It’s probably a metaphor we overuse: Life is a journey. But for Edmonton Christian West School’s new Assistant Principal, Mr. Hendrik Wolmarans, it seems a fitting way to introduce him, if for no other reason than how far from Edmonton his journey began. There are 15,590ish kilometers, between Edmonton and Pretoria South Africa. Mr. Wolmarans, or as some of his colleagues and family call him, Drikkie, spent the first 16 years of his life around Pretoria where his father pastored an inner city church and the whole family worked a farm. The sweat and effort of farm labour for Hendrik, the oldest of three children, has become something he fondly remembers for the together-time it gave his family.
It was when Hendrik was 16 that his family journeyed across the Atlantic and found themselves in Rocky Mountain House. He recalls that the family, like many immigrants, came with little, but in the same breath he talks about life as being blessed. As for him personally, moving during that identity-searching time of adolescence wasn’t as big of a struggle as some might think. He tells of the strong family bonds and the faith foundations that made redefining himself in his new country easier and he talks of important connections, that exist to this day, with other South African immigrants in Canada.
Rocky Mountain House is still home to Wolmarans’ parents and his brother. His sister lives in Edmonton with her husband and four children. His father pastors Covenant Christian Reformed Church in Rocky and his mom teaches a grade 2/3 class at Rocky Christian School. As if those vocations are not enough, once again, the family has a small farm which often draws the family together, as it did in their homeland. Many weekends will see Hendrik journeying home to fix a corral or do chores with his wife Annerieke, a PHd student in cell biology at the U of A (remember the connections to others immigrants? –this was a special connection!)
Drikkie recalls how as a 9 yr old child in his homeland he took up wrestling to help him become stronger for rugby. He was good at it and by 13 wrestling was his main sport. In Canada, he was able to continue that pursuit in high school and at one point was the provincial champion. When he furthered his education at the University of Alberta, he continued to wrestle in the CIS wearing the green and yellow of the Golden Bears. He medalled four of the five years in the CIS national championship. He also was the Canadian Greco Roman Wrestling champion in the open junior competition.
Even though competitive wrestling has ended for Hendrik, he continues to enjoy wrestling with who he is, who God is and how knowing God can help us to live. He currently is working on a Masters in Theological Studies at Taylor University, something he said that he “ felt a call to do” all the way back in 2005 when he graduated from the education program at the U of A. Since 2005 he has also broadened his mind and his skills as a teacher and leader. His experiences include being resident director and campus chaplain at Taylor when it was still called Taylor College. Teaching experience was gained in a Catholic High School in Rocky Mountain House, at Kate Chegwin Junior High in Edmonton and up until this week, at Ross Sheppard High School where he was the CTS and Fine Arts department head. The fact that a Mathematics major could be a department head in fine arts speaks to his ability to gently bring people together around a purpose, calling out each person’s gifts.
And it’s the calling out of gifts as a servant leader that Hendrik looks forward to at Edmonton Christian. “Two things excite me,” he says, “the chance to take my own growth and move it to the next level in leadership AND doing that in a Christian school where I don’t need to be as careful and reserved about how I present my faith.” He says this humbly, but with anticipation for the next part of his journey.
Perhaps that metaphor isn’t as much worn as it is just too small to contain our stories. One blog post is not big enough either. And so, untold are the parts about his time as a heli-attack forest fire fighter. Unexplained are the reasons why he would want to have two Boxers (dogs) and nine new puppies keeping him and his wife up all night. Unexplored is Hendrik’s love for tinkering with things and how that has led him to some basic level auto mechanics and some grass roots motor sports all the while as he renovates his home.
Those, and many other things are parts of the journey you’ll need to ask him about as you welcome him to our community, thankful that in God’s bigger story, our pathways have crossed, and in this place we call Edmonton Christian Schools, our journeys have, for now, joined. May God bless us all.