Q & A with Jonathan Nicolai-deKoning
Jonathan Nicolai-deKoning is the new Micah Centre Program Director, taking over Roy Berkenboch's retirement.
What's your King's history?
I graduated from King's in 2005. I started with an English major but finished with a BA in Theology and a minor in Political Science. After King's, I did community development with marginalized communities, so that background was really helpful for me. At King's, I spend a semester in Uganda which helped me to see questions of injustice from a global perspective. I also did a six-month internship in Haiti through the Micah Centre, working in rural reforestation co-ops and HIV/AIDS agencies in Port-au-Prince. I think I was the first Micah Centre student sent abroad.
How would you describe your job?
I'm the new program director of the Micah Centre which means creating opportunities for students to be equipped and empowered to pursue justice, renewal, and reconciliation both globally and here in Edmonton. I believe real, deep learning happens where learning hits the street and takes shape in real life, meeting real people. I think that's particularly true when learning about truth and justice.
Right now, I'm teaching a Micah 6:8 theology class on justice and development. I'm also facilitating global learning opportunities like the Honduras Water Project and the Quest Mexico trip, which put real faces and places to the ideas students learn in class.
What does the Micah Centre mean to you?
The Micah Centre is a particular way King's can follow its mandate to pursue justice and reconciliation in every walk of life. The people at King's recognize we have a lack of wholeness in a lot of places in the world, whether it's from war, injustice, or poverty. The Micah Centre is a way to get students outside the classroom and encountering those realities. It gives them an opportunity to have hope that's rooted in their faith and realize they have a part to play in the change that needs to happen.
What is your hope for the Micah Centre?
We want the Micah Centre to be a hub for the wider community, to bring in speakers and create workshops. We also want to create workshops. We also want to create more academic opportunities for students to learn about and encounter justice, hopefully in the next year or two.
Where does your passion for your work come from?
A lot of it comes from my wife. She's worked in Edmonton's inner city for over 10 years. She began working in the inner city at a food bank during her degree at King's and has been involved ever since.
For the last few years, I worked with men and women resettling from prison, and I saw a lot of injustice, poverty, and an unwelcoming society. The men I encountered through that work sustained my passion as well.
The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is very much a source of my passion. His life was lived among those who were forgotten or left to the margins. As followers of Jesus, I feel all of us are called to pursue a world where the sort of pain and suffering Jesus addressed is lessened in some way through our work. His resurrection is a source of hope that the powers of death or oppression won't have the last word.
What aspect of your role do you enjoy the most?
I really enjoy connecting with students. Opportunities to teach or meet with the Micah Action & Awareness Society (MASS) students are always fun. Students have lots of energy and ask interesting questions. They're at a point in their lives where the questions they're asking will shape the direction of their lives when they graduate.
What is your favourite place to go or thing to do in Edmonton?
Cross-country skiing, although we've been robbed of snow these last two winters. Edmonton also has lots of great bakeries, coffee shops, and restaurants to check out. If I can't ski, then at least we can eat great food!
Any book recommendations?
Right now I'm reading Clint Smith's Counting Descent, and that's been really excellent. I love getting at issues, movements of justice, or peace making from more artistic angles, and his poetry is really great.
Do you have a favourite quote?
Martin Luther King's statement, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," is one I find hopeful given how hopeless you can feel about this kind of work. Also, from Psalm 85, I have the quote, "justice and peace will embrace" tattooed on my arm. It's a reminder that ultimately God will make the world a more just and peaceful place.