EduDeo Ministries recently celebrated one year of operations at their new office location at in Hamilton, Ontario. The new office space is named “Campus 621” for the street address (621 Barton St. East), and their goal is for this place to be “a space where people will work together for local and global renewal.” EduDeo’s mission is “to advance Christ-centred education for children worldwide,” and Executive Director Hank de Jong says that EduDeo’s niche as an organization working in international education is educator training, guided by the key question, “What does it mean to teach from a Christian perspective?”
EduDeo began as “Worldwide Christian Schools” in June of 1994, when a board incorporated the organization. Until 2001, this organization had a volunteer board, who worked in cooperation with its U.S. counterpart. Most recently they used office space that was contributed by A & H Custom Machine, which is owned by a Christian welder who had a workshop in Hamilton with a storefront he was not using at the time. For nine years, the organization used this space as an office until the need for a new space became clear; both A & H Custom Machine and EduDeo were growing.
Hank de Jong, who has been Executive Director at EduDeo since 2003, said that the team relied on God’s guidance and the support of their donor community as they looked for a new office space. On the one hand, they felt that all they needed was room to operate – even a refurbished barn would do! As they listened for God’s guidance, however, they focused their search on an underdeveloped area of Hamilton, hoping to play, in de Jong’s words, “a small role in renewal.”
On October 4, 2015, a building with 10,000 square feet of floor space was purchased, subject to board approval. Thanks to some seed money, the building was purchased, and EduDeo took possession at the end of November. On February 29, 2016, they moved in, fixing the roof as a first step. The renovation itself was accomplished with the help of over 70 volunteers. “We had an idea of what could be,” de Jong commented, saying that the remarkable success of the project “has been so humbling.”
On their website, EduDeo puts it this way: “When your vision is to see every community transformed by the Gospel, your office should be more than just an office.” Not only a base for international mission, the office is also “a place that seeks renewal for the community at your doorstep – as well as for communities around the world.” The building itself was renewed with some help from city grants; an exterior wall is now adorned with a mural celebrating education, and windows were added to the façade on the second storey, with help from grant money. La-Z-Boy recently donated chairs for the lunch room.
While EduDeo remains focused on its mission, it rents office space at affordable rates to several community partners. These organizations share common areas, such as the kitchen and break room, and they can sign out the meeting room. Hank de Jong explained the rationale for sharing space in this way as having an “abundance mentality,” saying, “the space is not really our own; it’s God’s.” Currently, two organizations rent office space at Campus 621: A Rocha, which focuses on environmental stewardship, and True City, which brings churches together for the good of Hamilton. “There’s a strong sense of unity with Christians in this community,” de Jong affirmed, commenting that “if we want to see change, we’ve got to lock arms.” The office spaces are in the second level of the two-storey building.
As well as offering office space for rent, EduDeo offers meeting space, which has been used by church groups, including a youth group; the only requirement is a donation (of any amount) to EduDeo and a bit of time for a staff member to share EduDeo’s mission and vision.
The Cambridge branch of the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) has held an “urban retreat” at Campus 621. The group took a short walk down Barton Street East for lunch at the 541 Eatery & Exchange, an initiative of Compass Point Church in Burlington, Ont. At this unique social enterprise, large tables bring people together, and customers can spend a dollar to buy a button which another customer can use to buy a meal (up to five buttons per day). All can enjoy healthy, delicious, locally-sourced food at very reasonable prices.
The 541 Eatery & Exchange will be using the currently-empty space on the main floor of Campus 621 as a community kitchen. Hank de Jong said that EduDeo was looking for a social enterprise that could use this main floor space, not a business or a charity such as a soup kitchen. He approached Susan Carr, Director of the 541 Eatery & Exchange, who said that their board had just completed a needs assessment and authorized a search for a suitable space within easy walking distance!
Since then, plans have been designed, including food preparation areas, eating areas, childcare, and even laundry facilities and are pending city approval. Carr stated that, “the aim is to further address food insecurity, by helping people prepare healthy meals that they will freeze at 621 and then be able to reheat at home daily,” adding that, “The other meal they can eat at 541 using buttons, assuming they’re available.” The cost of the community kitchen project will be covered by a catering contract; Carr explained that, “we will be installing a second commercial catering kitchen at the back of the space,” adding “any donations are welcome – this is going to be an expensive venture.”
The 541 Eatery & Exchange aims to bring people together, building what Peter Block calls the “social fabric” in his book Community: The Structure of Belonging. This approach fits well with EduDeo’s approach to partnering with others in the work of renewal. While giving a tour of the space, Jonathan Horlings, Marketing Director for EduDeo, explained that they aim to be a place where local people can gather and where renewal (as opposed to gentrification) can take place, a space in which the spirit of God can move.