well be one of the many families who will be travelling this Easter time. It is my prayer that you will travel safely and that you will enjoy a time of refreshment and relaxation with family and friends. It is also my prayer that you will be conscious of the true meaning of Easter and that you may find the time as a family to give thanks to God for the wonderful gift of his son and his priceless offer to us to become our personal Saviour.

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