PAA Students Experience Scripture Through Wisdom Journals

May 24, 2017 | Education | Liesl Vistaunet

“This week has been stressful,” says Ally Anunciado, a Portland Adventist Academy (PAA) senior. “I have a test that is really worrying me. But I’ve been planning a hike with friends and thinking about it reminds me that soon I’ll get to be in God’s creation. That’s why I drew this.” She shows a simple but beautiful drawing featuring a quote from John Muir about retreating to the mountains.

Every Wednesday, and in every PAA Bible class, pens, pencils, paints and brushes are made available to students along with their very own "wisdom journals." Some students doodle aimlessly, some replicate a picture found online, some take notes or write, and others sit quietly, all while listening to selected passages of the Bible playing over the classroom stereo.

While visual creation is the face of wisdom journaling, listening to God’s Word is its heart.

“Listening is a lost art,” says PAA Bible teacher Stephen Lundquist, reflecting on why PAA Bible teachers developed the curriculum. “We wanted all of our students to hear God’s Word. We calculated that if we spent one class period per week listening to Scripture over their four years of high school, they would hear nearly the entire Bible.”

To emphasize quality over quantity, the teachers also built in question-and-answer time. “Students have appreciated the time to grapple with passages that are difficult to understand,” says Lundquist.

“When I read the Bible, I sometimes have trouble understanding it,” says Anunciado. “But I’ve noticed that by listening to the Bible I hear things I haven’t heard before. We get to actually talk about those things.”

Recent research has confirmed that doodling can improve attention and memory. “Art actually helps students connect and express what they perceive and what they learn,” says Mark Kooy, PAA art teacher. “It teaches visual language skills. And beyond that, it helps them see themselves as children created in the image of their Creator.”

“I love that our wisdom journals are just between us and God,” says Samantha Torgersen, PAA junior. “It gives us a little freedom in the day. It lets me completely be myself with God.”

Lundquist says wisdom journals also help the teachers to understand their students. “Several times each school year, I look through their journals,” he says. “This gives me valuable insights into their spiritual journeys. It is our hope that students will keep these journals forever as a lasting record of their spiritual journey during their high school years.”

Not only do many students keep their PAA-era journals, but some continue the practice long after they leave PAA.

“I keep it up because it's my way of receiving words from God and writing down what He wants me to hear,” says Sophie Bailey, a 2015 PAA graduate. “It has greatly increased the amount of time I spend with God. Because of my journaling, I now spend time in devotion to God every day.”

“After my years at PAA,” says former student Jordan Skinner, “I was faced with many difficult decisions. I recognized that writing to God was the primary way I could communicate with Him without having to battle the distractions that sometimes appeared when I prayed out loud. The more I would journal, the closer I felt to Jesus and the more I felt like He was my Best Friend, rather than a distant and far-away God.”

“All these years later, I still can't wait to write to Jesus every day!” says Skinner. “When something exciting happens, I write it in my journal. When I'm stressed, struggling or I'm battling temptations, Jesus receives my letters.”

“Wisdom journals give me relief from the stress of my week,” says Anunciado, who is facing her final weeks of high school. “I get to listen and reflect and then let out my thoughts and feelings to God. That’s what I love about this.”

For more on this story, visit PAA's website.