Friday, February 6, 2015

The Day We Turned the Corner

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.  The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." - James 5:16

The product you see at Hickory Christian Academy in 2015 is still very much a work in progress.  But for those who have been around the school for a long time, the progress we have made over the past two decades is nothing short of amazing.  It is so easy to go through the ease of the daily routine today and forget the trials and sacrifices that got us there.  I suppose that is somewhat true in any successful organization that started from grass roots, but since HCA is the one I have been assigned, it is the only one I can speak of from experience. 

Last week, we had the privilege of hosting an accreditation team from the Association of Classical Christian Schools.  We have been building toward this moment for quite some time, and trying to judge when we would be ready to take the plunge.  We finally bit the bullet last year, and began the 18 month process, which culminated in this team visit. 

One of the requirements was to arrange a dinner meeting between the HCA School Board and the ACCS Accreditation team, which was held last Wednesday evening.  It was a lovely occasion, with great food and fellowship, followed by a question and answer time.  The first question that was asked to our board members was, "Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you became involved with Hickory Christian Academy."

Each member took turns recalling their time at HCA.  For most, it began as an interest in finding "something better for my child", going through the standard interview process, getting involved by volunteering time in the classroom or in athletics, seeing a difference in their child's life, then becoming a member of the board.  Several of the answers were accompanied by tears, including some of the men (sorry guys!).  I know the impact that HCA has had on my family and my children, but to hear a group of people, whom I greatly admire, share from the heart how their families have been affected by HCA, was so refreshing and encouraging to me. 

One story in particular, however, stood out to us all.  In the spring of 2002, HCA was in its 7th year of existence.  We had added grades each year since the founding in 1995, and that year had 8th graders as our oldest students.  The job before us was daunting to say the least.  We needed to create a high school.  What we quickly found out was that the curriculum, availability of quality faculty, scheduling logistics, parental expectations, and raw expenses for high school are on a whole other level than what we were accustomed to.  We had committees and passionate people in key positions as we planned for this addition, but the enormity of the task was so much more than expected. 

In addition to the complexity of the process was the fact that we were already struggling with available space and finances in our young school.  Back then, we held board meetings almost every week to hold things together.  Our board room was in the main hallway of the educational wing of Highland Baptist Church, just across from their small chapel. One evening, our board chairman, Gene Modlin (currently serving his third term), arrived at the meeting with a discouraged look on his face.  He said that he just wasn't sure if we could pull this off, and that maybe we should just consider stopping at 8th least for now.  He was displaying what we were all feeling.  None of us had created a school before, and everyone was wondering if we had gotten in over our heads.  Young people's futures were at stake, and we didn't want to risk them.  As we looked around the room at one another, Gene suggested that we go into the chapel to pray. 

This was not your typical "God is great, God is good" type prayer, in which we often find ourselves going through the motions, prior to any type of Christian get-together.  We all opened our Bibles, found passages of scripture where God told His people to trust Him and to obey Him, and read them out loud.  Then each of us laid face down on the floor (prostrate) to cry out to God (literally crying).  For two hours, we prayed, sang, read scripture, and wept.  It was the most amazing time of Christian humility before the Lord that I have ever been a part of.  And when we were finished, we all were able to look at one another with confidence and say that God has clearly told us to press on.  His answer was clear.

Thirteen years later, we are still pressing on, and reaping the benefits of that special night.  It was the moment that defined everything moving forward.  I would be lying if I told you that there were no problems after that date, or if I claimed that we have since "arrived" in ANY area of school success.  However, what I can say definitively is that this was the day when I truly believed that God was going to do something special here.  It was the day when He reminded me that our battle is not against flesh and blood, and that He knew the plans He had for us, even if we were unsure.  It was the day when I decided to allow His voice to be louder than all those that were tormenting me inside my own head.  The Lord is a God of great strength and promises.  Words like, "The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed." (Deut. 31:8), brought such peace and eager anticipation to each of us that day. 

Today, the school is in much better shape financially, academically, and structurally.  It is easy for us to rest in "our" success, and to forget the spiritual war that was fought to get us to this point.  Therefore, I was so excited when God recently reminded me of that special night with not only this accreditation dinner conversation, but also through a music lesson to our youngest students. 

About three weeks ago, Mrs. Johncock was teaching music to our 1st - 3rd graders.  She had introduced the hymn, "All hail the power of Jesus' name" to the students, which contains a lot of older words that we don't use that much anymore (royal diadem, sacred throng, etc.), so she was taking time to help them understand what they were singing.  The first few lines of that particular hymn go like this:

All hail the power of Jesus' name!
let angels prostrate fall;
bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown him Lord of all.

As they reviewed these words, Mrs. Johncock had these very young children physically represent what it means for angels to fall prostrate before Jesus.  The room was full of little kids stretched out, face down, singing "All hail the power of Jesus' name!".  I wasn't there in the classroom, but I saw a picture later that day, and was instantly reminded of how blessed I have been to have worked with adults for 14 years who are willing to lay prostrate before the Lord, and to see that that spiritual humility is still being promoted to our students today. 

These "angels" are falling prostrate before Jesus

As excited as we all were to receive full accreditation this week, it pales in comparison to the spiritual legacy that is being laid in the hearts and minds of our children by so many faithful servants of God.  We are truly blessed.