Emily Last grew up in a nominally Christian home: her family would rarely attend church beyond Christmas and Easter, they did not read the Bible nor have a personal relationship with Jesus. That spiritual fervor was ignited in her family home when Emily met a girl in her elementary school named Danielle. Danielle and her family were active within a Wesleyan church, and Emily was regularly invited to accompany them, which she often did.
Yet it was not until a church trip to Silver Lake Camp alongside Danielle that Emily would learn about Jesus in a personal way. There Emily began her own relationship with Jesus and when she got home, Emily told her parents, “There is someone I love more than you and that is Jesus Christ.”
Emily proceeded to bring her family to the Wesleyan church with Danielle and their family, which served to reignite Emily’s mother’s faith and later her father’s faith as well. Emily reflected with gratitude on that pivotal relationship within the context of the public school and how her life was forever changed because of it. “Danielle’s family did not send her to a Christian school, so that she could shine the light of Jesus with other kids and families [in public school].”
Emily’s personal testimony fueled her to become involved in the Parent Council at her children’s local school in Kemptville, Ontario. The Parent Council serves to be a bridge between the school and the homes, and is parent led and administrator supported. Emily, along with people she invited from her church, seized a unique opportunity to be a light within the public school system.
Over the last school year, Emily and her Parent Council team led multiple events. One such event was a widely attended mental health education night. Childcare for participating families was provided. Michelle, a local counselor and Parent Council co-leader, used her psychology expertise and Christian perspective to help parents learn more about growing mental health challenges. That night, more than 25 parents came and received a free book to further their knowledge.
The team also raised money selling popcorn and lollipops. They were able to give 10% of that money to Champions for Kids, an organization that aids and gives opportunities for disadvantaged children.
In addition to providing resources for students and parents, the Parent Council demonstrates God’s love to teachers and staff. They organized a teachers’ night to explain the science of reading, a growing initiative among educators. Perhaps most popular among the teachers was the coffee truck they provided for the teachers to come and order their favorite caffeinated beverages. Toward the end of the year, the Parent Council invited the school administration to an end-of-the-year barbecue, and Emily found the window to lead prayer for the school, the staff and that “God would give the team and administrators what they need to run the school.”
Emily and Michelle’s efforts have begun to shape school perception of Parent Council and how Christians are being defined by their love. Because they executed events with excellence and delivered on their intentions, Emily gained trust from administration, and they are recognized for being a generous Parent Council. The vice principal has already made a point to have Emily and her group involved in Parent Council again!
While not being able to directly evangelize, Emily knows that “being on the Parent Council gave them a pulse of the school, and it got them a say into what is happening for the school.” It has been a concrete way for Emily, Michelle and others in their church to demonstrate God’s love to their public school.
Emily’s desire to be a light to the school extends to her son, Braeson. Last year, there was a girl in Braeson’s class who knew that his father is a pastor. While Braeson was talking to a different friend about how he follows Jesus, she entered the conversation and shared that she is trying to read the Bible online, despite her parents’ resistance.
Braeson demonstrated an evangelistic awareness: “She did not know if she was a Christian, she was reading the Bible as a book, but she felt like she wanted to be a Christian.” He asked her, “Do you believe Jesus died on the cross, and that he died for your sins?” After her positive response, he explained to her, “Well, then you are a Christian!”
Braeson, like his mother, continues to see the opportunities for ministry around him. A different girl at lunch wanted to know how to get to heaven. There are people in his school who do not have a Bible and are still seeking truth in Jesus. Another classmate has a Bible in his home but does not read it yet.
Emily believes, “Our kids are to be in a public school and make connections with other kids and families.” Braeson and Emily are making those connections to reflect the light of Jesus.
Jacob Gibson is the senior pastor at LifeSpring Wesleyan Church, Richmond, Indiana, and graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University and Wesley Seminary, Marion, Indiana.
*Emily Last is a member of the 2022-2026 TWC General Board elected to represent the Northeastern Area.