A PLACE OF RENEWAL

by Sylvia Dicksongirls with plant

There is a certain beauty to the winter landscape: stark silhouettes of bare branches brushing against a gray sky, empty fields bathed in crisp, winter sunlight, nippy mornings coated with glittering frost. However, what we truly long for, after waking in the early dark of winter, is to throw open our windows and feel warm spring breezes brushing away the sleep from our eyes.

Spring is a time of renewal. Daffodils spring from brown turf, trees dress up in spring green, the urge to fly a kite or plant a garden takes hold. We long to freshen up and fix up. Out with the old and in with the new.

daffodilsAnd so it goes, year after year. Our souls, bodies, and all of creation long for renewal. So many years of frustration and futility! How long will it last?

At French Camp Academy we see firsthand the ravages of sin and the bondage to decay. Students come to us from families fractured or destroyed by sin. They come to us looking for a place of renewal.

Why Renewal?boys and wisteria

In God’s Word, we see that even though Adam’s stomach was full, his purpose in life defined, his success certain, he wanted more.

When Adam and Eve broke the only commandment their Creator had given, they received a horrible shock. No longer could life be lived free from fear, pain, and destruction. A new law went into effect with the immediate verdict, “Guilty. Condemned to Die.”

The Beginning of Renewala-another-boy-in-church

Redemption and renewal are themes that guide French Camp Academy. We live out lives renewed in Christ before our young people, showing them “… there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

We tell them that even though mother ora-boy-painting father may have deserted them, God will not. We tell them that Jesus Christ came to free them from sin and give them new life: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3: 19).

The Work of Renewal

House parents and Historic area personnel work with students to reveal God’s plan for renewal. Teachers, coaches, work directors, radio personnel, all work at chipping away the chains of sin.a-girl-with-horse-web

In the afternoons and on Saturdays, you can see students and staff working on different projects. Horses must be fed, the bed and breakfast freshened for visitors, and the conference center readied for the next group. WFCA trains students in broadcasting. At Rainwater Observatory, students learn how to work telescopes and help with astronomy programs.tennis-player

Every aspect of FCA contributes to the accomplishment of our mission of being a Christ-centered home and school, serving young people and families for the glory of God.

Effects of Renewal

Lives built on the certainty of God’s redemptive work become stable, fruitful, and fulfilled. Hope takes root and enlivens minds and hearts. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (I Cor. 5: 17).katy-octavious-farida

The cords of sin and evil that so easily entangled thoughts and emotions are slowly unraveled and tossed into the flames. The stagnant water of sorrow is drained and lives are refilled with fresh water. Grins replace groans, direction replaces destruction, clear minds replace cloudy thinking.

Sometimes the renewal takes place quickly, sometimes slowly. But all around us we see God renewing lives at French Camp Academy.

‘Tis the Season

aa-at-bat-smallBy Sylvia Dickson

The crowd watched as the batter stepped up to the plate. On the first pitch, he took a hefty swing at the ball—and missed. Strike one. The second and third pitches were called balls. Then a strike and another ball. The next pitch would be the final one for this batter.

The anticipation rose. Would he strike out, baseball-triowalk, or send the ball soaring into left field for a base run?

Just as in a game of baseball, our work with young people at FCA is full of anticipation, cheering, and let downs. What is most important though, is the strength and encouragement we get from God’s Word, knowing that He is calling all the plays, and we’re all in it together.

Down for the countDSC_6489

How are we doing? What is our record at FCA? To answer these questions, we asked some of our students, past and present:

    The Lord used so many staff members to show me what a young, Christ-like lady should look  like. For my entire high school career, I was prayed for and invested in.

    I know I am loved here. I don’t have to worry about providing my own food or wonder who will take me to the doctor.boy-with-bat

    I can be a child again.

    Staff members patiently worked with me on my anger and helped me learn better ways of relating.

    When I mess up, I have to have consequences. But they are not angry, abusive consequences. Actually, they are helpful, and I am forgiven.

In baseball, boxing, and basketball—you win some and you lose some. Not so at FCA. All of our students are winners. In their struggles to overcome the hard things and their efforts to change harmful attitudes and behaviors, we see God’s grace at work in each life.juliette-s-blonde

And the Winner Is

When a young person leaves FCA, he takes a solid, healthy knowledge that Christ offers hope, peace and strength that cannot be found in the world. From our perspective, that is winning. Transforming lives through the redemptive work of Christ is our focus. God’s plan is for us to Keep our eyes on the ball and trust Him.

Do we always hit a home run? No. Most of our hits are base runs or walks, with some strike-outs thrown in. However, we know we are on the right team—that God has picked each student and staff member by His grace to be here so that He can accomplish His plans for our lives

From the Heart of a Child

by Karen Cates, FCA staff memberracing-car-boy

I am always looking for opportunities to share nuggets of truth with the students and invest God’s Word into their lives so it will accomplish that which God has purposed and desired (Isaiah 55:11). The unexpected and awesome twist is how much these children speak truth back into my life.

The Pain
Somehow I pulled my lower back and was suffering from sciatic nerve pain. Then my grandchildren were with me for a few days. Without thinking, I lifted the walker with the baby in it, hurting my back even more. I am certainly not young anymore. As my husband jokingly reminds me, the ole gray mare ain’t what she used to be.horse

The next morning I stretched my muscles and took some medication before taking one of the boys to an appointment. It was difficult to get in the tall vehicle. I let out a sigh of frustration. The young man asked what was wrong and I simply told him my back was still hurting and it was hard to get comfortable.brown-eyed-boy

The Prayer
He immediately began to pray aloud.  Dear Jesus, please touch Mrs. Cates’ back and heal it. Make the pain go away so she will feel better. In Jesus Name, Amen.

As I listened my own prayer went up: Father, you have told us we must come to you with the innocence and faith of a child. Your heart is for these little ones and I ask, for the sake of your Name, please show this child You hear his prayers. My pain is insignificant, but the building of his faith is for eternity.karen-cates

The Praise
We got to Starkville and I got out of the vehicle and walked to the door and I realized there was no pain. I moved, stretched, reached up, squatted and exclaimed—God heard you!

He looked at me questioning, What!

He healed my back! It doesn’t hurt anymore. I can move!

How?! He exclaimed.

I don’t know. He’s God! He can do anything! I answered.emmaline

The Purpose
As I contemplated all this on our way home, I thought how easy it is to just take a pill, complain, live through it, call a friend, and then, maybe, ask God to do something.

Through faith, this child’s first response was to pray. It was automatic and as natural as breathing. How my heart was convicted. Why isn’t that my first response?

DSC_0872Had I not just written a devotion on the presence of God in our lives from Daniel 10? When we get up every morning, are we like Daniel in that we fall on our face with no strength or desire of our own, overwhelmed by the presence within us, worshipping with no thought of our own until He picks us up and orders our day for us?

Oh, what conviction! When I fail to acknowledge that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is ever present, do I mourn? Do I just rush through the day pushing Him aside for the worldly demands and fleshly desires of my own will? Am I like the nation of Israel with a divided heart?”1boy & girl with ball

The Promise
God used the heart and faith of a child to remind me of my neglect. He is all I need. If we do not live this in front of those He has entrusted to our care for this short time, how will we be able to share hope for hurting hearts?

French Camp is definitely a place of hope and healing, not only for our children. God continues to daily teach and strengthen those He has called that we may demonstrate: I have a hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, therefore I have hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him (Lamentations 3:21-25).

fca-logo-for-web--02329c-blue-bkgn

 

Know My Anxious Thoughts

charlotte-angelby Sylvia Dickson

Many of our students were involved in a Christmas play at the church. It illustrated how God changes hearts and how important looking beyond the surface is.

Nobody performed perfectly. Mistakes were made, lines dropped, and scenes disrupted. But everyone applauded, and thanked the actors for their performances. arista-with-baby

In this play about love and forgiveness, we ALL were living it out in our relationships with each other that night. Some of the students were upset about forgetting a line or two. Others came on stage at the wrong time—or forgot to enter. It was organized chaos at times.

I, being the director, tried to keep a close eye on things, but I couldn’t keep up with it all. (Fortunately, I had 3 assistants who were also keeping up). Corralling 22 youngsters helped me refocus on how dependent I am on God’s attention to my life.

God doesn’t have to keep up. Every day is written by Him and executed perfectly: brettAll the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). God knows when I sit and when I rise (v. 2). He knows my thoughts before I think them. When I make a mistake, He’s there to show how even that works according to His plan.

Our play, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson, was a hit. Family members and friends smothered their favorite actors with hugs and accolades of praise. To cap things off, parents decorated and hosted the cast party, where more kudos were handed out.

It was all great fun and the slathering on of love smoothed over any mistakes made. In my nighttime prayer, I thanked God for His unbelievable love and forgiveness that He made possible through Jesus, His Son. I also prayed, aristaSearch me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (vs. 23,24).

Our young people learned a lot about themselves and others and about God as we went through the process of putting on a play. Being faithful to the lives where God has placed us, loving each other, and forgiving one another are some of the important lessons this group was exposed to. Now we just hope that they will transfer those lessons to real life.

I believe they will!

4-ladies

A Glorious Task

dsc_1144By Stefani Carmichael 

One February day in 2013 I arrived in French Camp for the first time. My husband, children and I had driven along the Natchez Trace. The trees glittered with icicles and snow, an uncommon sight in Mississippi. The small town greeted us with log cabins and children making snow men and throwing snow balls. We had an awe-filled first impression.

That summer we returned to French Camp with a U-Haul. We were moving in to become dorm parents to teenage girls. God had placed a burden on our hearts to help in whatever way we could.

You might think that as time wore on, my impression of French Camp would be less awe-filled.grace-payton

After all, reality quickly set in. Trying to love and help up to 16 teenage girls in addition to your own family comes with a unique set of challenges and difficulties that most people could not imagine.

Year two of the job was even harder as I walked through a difficult pregnancy. My morning-noon-and-night sickness came on at the smell of any food (or other substances like trees, lotion, and baby powder). It made cooking for my hoard incredibly difficult, and so did the fatigue that set in later.

boys-with-christmas-propsI have watched house parents around me bombarded with medical problems, surgeries, and various other struggles plod away still caring for those in their charge, as if we were not already caring for those who have been beaten and broken in the world, watching those far too young face their share of troubles.

This year I have watched new house parents come and see both the captivating first impressions, and the stark realities of the job. Yet they voiced something quickly that I think we all have felt. Sitting in houseparent meeting one of them said, “We thought we were coming to help them, we didn’t know we were coming for us.”shea-at-lunch

Because somehow, this place really does help all of us. But it is not the place itself that helps us.

We were reminded recently by Edwin Faughn at Rainwater Observatory as my girls and I stared in amazement at the vast night sky, French Camp is only a dot. It is a dot in Mississippi, which is a tiny state in the United States, which is a country in this world, which is orbiting around just one of the stars in this vast universe.

DSC_0864This location is not what helps us. But, in this location are so many people indwelt by the Spirit of the Living God whose glory is declared by the vast heavens he created. As we all come together here and take off our masks, we see ourselves and each other as we truly are.

In this tiny town of French Camp, many lives have been changed. God has changed children’s lives, but he has also changed ours. He has shown us just like he showed Gideon that sometimes we need to face a battle where the enemy far outnumbers us so that we can see that God is the one who brings the victory. girl-in-glasses

How big is your God? If we must carry everything ourselves, then the weight of our problems is far too great and crushes us. But we don’t have to carry everything ourselves. If we look at everything from a different perspective, we realize the size of our problems compared to the size of the God who made this universe and we have hope. Because that God can handle our problems. He gives us hope, working His awe in us and healing both children and house parents alike.

An Open Letter to the Christian High School Student

Written by an FCA student in August, 2016028

It’s that time of year again. When social media is bombarded with the traditional “first day” pictures. Nerves are strung out, backpacks are full, and, if you’re a student at FCA, the task of trying to remember that dreaded name tag every day for a week is in full swing. School starting can be one of the most stressful times of the year for parents and students alike.

But as school starts to settle into our daily routine, one thing keeps popping up in my mind–it’s okay to be different. As a teenage believer, it is HARD to be a light anywhere, let alone school. There is so much darkness. But Jesus calls us to be lights, even in the darkest of places. And for some, school seems to be one of those dark places.dsc_0164

Now I know what you’re thinking. “How is school a dark place for you? You go to a Christian school for crying out loud.” And you’re right. I do. I go to a Christ-centered school where Jesus is taught day in and day out. But that doesn’t mean those 8 hours are perfect. Not everyone at FCA is a believer. And that is okay. Because it’s our job to point them to Christ and influence them in such a way as to make them wonder–who is this God they speak of? Who is this God of second chances? Who is this man who takes me as I am and loves me despite my brokenness?alexis

You see, Christian, French Camp Academy is a unique place. As soon as I walk into those double doors every morning at 7:40, I step onto a HUGE mission field. Every year kids come from across the country who are hurting. Some have never experienced love, what a Godly family looks like, or who Jesus is. A lot of these kids are yearning for a second chance. An opportunity to start over.

emma-with-marcusAnd FCA offers just that. French Camp is a personal school that seeks to encourage growth–academically, spiritually, and socially–in the lives of young people, all existing for the glory of God. That’s our opportunity to be that love. Even if they don’t agree with or think less of us because of the testimony we lay out.

On a totally different topic, we all know that Sometimes kids can just be mean. And the same is true at FCA. it’s everywhere. Countless times I have received comments about being a “God person” or a “rule follower” from people who don’t necessarily consider themselves as such. I use to get so upset about it. I tried fitting in with the other crowds but that of course brought no satisfaction. Because Jesus doesn’t call us to be like everyone else. He calls us to be different. And I’ve learned that.a _DSC9331 copy

It’s okay if people don’t understand why you choose to read your bible during your free time rather than talk about all the “fun” they had that weekend. It’s okay if people make comments about you. It’s okay if you have to walk away to get away from all of the profanity and crude conversation. Because we aren’t here to please men. We’re here to glorify our Maker in everything we do. (Galatians 1:10).

I’ve even had people make rude comments about scripture written on my notebooks and inside my locker. And yes it’s upsetting. But what’s awesome is the fact that we can use those opportunities to share that scripture and it’s meaning to that person. Maybe they need to hear just what that verse says.girl-carrying-lamp

This world needs leaders who are willing to be lights in the darkness. People who won’t give in to the pressures of society. But people who will dare to be different for the sake of the name of Jesus.

The whole point of this spill is as simple as this: when people laugh at you, and when people look at you funny in the hallways because of who you serve, just remind yourself that it’s okay. Jesus never promised that life would be easy. In fact, he promised that we would have trouble. But he also promised that he would never let go of our hand. He has already overcome sin, death and hell. And nothing can ever snatch us out of his hand.

Be a leader of light in your school. Don’t be discouraged by the darkness. Rather, continue to be love despite any circumstance you might be in. “Bear your cross as you wait for your crown.” 

Reposted from mygoodforhisglory, Aug 8, 2016

Storms

By Sylvia Dickson

a blond boyI stood at my living room window and watched the storm clouds roll in. Dark gray clouds piled on top of one another and rolled across the sky, pushed by an invisible hand. Lightning flashed, illuminating the heavy drops of rain as the pummeled the driveway and all around. The rush of the water as it fell was both comforting and frightening.

For some people storms come too often in life. Each day is clouded by an event that washes away their joy. Ask someone who has just had a bad experience, How’s your day going? More often than not the answer will be something like terrible, awful, or some other negative description.kaitlyn-at-window-copy

I’ve done it. We all have done it, probably. Letting the storms rule will dim the light of Christ or block it out completely. Keeping in mind God’s truth can lessen the effect of our trials and difficulties.

Sometimes one of our students will be really grumpy and feel like his whole world is crashing in. Here’s how our conversation might go:boy-at-computer

Hey, Bill. How are things? I ask.

Bad, really bad.

What’s wrong? You don’t feel well? Something happen? I ask.

He answers, I just had a math test. I hate math. I probably failed it. I’ll have to go to tutoring, and can’t go to the game, and fail my sophomore year…

mckenzieWait, wait, wait! I exclaim. Take a breath and sit down. Tell me about your computer class.

Bill perks right up. Computer’s awesome!. I’m the top student on keyboarding, and the design software is amazing, and my teacher gives me extra projects…

I respond: So, you’re going to let one thing in your day ruin your whole day? And you don’t even know if you did poorly on your test. Even if you have to go to tutoring, can’t that help you? Your life is not over and not even your day is ruined. You just think part of your day is ruined. OK?boys-with-basketball

Bill sighs and says, OK. I guess you’re right…Ahh, there’s Greg. Gotta’ go…Hey, Greg! Wait!…Oh yeah, thanks, Mrs. D.

Whew! Storms come and go, but as Lil’ Orphan Annie sang, The sun will come out tomorrow…”

 

Philippians 4:6-7—Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.