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Competing to shine

Reformed youth across Canada are taking to heart Paul’s encouragement to young Timothy “don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers….” Over the past year, 16 school clubs and over 300 individuals have taken part in a friendly competition, organized by ARPA Canada and using newly-developed custom software, to spur each other on as Christian witnesses in Canada’s public square.

ARPA Profiles took off

“We finished our post-it note display which we have been working on for 23 days. Every note represents 40 lives of children lost to abortion.” – Ebenezer School, Smithers

Daniel Kanis, the “tech-wizard” at ARPA, came up with the idea of using technology to “gamify” political action to make it competitive and fun. He first introduced his concept to his colleagues at a summer staff retreat, and then launched it publicly as “ARPA Profiles” mid 2022.

“The key to success would be rapid onboarding of students and adults alike” Kanis shared in an interview with RP. “Rapid onboarding” is what it sounds like: getting a lot of people all involved – all “on board” – at the same time.

“In October we had our chance. We rapidly onboarded a variety of students across the country from British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario at our youth conferences.” It didn’t take long and a healthy spirit of competition arose between these schools, that continues till today.

ARPA Profiles involves signing up for a unique profile on their website, taking part in political action and then getting points for that action, depending on how difficult it is. For example, sending an EasyMail letter gets you 200 points, meeting with your MP or MLA will result in 15,000 points, and distributing flyers results in 1000 points for every 25 flyers. If you are really ambitious and can get an airplane to fly a pro-life banner, you get 1,000,000 points! Other options include things like visiting an old age home, helping a pregnancy care center with groceries, baking cookies for an event, or hosting a flag display.

Those who have an ARPA profile can earn points for themselves but also for the school club or ARPA chapter that they are a member of. To make it fun, the school club with the most points gets a banner to keep, a trophy for a year, a pizza party, and celebration shirts. There are also prizes for individual championships. The deadline is May 17, 2023, and at press time, there is a fierce competition between Judy Slaa, Brooklyn Gortemaker, Anna Van Orizande, and Micah Wieske for the top place.

The race for the top school isn’t quite as fierce, as the Alberta Home School group is currently doubling the second-place school, Immanuel Christian in Winnipeg. Ebenezer school in Smithers is currently third out of 16, followed by Mount Cheam Christian from Chilliwack.

In it together

This 10,000 flag display for the preborn was set up in northern Alberta

When asked what ARPA Profiles has accomplished, Kanis shared that it has “one key ingredient that I think is essential to political action. And that’s the thought of: ‘I’m not doing this alone.’”

The ARPA Profiles website fosters a sense of community, as participants post a picture of what they did. Scrolling through dozens of pictures will silence those who lament that young people aren’t very active today. Not only are many active, they are doing things that their parents or grandparents likely never did at their age. And the hope is that it will make it far more likely that they continue to shine in the public square the rest of their lives.

Looking through the pictures, it is evident that Albertans are leading by example. Ed Hoogerdyk serves as ARPA’s Alberta Manager, with a special focus on helping Albertans shine their lights with political action. “ARPA Profiles is a great motivator!” he shared with me. Hoogerdyk proceeded to give some examples, beginning with their “CareNotKill” campaign. “Shortly after pictures are shared of grassroots action (flyer runs, billboards, banners), I receive inquiries from people wanting to order items so they can take action as well.”

Hoogerdyk has noticed a steady increase in the number of school club members and adult chapter members. “More people are meeting. More people are praying. More people are politically engaged.” And it is translating into giving as well. “Fundraising builds community spirit and reminds people of the importance of witnessing in their own communities. It’s been inspiring to work alongside so many ‘cheerful givers’ in Alberta.”

Healthy competition

Hoogerdyk testified that the competitive aspect of ARPA Profiles is important. “The competition is healthy. I sense a strong spirit of unity amongst the school clubs and chapters. They’re sharing updates with each other and encouraging each other to compete.”

“I held signs up for an hour, and got a lot of waves and honks.” – Mya V, Immanuel Christian in Winnipeg

I asked Kanis how he would respond to those who think that people should be active without needing points or prizes. “At the level and caliber that the students on the platform are doing action, they are to be doing it for the heart of the mission,” he answered. “If you were just participating in the competition for the points, and for the prize, at the end of the day those with heart will win. It is great to award and acknowledge those people who go above and beyond in being a faithful Christian witness.”

Active like never before

But is all of this just an exception to the general rule that Christians aren’t very engaged in politics or culture? Hoogerdyk respectfully challenged those who think this way. “Based on my experience, there continues to be an increase in the number of people engaging with politics.” He proceeded to give examples.

“First, more people are praying. This is evident in prayer matters brought up in church services, messages from people letting us know they regularly pray for ARPA’s work, and ARPA’s prayer calendar. Second, more people are staying informed and taking action. They’re participating in grassroots activities, supporting our chapters and clubs, and contributing financially.”

And the involvement goes deeper too. “There are numerous constituency associations with good Reformed Christian representation, including some who are presidents of these associations.”

The contest closes mid-May, and readers can get plugged into ARPA’s weekly Quick Update videos, newsletter, or social media to find out which individual or school makes the podium. But it likely doesn’t end there. Kanis is hoping that they can build on the success next year. “I am tremendously thankful for the uptake that the ARPA supporters have shown in the open reception of this new system. I am thankful for their patience as this first year was sure to have some hiccups. I hope it can be a blessing to many others, and that those who may not have heard about ARPA Profiles can sign up and be encouraged with just how much action is happening across Canada!”

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