Jesus first saw Zacchaeus in a tree, so the Biblical account goes. But, for the students at Southview Christian School in Burnsville, their first experience with Zacchaeus was a little more grounded: they met him in the school gym.
Zacchaeus is a miniature donkey who travels with his companions, Charles and Marjorie Brown. A retired Seventh-day Adventist minister, Brown now dedicates his time to visiting schools with Zacchaeus and presenting a conflict-management program called “Don’t Let Conflict Make a Donkey Out of You.”
The Sept. 20 visit to Southview Christian School was part of Zacchaeus’ national tour in September and November.
According to Brown, the message of the assembly is to teach children to respond to conflict using Jesus’ principles rather than attacking or escaping.
“Because of the involvement of the donkey,” Brown said, “the children will remember what we discussed for a long time.”
“I was expecting him to be smaller,” said Jason, a sixth-grader.
“I was expecting him to be bigger!” added Ezra, a third-grader.
Though his size was in dispute, the students agreed, Zacchaeus was cool.
Ezra began, “He could pick up a basket...”
Samantha, a first-grader, added, “but you had to get it fast before he started to chew it!”
Though the tricks and games with Zacchaeus were a highlight, the students were most impressed with the message Zacchaeus and Brown shared.
“He came to tell us about peacemaking and to be nice to one another,” said Ezra.
Mary, a second grader, added, “We learned to be respectful and not fight.”
“And when you are mad at people, you can say ‘sorry,’ ” interjected Enoch, a second-grade student.
The students at Southview Christian School believe the message of making peace and resolving conflict is essential not only for life at school, but also beyond the school yard.
“Words can lead people to doing bad things, so you have to be kind,” Jason said.
Zacchaeus’ visit and the conflict-management program seem to have hit the mark with the school’s students as evidenced by Ezra’s summary: “When you treat others good, you will be treated good as well. You have to be patient with others. And you can pass it down through the generations so the whole world will be kind if we keep passing it down. Kids just want others to treat them as special.”
“I am always looking for new ways to teach our students how to be kind and respectful to each other,” said Rayleen Hansen, Southview Christian School principal. “Besides making their childhood years happier, we want our students to grow up to be adults who know how to get along with others in kind and respectful ways.”
Southview Christian School was founded in 1996 as a ministry of the Southview Seventh-day Adventist Church. The accredited K-8 school is dedicated to providing “Christian Education with Academic Excellence” for students of all denominations and races.
For more information visit www.scsmn.org or call 952-898-2727.