Minnehaha Academy Blog

First Day of Online Learning

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Mar 31, 2020

The first day of online learning is in the books at Minnehaha Academy. Students from preschool to Upper School met with teachers and classmates to embark on the adventure of distance learning. 

Classes prayed together, sang together, and shared with each other.

In challenging times we are grateful for our strong community and our faith in God. We are praying for each of our students, families, faculty, and staff.  


Topics: Online Learning

A Letter from a Student

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Mar 30, 2020

Untitled design (5)-1We are continually blessed by our students on a daily basis in big and small ways. The letter below was sent by an Upper School student last week and provided encouragement to us all. Especially in times like these, acts of kindness do not go unnoticed. May this be an encouragement to us all to show kindness and grace to those in our lives. It matters.

To the teachers, staff, and faculty of Minnehaha Academy,

I hope this email finds you well in this crazy time in history. I also hope that you and your families are all healthy. For those who I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet, my name is Rebecca from the junior class. 

I know this is a very unprecedented time for everyone, which frankly no one has control over. I wanted to write personally, and informally to everyone to try my best to lift some spirits. Not to brag, but many of my hockey teammates have looked up to me for positive energy. Many of us have differing opinions on just about everything in today’s world, which you can add this pandemic to the long list. However, I’m here to find the middle edge of a coin and shed some positivity. 

As educators, you all were given an extreme challenge, one that is very frustrating, stressful, overwhelming, and seemingly impossible. I cannot imagine the stress and pressure that has been put onto you these last three weeks. In saying that I would not trust anyone else in the world to help the students get through this than the current faculty and staff of MA. I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the most passionate teachers I’ve ever had, and have come to know many of you on a more personal level these last three years. The amount of resiliency and determination I have found in this staff alone is overwhelming. 

I understand I am only a seventeen year old girl who hasn’t lived much life yet. As cliche and cheesy as it sounds, I have full faith that everyone can make it out of this. You will need to work harder than ever before to help your students get through this too. But, like I said before, I don’t trust anyone else more than I trust you. It is absolutely going to be hard, but welcome to delayed gratification. I know you have all been through so much so far, but I’m asking you to keep going. Keep planning, keep re-writing those lessons, keep answering emails, keep re-working schedules, keep making selfless sacrifices, keep finding that small thing in life that keeps you going. You have worked so hard already and I just want you to know that there is at least one student who sees that. I am forever grateful for everyone who makes Minnehaha what it is. Lastly, I love you all. I hope this helped a little. 

Something that has helped me through this is a prayer I say everyday: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. 

From Junior,


Topics: Upper School, Caring Community, Online Learning

Blessing Jar: A Family Activity

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Mar 24, 2020

IMG_5111 copyMany of us now have more time with our families and are looking for activities to keep our kids busy. One activity we recommend is creating a blessing jar. Not only is it a fun daily activity for families, but is also a good way to teach children to look for blessings and things to be thankful for, despite the circumstances. A blessing jar can be a daily reminder of what we do have. 

How To Make A Blessing Jar

  1. Find a jar or container.
  2. Cut up paper into small strips.
  3. Pick a set time each day (perhaps at a meal) for each family member to write down one blessing from the day on a small piece of paper.
  4. If they'd like, each person may share what they wrote with others.
  5. Write the date on the paper.
  6. Place the paper in the jar.
  7. Continue doing this each day.
  8. When you need a reminder of your blessings, reach in the jar and read a few of the notes. 

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Topics: Caring Community, Online Learning

Transferring from Chinese Immersion to Minnehaha Academy

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Mar 20, 2020

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We checked in with senior Annika to ask about her experience transferring from Yinghua Academy (a Chinese immersion school) to Minnehaha Academy. Read on to discover more about the transition.

Q: At what point in your school journey did you transition from Yinghua to MA?
A: I came to Minnehaha my freshman year, after I graduated from Yinghua.

Q: What concerns do you remember having about this transition? How did it work out?
A: Apart from the general nerves of attending a new school, I was nervous about leaving my close group of friends (we had 25 people in my class) and nervous about maintaining my Chinese. Minnehaha has given me another close and welcoming school environment and has provided me with opportunities to continue learning Chinese.

Q: How was the adjustment to the differing academic style for you? (Different styles and culture around teaching, assignments, etc.)
A: Teachers at Minnehaha are less strict but just as caring as my Chinese teachers at YA. My teachers are my favorite part about Minnehaha. Adjusting was very smooth because Yinghua prepared me well for the rigor of high school. It was also my first time learning math in English but that wasn’t a problem! 

Q: What have you been doing to keep up your Chinese? How has MA supported this journey for you?
A: I finished the course curriculum sophomore year and then continued it on my own and took AP Chinese my junior year. Journalism has also given me the opportunity to keep it up. I’ve written bilingual articles and also created my own bilingual podcast with Mr. Westrem’s help. Now my family is hosting a Chinese exchange student from MA which is helpful because she speaks Chinese with me. It certainly took a bit more initiative to self teach and maintain Chinese on my own but Minnehaha has been helpful throughout the process.

Q: What was your journey of finding new friendships like? Looking back, do you have any advice for other new students who might transition into the community?
A: My process was good, even though I came from a class of 25 it doesn’t feel that much bigger now. I wish I had known to reach out more earlier on and to try and connect with as many people as possible. Minnehaha is small so you can really make connections with almost everyone here and they can make a big difference.

Q: What have you most enjoyed about your time at MA?
A: I enjoy all the opportunities MA offers me. I’m able to be involved in so many areas, hold leadership roles, and contribute in a way that I couldn’t at other schools. Classes are engaging and challenging. I like that at MA I can push myself to become the best student I can be.

Q: What classes have you most enjoyed during your time at MA?
A: I’ve loved the journalism program here. I’ve learned so much practical knowledge and have gotten to do real-world articles and interviews. I’ve also gotten to attend events like the final four and broadway plays through journalism. Right now, I love AP Econ as well, it gives me an interesting perspective from which I can view the world.

Q: Do you plan to keep up with your Chinese in the future or do any post-secondary related work? How?
A: I’m potentially interested in foreign service and global health. Right now global health feels especially relevant and I would love to be a part of that and help in any way I can. No matter what career path I choose I know that I can find a way to utilize my Chinese knowledge just because Chinese people and culture are relevant almost everywhere you go. I really love the culture and want to continue learning about it. 

Q: What advice would you give to Chinese immersion students considering MA?
A: Take every opportunity to learn Chinese in creative new ways here, those have been my personal favorites. Getting to practice Chinese by creating a podcast and conducting interviews has been a new way to push myself and develop valuable and practical language skills.

Send me information about Minnehaha Academy!

Topics: Upper School

Spring Staycation: 7 Museums to Tour from Home

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Mar 19, 2020

2020-US-Students-Online-MinnehahaAcademy-Minneapolis-Minnesota-5 copyIf your spring break is now a staycation, we wanted to show how you can travel the world without leaving home. One of the best ways to do this is by virtually touring museums. Here's a list of the best virtual tours of the museums from around the world: 

British Museum

Check out this fascinating Museum of the World. Exhibits are on virtual display that showcase items from around the world throughout history. Travel through time and history in this interactive experience.

Guggenheim Museum

Walk through the Guggenheim, and get up close to a wide range of art work. 

Musee d'Orsay

With a click of the button you'll be in Paris taking a virtual tour of the famous Musee d'Orsay. Check out works by Impressionist painters!


Walk your way virtually through this beautiful building, housing masterworks from the Dutch Golden Age. 

Van Gogh Museum

Experience the work of Vincent Van Gogh as you walk through this museum in Amsterdam. 

Uffizi Gallery

This museum was designed to house the works of the powerful Medici family in 1560. Don't miss the gilded works of art in this spectacular Italian collection. 

J. Paul Getty Museum

Take a trip to Malibu and virtually visit the J. Paul Getty Museum. The Getty collection features art from the 8th century to the 21st century. 

Discover More!

Google Arts & Culture provides an endless amount of interactive stories and information to discover as you staycation this spring. For even more interaction, download the app and discover new ways to play and learn.

Send me information about Minnehaha Academy!

Topics: Fine Arts, Online Learning

Online Discussion: 5 Tips for Creating Constructive Conversations

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Mar 18, 2020

2020-US-Students-Online-MinnehahaAcademy-Minneapolis-Minnesota-3 copyConnecting through the internet has never been more critical than it is right now. We are thankful for this technology that can bring us together when we can't safely be together in person. We can support each other, learn from each other, and create meaningful connections with classmates, colleagues, friends, and family if we approach our conversations in a mindful way.

Upper School Sacred Studies teacher Dr. Crafton has created these guidelines for participating in constructive online conversations.

"Our online conversations can never duplicate face-to-face conversations," said Dr. Crafton. "So much of our communication is embedded in non-verbal elements: context, tone, timing and rhythm, facial and body language cues, and most importantly personal presence. However, with some effort we can create effective replacements. My hope through these guidelines is to move toward that goal."

Online Discussion Guidelines

  1. Speak your ideas online as you would in the classroom. Imagine that you are having a conversation in person with your classmates and your teacher when you write. 
  2. Respect your classmates and teacher. The same rules we have when face to face apply online; and please remember that it is easier to fall into bad habits online than it is when face to face. Here are some ways you can show respect:
    • Actively engage with your teacher and classmates by considering what others are saying and by contributing your own ideas.
    • Discuss rather than argue or debate; respond to ideas, don’t attack people.
    • Make sure that you understand what others are saying before deciding whether you agree or disagree.
    • Be honest and genuine in what you say; earnestly seek after truth.
    • Assume the best of others.
    • Snarky or derogatory comments are not allowed; be careful about using humor – it is much harder to interpret humor appropriately online than it is in person.
    • Observe confidentiality; you are encouraged to talk about ideas outside of the context of the class, but not about people who are in the class.
  3. Write in full sentences or phrases using good spelling and grammar; don’t use the shorthand typical of texting. And DON’T WRITE IN ALL CAPS – it’s annoying and sends the wrong message.
  4. Add to the communal conversation; simply posting “I agree” or “good idea” is not enough. Say why you agree or disagree.  And don’t simply repeat what someone else has said.
  5. Be brief and on point — remember that the other members of the class will be reading and responding to you, too.

Topics: Middle School, Upper School, Online Learning

Top 8 Tips for Online Learning

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Mar 17, 2020

2020-US-Students-Online-MinnehahaAcademy-Minneapolis-Minnesota-4 copyAs teachers and students plan for online learning, we wanted to share these top eight tips that will help set students up for success during online learning (or distance learning).

  1. Attend class: This may seem like a basic tip, but the best way to get the most out of online learning is to treat it just as you would a school day. Show up to class on time and ready to learn.
  2. Complete assignments: Assignments given during online learning are just as important to complete as assignments given during a more typical class experience. By completing your assignments on time and with care, you'll keep up with your studies and be ready to hit the ground running when you are back in the classroom.
  3. Create a workspace: Set up a special spot for you to complete your classwork and join online class discussions. Having a set spot for your learning will ensure you have the tools you need to do your work. Think about what you'll need for your class (pencils, art supplies, paper, books, digital device, headphones, etc). 
  4. Set a schedule: Your teacher will most likely provide a daily schedule for you during the school day. Keeping a schedule will help you stay on track with your work, will remind you to take breaks, and will help you create a rhythm to your day. It's also rewarding to look back at your daily schedule and see all of the amazing things you've accomplished!
  5. Reduce distractions: Working from home can be quite distracting. When you set up your workspace, find a quiet space to sit. Remember to shut off the TV, music, and eliminate social media distractions- just as you would if you were in a classroom. 
  6. Think about how you learn best: When do you do your best work? Is it in the morning or afternoon? Plan on doing work that requires creative energy and thought at those times.  Also, consider how you learn. Do you learn best through listening, reading, or doing? Work with your teacher to determine ways you can learn the material using your preferred learning method. 
  7. Participate: Just because you aren't sitting next to your classmates and teachers doesn't mean you shouldn't join in on the learning. Chime in on class discussions and set up times to chat with classmates to work on group assignments.
  8. Take Breaks: Remember to step away from your desk to stretch, take a walk around the block, play a game, or spend time with your family. It's important to take breaks that will leave you feeling refreshed. It can be easy to sit in front of a screen all day, but remember that you'll do best by stepping outside for fresh air or a conversation with family.

We've also included this Online Etiquette Guide for online learning created by our Middle School science teacher Emily Firkus with her students.

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Topics: Middle School, Upper School, Lower School, Academics, Online Learning

Mark Ireland '92

Posted by Nick Tofteland on Feb 26, 2020

IMG_4083“For the people who knew me at Minnehaha--if they had to guess back then--they would probably say that I would be the one in in jail instead of the one putting people in jail,” says Ireland facetiously.  After college and law school, Mark became an Assistant Attorney General for the state of Minnesota and practiced law for ten years in the Twin Cities, then became a State District Court Judge in Ramsey County. 

Essential Skills

“The greatest gift Minnehaha gave me was the ability to write. On television and in the movies, lawyers and judges are always in the courtroom. I do a lot of writing.”  One of his most significant experiences at MA was working on the school newspaper and yearbook.  Through that work, he honed his writing, interviewing and communication skills that he used in college, in law school, as a lawyer, and now for the past nine years as a judge. “Learning to write was a huge gift.  At a lot of schools kids are just taking multiple choice tests. To write well differentiates you from everyone else. It is a real skill.” 

Opportunities Aplenty

Mark also loved playing soccer for coaches Karl Peterson and Herr Kauls, who were both influential and supportive of him. Mark is thankful for the size of Minnehaha -- it gave him an opportunity to be involved in multiple things at the same time like sports and theatre, which was very different from the larger schools in the Twin Cities. “I was a weird kid and it gave me an opportunity to experiment with a lot of different things which was very beneficial going forward.” 

Life Beyond MA

After Minnehaha, Mark went to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and then Law School at the University of Minnesota. After private practice and working at the Attorney General’s Office, he left and started a non-profit program that helped neighborhoods that were being affected by predatory lending and the resulting foreclosure crisis. He got to know a lot of people in the community and throughout St. Paul and Minneapolis. 

There was an opening for a judge in the 2nd Judicial District.  A friend called and said he should run for the position; it was an open seat and not an appointment from the governor.  Mark laughed at his friend, then told his wife, and she laughed at him.  He then talked to another friend about it and he encouraged him to run. Both friends were on different sides of the political spectrum.  Mark figured that if he could get these two folks to support him that were from two political parties then maybe he should do it.  “So I ran, and got elected!”   He ran largely on the platform that a judiciary shouldn’t be a political arm but should be non-partisan.  He is currently serving as a District Court Judge, where he presides over everything from the St. Paul petty court traffic calendar to murder trials.  He has been the lead judge presiding over cases involving abused and neglected children as well as the county’s drug court program. Recently, he became the head of the Juvenile and Family Division, working with complicated and difficult cases dealing with divorce, child custody, child abuse and neglect, and juvenile crime.

“I think people would be either lying or have a dead soul if they didn’t think that this was a difficult job. I’ve handled serious criminal sexual conduct cases, murders, and hundreds of child protection cases. Those are tough emotionally.  At the end of the day, your job is to provide a forum for the cases to be heard and then ultimately, make the best decision that you can.  You learn how to cope with it and figure out how to continue to be balanced and healthy.” 

To The Students

What would Mark share with current students?  “Start something.  The world is not perfect. The school is not perfect.  Your community is not perfect.  Don’t wait for other people to solve problems. Do it yourself.  Everyone has gifts and talents.  There are lots of angry people talking about things in our society right now.  Unfortunately, there are very few people who are actually doing something about it.  Our world requires more action, living out our faith and values in the community.”

Topics: Alumni Stories

James Barnett '04

Posted by Nick Tofteland on Feb 26, 2020

image0“I cherished the place, because it provided a lot of stability and was very special to me.  It was the most stable part of that period of my life.”  James had been living in a foster home since he was 9 years old after his mother lost custody. He never met his father. He was attending a charter school in St. Paul, MN, where Ellen (Higginbotham) Ruiters ‘93 was his 8th grade English teacher.  She would tell the story of Minnehaha often to her students and he always thought it sounded like a special place. He never thought attending MA would be a possibility.  

Finding Community

One day, Miss Higginbotham asked him if he would like to go on a tour of MA, and he jumped at the chance. He came to the realization that a learning environment should be fun and joyful, and students should have a vision for what they want for their lives.  He observed interactions with students and teachers, saw that students learned from their peers, and felt that attending Minnehaha was an “all-consuming great opportunity.”  “When I was accepted, I was very much aware of what this could mean for me. My social worker, my guardian ad litem, everyone was so positive about me going to Minnehaha.  I felt like if there was one right thing that I could do for my life, it was to go to MA and graduate.” 

Mentorship, Faith & Identity

Dan Bergstrom taught his 9th grade Bible class.  “I was going through a tough time in my life.  I was trying to reconcile my turbulent home life and personal life. My life had a ton of uncertainty. I really wanted to change my circumstances. I knew that my life was deserving of more, and I wanted more for myself.”  Rev B put him at ease with his concerns and helped him deepen his faith.  “He let me know that God was with me along the way and I was not alone; I would come out stronger on the other side.”  Having a person like that who invested in his life helped him stay the course and be optimistic about what life and God had in store for him.  James questioned a lot of things and found a lot of certainty in engaging with Rev B.  “I needed a lot of character coaching and development. He took me as I was.” 

Another significant person to James was David Glenn, his history teacher and football coach.  “He had a great presence about him--he understood that ‘kids would be kids’ and they grow and develop, and you need to meet them along the way.  He was always encouraging, positive and supportive.”  James knew that if he could get his vote of approval it would go far in giving him the confidence needed to take on a challenge or opportunity.  When James was accepted to St. Olaf College, Mr. Glenn told him that it was a tough school but reassured him, “You can do this!  You are going to be really successful there.”  “I was so emotional getting that affirmation from him.  I knew he would shoot straight with me if I was in over my head. He sent me on my way with a vote of confidence, which meant a lot.”    

Paulita Toddhunter helped him process, interpret and engage the experiences he was having.  “She was invaluable.  To have a person of color understand and talk through some of the challenges I was going through was great.  She was a mom--her own kids were at the school--and I leaned on her for nurturing and emotional support as well.  She was always there for me.” 

From Student to Career Educator

James graduated from St. Olaf with a major in Post-Secondary Education.  After college he worked for Teach for America for several years, which led him to teach middle school social studies and science in North Carolina.  His goal was to be a transformational teacher, and he was sold on the fact that he’d had these opportunities in life because at Minnehaha, he had the chance to have amazing teachers, go to a great school, and be in an environment dedicated to his success.  He is currently on the leadership staff of a network of charter schools where his team and work is focused on opening and working in schools regionally in the Twin Cities. His title is Resident Principal.  He is working now at a middle school, and the vision is to keep opening schools, including a high school in North Minneapolis.  Once opened, he is slated to be the Principal. 

“We’re trying to help kids see that with someone there to help them, they can end up in college--even a college of their choice—and that can take them places they could never imagine.  The MA community wanted me to reach my greatest potential.  My professional aspiration is to create that same space for kids in Minneapolis.” 

Topics: Alumni Stories

Tommy Boyd '10 Goes Beyond Comfort

Posted by Amy Barnard on Feb 20, 2020

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"I'm a very introverted person, I don't even like leaving St. Paul," says Tommy Boyd, '10. And yet, in 2017, this self-proclaimed homebody found himself peeling potatoes in a co-operative refugee community in Athens, Greece, alongside men from Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq.

"Of that time spent in the kitchen 75% of it was spent dancing. Just dancing in the kitchen, just gaining friends. You know, genuine friends," says Boyd.

That winter, Boyd was part of a YWAM (Youth With A Mission) team that landed in Athens, Greece, with few connections and a hope that somehow they could serve the refugees there. The group soon found themselves connected with Khora, a humanitarian co-operative foundation unlike anything most of them had ever encountered.


By Refugees, For Refugees

Khora formed in response to the European Refugee Crisis, an influx of individuals fleeing war, violence, or persecution from their home countries. Many of these individuals and families pay smugglers or flee on foot of their own devices and make the perilous journey through Turkey to a handful of Greek islands that have become primary entry points for migrants to Europe.

As refugees and migrants made their way from these islands into Athens, entry to the rest of Europe became increasingly difficult. Surrounding countries began shutting their borders, even as thousands continued to flood the islands of Greece, many losing their lives along the way.

A handful of NGO volunteers as well as refugees the volunteers worked with wanted to find a way to give those stuck in Athens a place of refuge, services, and skills to help prepare them for any new doors of opportunity that might open.

Without work permits or visas, many of the refugees Khora serves have left the camps to live as squatters in abandoned buildings or on the streets, struggling to make it from day to day.

"These are some of the most educated people from their home countries; they are the ones who had the resources to get out," Boyd says, "so you're looking at individuals who went to medical school and taught in universities."

Boyd arrived at Khora with a handful of YWAMers to discover an eight-story, formerly abandoned building bustling with life: On one floor, a kitchen serving 800 meals a day. On another, attorney advice for those trying to sort out passport and asylum issues. Other areas provided language classes, childcare, dental services, and basics like clothing and toiletries.

The refugees themselves often teach classes at Khora in their areas of expertise. Often these are language classes, an attempt to give individuals greater success once (and if) they finally leave Greece.

In spite of the dire circumstances these people faced, Khora offers an atmosphere of warmth and hope.

"When you volunteer you sign up for things you're good at—volunteers even give music lessons—and then weekly they send out an agenda saying who is where at what time. I'd say probably 98% of my time was spent in the kitchen. So, peeling potatoes, washing dishes, all of that," says Boyd.

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Unlike most refugee camps where volunteers and refugees separate into the servers and the served, Khora empowers refugees to help run its programs and make decisions for the community.

"[It's] crazy the amount of ministry you could do in there because you're seeing the same people everyday," Boyd shares.

First Culture Shock: Minnehaha Academy

Boyd himself never had great aspirations of becoming a potato peeler in a refugee community; nor did he expect to step into the ministry of friendship with men from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria through dancing.

His first big culture shock happened in ninth grade when he transferred to Minnehaha Academy.

Students freely leaving backpacks in the hallway or on tables without fear of theft was as much of a surprise to him as were the chapels, where modern worship music combined with students who would clap or even raise their hands contrasted with his more formal religious upbringing.

But Boyd says that the Minnehaha culture of doing the right thing "without it being written on the wall, but because it was the right thing to do" had a life-long impact on him and gave him a vision for the type of person he wanted to become.

He also shares that while during his first years at MA he generally kept to the fringes during chapel and stayed seated when possible, "by my senior year I was standing up and I was singing...I was buying into the culture, little by little."

Although intense on the basketball court or football field, former classmates comment that Boyd's intensity was tempered by a kindness and warmth off the field.

"He was never too big or too cool to take time to connect with younger kids," says classmate Matt Pryor '11. "He was friends with everyone."

Boyd went on to study physical education at Bethel and then worked for two years in the small town of Zimmerman, Minnesota, teaching health education, strength and conditioning, first aid, and coaching basketball and football. This was a move sparked by his time at MA.

"Josh Thurow was one of my favorite teachers...I don't know if he knew it or not but he influenced me to be a teacher," says Boyd. He also says that he felt compelled to "pay it forward," noting that his life could have taken many courses, but the teachers who poured into him helped nudge him on track.

Called to Serve

In 2017, Boyd was working in Zimmerman and married to his former Bethel classmate Kailey, also a physical education teacher. While they both loved teaching, each began wondering whether or not God might be calling them to another type of service.

"At the end of that second year of teaching for me, the end of her first year, we went in to resign from our jobs because we were going to go do mission work with YWAM," Boyd says. The school district offered the Boyds another option: take a year-long leave of absence and then revisit the discussion.

And so, in September of 2017 the couple found themselves in the Manoa Valley of Honolulu at a YWAM base for Discipleship Training School (DTS).

Three months later, they arrived in Khora, a ministry environment unlike anything they had been part of before.

In this moment, Tommy and Kailey found themselves in the unique situation of ministering not as hosts to foreigners in their own land, but as foreigners themselves walking alongside other foreigners in an unfamiliar place.

And for Tommy, this meant peeling potatoes and washing dishes with men from across the Middle East and Central Asia.


It was here that Tommy taught his co-cooks the dance to Darude's Sandstorm.

Soon the group was exchanging dance moves. At one point, a Palestinian man whose wife and daughters were still waiting in Palestine, jumped in, hefted Tommy over his shoulders and started spinning.

"I'm 6'4" and 235 pounds. That was really high off the ground in a slippery kitchen. I was honestly kind of afraid," Tommy says, laughing.

Throughout these weeks the men became progressively closer.

"Now I can definitely say I have friends from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq; really close friends that I still talk to today. And it all came from just dancing in the kitchen."

In spite of the camaraderie the Boyds felt with many at Khora the experience did have its tense moments.

Khora sits squarely in the heart of Exarcheia, also known as the anarchist zone.

"They had very frequent riots going on, so there would be times that we had to shut down early because a riot was planned." The Boyds also spent a few days visiting an abandoned building-turned refugee squat run by a faction of the Greek mafia. Leaders made it clear that they were watching the YWAMers and didn't want to see any overt ministry.

In spite of these restrictions, the couple developed friendships throughout their time in Greece that continue even two years later, thanks to social media and the ability to text across the ocean. These interactions offer opportunities for ongoing ministry and sharing of Christ's love.

Tommy and Kailey hope to arrange a trip in the coming year to visit these friends in the various places they have landed, many now scattered across Europe.

The couple also took part in a concerted effort to reach the Greek community during a three-week outreach that multiple other YWAM groups attended.

During the outreach, the teams handed out over 400 Bibles, nearly 200 individuals expressed a desire to commit to a walk with God, and upwards of 50 were baptized.

With just a few days left after this outreach, the Boyd's team took the opportunity to visit a refugee camp on the outskirts of Athens.

"That was probably the most eye-opening, impactful experience of the time, and we only went there for two days," says Tommy. "It was really cool to see how God was working in those relationships."

Six hours of basketball that first day lead to friendship with an Iraqi doctor that continues to this day. "We still talk at least two or three times a month, just checking in."

2020-Winter-Tommy-Boyd-Athens-Basketball Court

Service In Athletics

The Boyds came home and initially returned to teaching, but Tommy felt unsettled. He wanted to use both his physical training and spiritual passion to serve others, but he wasn't convinced he was in the right field.

Ultimately, Tommy went back to school for a master's degree in strength and conditioning in order to do focused work with high school athletes.

"I really want to use this as a way of showing young people that they have so much value beyond their athletic ability." Boyd says that he faced a crisis of identity when his athletic career came to a close, and he wants to help students find their identity in Christ instead of their sport.

"That's the driving factor behind everything I do: how can I help people see that Christ is the best thing that you can possibly find your identity in?"

Boyd sees these three seasons life—first as a teacher, second in Greece, and third in strength and conditioning—as three expressions of God's call to serve others and point them towards Him.

"[It's] planting the seed knowing full well you may never see the tree," he shares, reflecting both on his friendships from Greece and future work with athletes. "It's not us in the end who saves, it's whenever Christ decides they're ready."

Topics: Alumni Stories, Caring Community

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