By Julie Lorenz
Although many scheduled plans have been canceled or changed due to the ongoing pandemic, people throughout the Northern California Conference have responded to the challenge with creativity and resourcefulness.
Antioch – Hilltop Christian School
Adapting to public health requirements, the school enthusiastically celebrated its eighth-grade graduates in person and online. Principal Mekey Lepulu, teachers, and staff visited the 10 graduates at their homes, holding a mini-graduation service for each one. In addition to a diploma, each student received a poster to place in the front yard, as well as a cake, sparkling cider, and gift cards. The school also held an online commencement service for the class. “We care about the students and miss them,” said Sherry Starr, the school’s administrative assistant. “We wanted them to have a beautiful and meaningful graduation.”
Hilltop also hosted a drive-through kindergarten graduation. “I was just so happy to be able to give my kids a memorable graduation and to be able to see them in person again!” said Liliana Samuel, kindergarten teacher.
Eureka – Humboldt Bay Christian School
About 20 people attended the school’s outdoor eighth-grade graduation, sitting in family groups at picnic tables. The three graduates gave speeches and listened to a challenge from Eureka/Orleans district Pastor Roger Williams. Afterward, they enjoyed personalized cakes with their families. “We really wanted to honor our graduates during this time of crisis,” said Teaching Principal Ruthanne Altsman.
Grizzly Flats – Leoni Meadows Christian Camp
Although Leoni Meadows cannot host camp this summer, the staff has another plan for ministry—an enormous garden. In late spring they planted 2,600 feet of corn and 1,000 feet of squash and pumpkins in the same garden space the Leoni family used more than 100 years ago. This fall, the camp will be able to provide hundreds, if not thousands, of ears of corn and squash to community members in need. “Even if Leoni can’t have guests in the usual way, we can still be a ministry of blessing to others,” said Craig Heinrich, executive director.
Healdsburg – Rio Lindo Adventist Academy
Instead of a traditional class gift, Rio’s Class of 2020 gave the gift of education. The senior class funded three substantial scholarships for next school year to assist students whose families have been financially impacted by the public health crisis. “I am really proud of our seniors for thinking of the idea and overwhelmingly voting for a class gift that will continue their legacy by helping out their fellow students,” said Denise Tonn, one of the class sponsors.
Lodi – Lodi Academy
Social distancing didn’t stop the school from giving its seniors a memorable send-off during the first NCC graduation service this year. The ceremonies took place on the field, with an enormous screen displaying what was happening on stage for family members sitting in their vehicles. The seniors marched down the field and later took turns walking on stage to be congratulated by Principal John Winslow—without shaking hands.
“The day was just an outstanding team effort on the part of a number of parents, class sponsors, class officers, and the staff,” said Winslow. “They created a wonderful spiritual celebration of the seniors’ high school accomplishments.”
Oakland – Market Street Church
On Mother’s Day, even in the midst of the pandemic, members of the church’s urban ministry remembered the mothers that people often forget. They prepared 30 gift baskets for homeless women. Each basket—containing lotion, slippers, nail clippers, a hairbrush, snacks, and other useful items—was attractively wrapped and came with an encouraging handmade card reminding them that their present situation is not their destiny.
Church elders Beverly Thompson and Donna King distributed the baskets, along with lunches, and prayed for each woman. “We told them, ‘You were born with a purpose and bought with a price by the blood of Jesus. Jesus loves you and so do we,’” said Thompson, who heads the church’s urban ministry.
The ministry also gave Walmart gift cards to mothers in shelters who have been victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence. In addition, they purchased a number of baby items for one expectant mother.
“During a time when people are running away from homeless people, somebody has to run to them,” said Thompson. “We want to let them know that God still cares for them despite what is going on around them.”
Rocklin – Gracepoint Church
Instead of their usual spring campout, the Gracepoint church’s Adventurer Club held a “camp-in.” Club leaders and parents endeavored to make the weekend as much like a real camping trip as possible. Families slept in tents in their backyards, prepared camp food, and took nature walks. They gathered together via Zoom for a Friday evening vespers and a Sabbath afternoon program, where they worked on the Nature A to Z award and played online charades. “The experience made me remember that we’re all together as God’s family—here to encourage and fellowship with each other even during this pandemic,” said club director Janis Koh.
The event was a fun and reassuring time for the children. “It made me feel less lonely during quarantine,” said nine-year-old Kylie.
“What I appreciated the most was that we all got together and shared love,” said Alex, age seven.
Ten-year-old Zach agreed: “The camp-in helped me realize that we have people that we can trust and go to during quarantine—friends, family, and God.”