“I was never a shining academic star,” Hank de Jong ‘99 quips. But for de Jong, the university classroom was as much about transformation as it was about learning. Today, de Jong is executive director of EduDeo Ministries, a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing Christ-centred education in classrooms around the world. De Jong’s commitment to transformation — in his own university classroom and through his work at EduDeo — is a reason among many that he has been named winner of Redeemer’s 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award. The award recognizes both de Jong’s significant contribution to his field and his community service.
In 1994, de Jong wasn’t sure what career he was suited for. “To be honest, my field of study was a process of elimination,” he says. He tried physical education and business before finding resonance in sociology and psychology. “Overall, I had a sense that the Redeemer community had my best interests in mind,” reflects de Jong, who graduated with Sociology and Psychology majors. “They were more concerned about my overall development as a person, not just seeing me succeed academically.” There were many opportunities to grow: captaining varsity sports teams, joining short-term missions trips and taking on resident advisor responsibilities in his third year. These extracurricular activities, when combined with his classroom learning, accelerated his growth both personally and spiritually.
“An education at Redeemer is not just a means to an end — it really was an end unto itself.”
A product of this transformational growth was the entrepreneurial spirit exhibited by de Jong and his friend Piet Vandermeer as they operated their own small landscaping business throughout their time at Redeemer. Their initiative was supported by the campus and wider community. Professors were patient in receiving late work, especially in the busy fall season, and fellow students and dormmates became excellent employees. Each Saturday, and the occasional Monday, a couple of landscaping crews would be out in the community. “An education at Redeemer,” de Jong continues, “is not just a means to an end — it really was an end unto itself.”
Five years after leaving Redeemer, de Jong took on his current role with EduDeo. He credits his time at Redeemer as being just as transformational as the organization with which he now serves. “Redeemer emphasized that we are not here and for ourselves,” he says. “All that we learned was to be of service to God primarily, but to others as well. Our culture is increasingly about the individual, about materialism and comfort, and how we are to advance our own cause. Redeemer really promoted a countercultural view of learning and living.”
“It really isn’t about any one organization building its own kingdom.”
A worldview with Christ at the centre has helped de Jong, along with a team of staff and an excellent board, shape EduDeo as the years have passed. EduDeo provides quality Christ-centred education for children worldwide by training teachers, developing curriculum and constructing schools and by partnering long-term with international school associations and mission organizations. While EduDeo has a global vision, it also seeks local impact. “It really isn’t about any one organization building its own kingdom,” says de Jong. “It’s about operating from an abundance mentality in working together to play a role in establishing God’s kingdom. We’re thankful for those who share our global passion, but we cannot ignore the communities where we live, work, play and raise our families.” Recently, EduDeo has opened a new office space — Campus 621 — on Barton Street in Hamilton. At Campus 621, social entrepreneurs, churches and organizations work in shared office spaces for Christ-centred renewal in the local community.
“The work that EduDeo Ministries does bringing biblically-based education to developing countries is part of what we, as Christians, are called to do — share the Gospel with the world,” says Kristel Bulthuis, president of Redeemer’s Alumni Council. “Hank shines the light of Christ through his work and through his involvement in the Hamilton community. Through this, he shares Redeemer’s story and represents Redeemer to the world, and we could not be more proud of him.”
The Alumni Association will host a reception on Thursday, November 2 to celebrate Hank’s award and to provide an opportunity for him to be publicly recognized for his life’s work.