Jordan’s Journey to French Camp Academy

How did you learn about French Camp Academy? When I was 14 years old and in the 8th grade, I came to school at French Camp Academy as a residential student.  It was kind of a tough time.  I lived with my mom previously and had just gotten out of her house.  My mom was on a lot of drugs and she was an alcoholic, so most of the time I was left at the house alone.  I learned how to fend for myself at a young age.  I remember coming home and her not being there, because she worked a 4:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. job.  And she wasn’t there when I woke up in the mornings.  She would leave work and go hang out with her friends. I was just by myself.  I turned to drugs and alcohol.  That was all I knew.  She was my influence; she was what I had. 

My cousin came here before I did and told me about French Camp.  I came the summer before my 8th grade year and really fell in love with everything that French Camp was. 

What has it been like living in a student home? While at FCA, I have had 4 sets of house parents with each having different parenting styles. It was a blessing to have been exposed to different ways of teaching and essentially “raising” us. It has been especially sweet to have that motherly and fatherly love come from those who are not your real family. I have loved having the opportunity to have been loved by these wonderful people. 

What about academically? All the teachers are great. They really love their job, and you can tell.  A lot of students look at our teachers as mentors.  One of the great things about our teachers is they are so intentional.  They are encouraging and caring, and they really give and feed into your life spiritually.  They want to spend time with you.  They want to be there for you and that is something that is unique about French Camp.  And that speaks volumes.

What do you like about French Camp? Spiritually it is the people, or God’s Church. Each person at FCA has brought something valuable to the table. It is exactly what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12. We are the body composed of many parts. It is a blessing to have seen that lived out. God has used so many people in my life and to help me spiritually. I am sure God will use me, if he has not already, to speak to others as well.

If you could summarize in your own words, what would you say? French Camp is such a special place. Once you have learned the routine and you lean into that, you want to be here.  You take what French Camp offers and you run with it.  You are given the opportunity of learning social interaction.  You are put here not by your parents, not by your guardians, but by God.  And He has done so many amazing things through me and through other people for me, and French Camp.

French Camp is a loving, huge home full of friends and family that you are never going to forget. Ever. And that’s why I love French Camp.

Jordan is a senior at French Camp Academy making plans to join the Navy after graduation. To see and hear Jordan’s full testimony of God’s grace go to

Family Dinners

Many of us remember enjoying family meals in childhood.  It was the one meal during the day when we could come together to talk about life and the happenings of the day over a good home-cooked meal.  Mom and dad reminded us about the necessity of manners, good conversation, and being thankful for God’s bounty.

At French Camp Academy, we know that enjoying family meals together has lots of benefits. The relationships formed over meals are invaluable. Research seems to suggest that kids who enjoy family meals up to three times a week have better grades at school and physical health. 

Tonight, as you sit down to enjoy a meal with your family, pray for the house parents at French Camp Academy. Every evening around 5:00 p.m., you can count on them leading their family of children or teenagers in prayer, good food, and meaningful fellowship.

Perhaps you have a favorite family recipe that you would like to share with French Camp house parents.  Take a moment to write it out and send it to French Camp Academy, One Fine Place, French Camp, MS, 39745.  We would love to share your family memory with those who are beginning new traditions with the young people within our care.

Psalm 31 for 31 Days

Psalm 31 was written by David, a man after God’s own heart. French Camp Academy is asking for you to join us for the next 31 days in prayer using Psalm 31 as a guide. Every day, read through this beautiful psalm, meditate on its rich promises, and marvel and be encouraged by the One True God who will deliver His people.

Pray for FCA house parents and support staff as they work together upgrading its homes and buildings. Pray for teachers as they create alternative forms of educating their students, meeting their needs in just the right ways. Pray for our leadership as they guide us during this unprecedented time. Pray for our students. Pray for protection and strength to endure the weeks and months to come, trusting God’s sovereign hand and loving heart.

Anything but Typical

Arrowwood 2012 July (15)

by Sarah Arrowood

A day in the life of a house parent at French Camp Academy is anything but typical! There are currently 11 boys living in our home, but that number will fluctuate during the school year so there’s always someone learning the ropes.
Bright and early each day, I start cooking breakfast at 5 a.m. All the guys slowly meander into the kitchen to eat at 6 a.m. Each young man has house duty in the morning to keep our house looking good. Jobs such as washing the dishes, emptying trash, cleaning bathrooms, dusting, and vacuuming happen before school each day. We all meet for devotions at 7 a.m. and then head off to school at 7:20 a.m.

Like most house parents, my husband and I have other responsibilities outside of the home. We work in the dining hall here on campus as well as manage the campus pantry. Other house parents teach or work in other campus ministries.

Steve Arrowood
We usually arrive home around 1 or 2 p.m. and begin getting ready for all those sweaty, smiling guys to arrive at 3 p.m. They are home just long enough to grab a snack, change clothes, and head off to sports or work crew which lasts until 5 p.m. When they get back home, we head down to the dining hall for supper.
After supper we have a chance to have some fun. Some nights we may go to the pool or lake, or we may just hang out at the house playing games and making music. Scheduled phone calls from home are closely monitored to ensure everyone gets an opportunity to speak to family.

The showers and laundry start around 7:30 p.m. because everyone has study hall at 8:00 p.m. Study hall time can be very trying. The typical “But I don’t have any homework!”, “I’m hungry, I need a snack.”, and don’t forget the, “My teacher never explained this.” can be heard coming from at least half of the rooms. All will be addressed before bedtime at 9:00 p.m. After an intense day the boys are usually out cold by 9:30 p.m. After praying over our boys, my husband and I may sit and chat awhile about the day’s events, but we typically head to bed soon because it all starts again at 5 a.m. in the morning!
On Saturday mornings students have work crew from 9 a.m. until noon. After lunch in the dining hall there are planned activities for all students. Saturday and Sunday evening meals are family meals in the house. Sundays find us in church worshiping together as a family and eating lunch family style in the dining hall.
Steve and Sarah Arrowood are serving their eighth year as Day Home Houseparents.

There and back again: A trail from boyhood to manhood

By Kevin O’Brien

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“Silver on the Sage, starlit skies above, aspen covered hills, country that I love…”, thus the stage was set for one of the greatest adventures in a young man’s life. These few words, from the opening line of the Philmont Hymn, say it all. In Scouts, attending Philmont National Scout Ranch is considered the pinnacle of experiences in Scouting. For a Scout, it is like going to the Olympic Games.

Philmont began in 1938 as the Philturn Rocky Mountain Scout Camp, and was later renamed, Philmont National Scout Ranch. It covers 140,000 acres of rugged mountain wilderness in the Sangre De Cristo range of the Rocky Mountains in northwestern New Mexico. Worth noting – the only documented Tyrannosaurus rex footprint in the world is found on the property of Philmont- it was discovered within the camp’s boundaries in 1993 and was formally identified and recognized in 1994.

These are the things dreams are made of, and for 8 young men of French Camp’s local BSA Troop 109, this dream became a reality this recent summer. Thanks to the generosity of faithful friends and the fund-raising efforts of the participants, the crew recently embarked on a memorable adventure to the Philmont National Scout Ranch.

The crew consisted of eight FCA students. They were led by Crew Chief Julian Kay, Wilderness Guide Ian Carmichael and spiritual leadership by Chaplain’s Assistant Cody McGary. The crew was rounded out by scouts Eli Arrowood, Bradley McCoy, Eric McKinney, Toby Perkins, Anderson Ulerich, and adult leadership, Steve Arrowood, Michael McCoy, Stephen Ulerich and Scoutmaster Kevin O’Brien. They embarked on this epic journey on July 13, 2019 and headed west for two weeks.

The trip was divided into the Pre-Trip and the Hike which consisted of a 42-mile hike over 7 days and elevation changes from 6000 feet to 11,000 feet. The pre-trip was designed to allow the young men the opportunity to acclimate to the difference in altitude between French Camp, MS (Elevation 441 feet) and Cimarron, NM (Elevation 6,500 feet), and then on to their final destination, the surrounding mountains which exceed 12,000 feet in height. The first few stops included camping in Oklahoma, Amarillo, TX and a visit to the Cadillac Ranch. This stop had the added adventure of dinner at the Big Texan Steak House where one of the scouts attempted the 72-ounce steak challenge with all the trimmings.

Their final stop before heading to Philmont, was a few days in Colorado Springs for altitude adjustment and sightseeing. The boys began with a horseback ride though the Garden of the Gods, a red rock sandstone formation created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line which occurred before recorded history. We got the pleasure of reuniting with Troop 109 Alumni, Eagle Scout, and FCA Graduate (2011), James Senyard who resides in Colorado Springs and joined us for the adventure. This was followed the next day by a visit to the United States Air Force Academy. On average, ten percent of the cadets of the Air Force Academy are Eagle Scouts.
Another side adventure for the crew was whitewater rafting and zip-lining on the Royal Gorge, followed by a train ride up the same gorge a few days later. And last, but not least in this pre trip agenda, was a tour to the top of Pike’s Peak (Elevation 14,440 feet). After a busy week in Colorado Springs our crew headed to Cimarron for The Hike!

It takes planning and training before you can hike 42 miles with 40 lbs. pack on your back. They did work-up hikes to prepare themselves, which included a twenty-mile round trip hike to Jeff Busby  and a 15-mile Hike at Savage Gulf National Park, outside of Chattanooga TN, all with the intention of preparing for the big hike at Philmont. They also planned hikes and worked out independently to get into shape.
Once at Philmont, the hiking started, with the young men taking control of the orienteering and meals. Crew Chief Julian Kay guided the group to our first campsite at the base of Arrowhead Mountain and acclimated to the weight on our backs at this altitude. One of the first things the guys had to learn was how to secure our food and “smellables” each night in a bear bag since we were in bear country. Each day of hiking was accompanied by reminders from Ian Carmichael of our civic duty to keep the areas we hiked and camped in pristine condition and unmarked for generations to come. Additionally, our Chaplain’s Aide, Cody McGary led devotions of thankfulness each day to remind us about the gift of God’s creation that we were getting the privilege to enjoy.
Each night found us in a canopy of trees surrounded by a sea of stars as we camped in God’s outdoor cathedral. Each day gave us new opportunities to witness God’s creation up close and personal. Every new day tested our endurance and ability to work as a team relying on God to see us through the difficult hikes.

Our Campsites included Cimarroncito (Elevation 8156 feet) where we participated in Rock Climbing (and cribbage), Cypher’s Mine (Elevation 9367 feet; circa 1936) and introduced the crew to primitive mining techniques and blacksmithing. We then went to Black Mountain Camp (Elevation 10,889 feet; circa 1866), a post civil war encampment teaching black powder rifle shooting and the art of espionage while recovering important papers! Hiking up Black Mountain was one of our biggest challenges. The trails up the mountain were 30-40-degree grades and the switchbacks were so numerous that we thought we’d never reach the top. When we finally hiked down from Black Mountain to the Tooth of Time (Elevation 9003 feet) we breathed a sigh of relief as we camped our last night on the trail at Tooth of Time Ridge. From there it was a leisure hike back into the base camp on the following Friday.

Looking back over the two-week adventure, I watched boys who doubted their ability to hike any further dig deep and find the strength to persevere. No one endures hiking this trail without being changed. We returned to French Camp better men. The troop walked away with a tremendous feeling of gratefulness for what we had been given. We experienced God’s creation in a whole new way and were able to see the awesomeness of His power as the storms swept across the plains below us as we hiked the ridgeline of the mountains. We experienced a hailstorm at 11,000 feet and forged rivers as we made our way along our chartered path. We had the pleasure of witnessing long horn sheep, deer and wild turkeys running through our campsites as we prepared our evening meals. We left French Camp as 12 individuals and we returned as a tight-knit band of brothers! This trip created memories we will never forget.

Big New Plans for Council House Café

The Council House Café is a popular spot on the Natchez Trace Parkway for many travelers and local residents.  Its reputation for delicious sandwiches and soups is known and enjoyed by people from all over the world.  “I’m sure George Richey of Carrollton, MS who donated the logs back in 1967 never imagined the impact his gift was going to make,” says Lance Ragsdale, Vice President of Development at French Camp Academy.

For the past year a plan has steadily been shaping this historic space to become bigger and better.  The original building that we know as the Council House Café will remain the same and become available for group events.  The new space will be connected to the Huffman Log Cabin Gift Shop providing an expanded dining room space accented by a large indoor fireplace.  A large deck with an outdoor fireplace will also be a new space for guests to enjoy a meal under the shady oak tree.  Along with the dining areas, an expanded menu is also in the works.  The new commercial grade kitchen will provide our café staff opportunity to create tasty new items on the menu to complement most of the old favorites.

Expect the new Council House Café to be ready by Labor Day 2019.  And if you want to learn more about the French Camp Historic Village, please log on to

Mid South Star Gaze and Astronomy Conference

Rainwater Observatory is gearing up for its annual Midsouth Stargaze and Astronomy Conference April 3-6, 2019. This event attracts amateur and professional astronomers from around the country. It is held under one of the few remaining dark skies in the southeastern United States and just off the beautiful Natchez Trace Parkway near the village of French Camp, Mississippi. Join us this year for fun, fellowship, observing and fascinating presentations by professional astronomers and others such as galaxy researcher, Dr. William Keel from the University of Alabama, astrophotographer-retired “Hurricane Hunter” Jon Talbot and much more!


Daytime activities include solar viewing, fascinating presentations and workshops by professional research astronomers, and good food with a healthy dose of tall tales. Nights will be spent viewing the heavens through a variety of telescopes, space photography, eating, visiting, and watching the sunrise.

This year we have a special opportunity as Jon Talbot will present an astrophotography workshop on Thursday April 4, 2019 from 10:00am-4:00pm with a break for lunch. This workshop will cover the fundamentals of taking raw data and making a color image out of it using PixInsight.


We have a large camping area with a pavilion, picnic tables, amphitheater, men’s and women’s showers and bathrooms, WIFI access, all new electrical outlets on the hill and camp area, 14 bed air-conditioned bunk house, four new grills and five campfire pit areas with surround seating as well as other camping areas around the observatory hill. There is a Bed and Breakfast, Council House Cafe, Lodge, Memphis Guest House and other additional lodging located within a mile of the observatory. Register soon to ensure your choice of lodging.

W-O-R-K-I-N-G it out at French Camp Academy

For many “W-O-R-K” is not a word to be embraced.  Some do anything they can to avoid it.  Others go to other extremes and exhaust themselves to enjoy the better things in life.  Others, out of necessity and circumstances, work several jobs just to put food on the table.  It can produce life-altering stress and physical issues.


Work wasn’t meant to be a chore in the beginning.  You know the story.  God gave Adam and Eve some land. The soil was perfect! The fruit from their labor was satisfying.  Work was good, and life had meaning!  And then it happened!  Sin entered the workplace.  Weeds shot up.  Life got complicated quickly.


Genesis 3:17-18…after the First Couple took a bite from the forbidden fruit, God told them some really bad news. In short, He said the ground is cursed because of you. You will struggle to make a living. And all your life you will struggle to make a living from it.  It will grow thorns and thistles for you.


Ouch!  Work today isn’t what God planned for us, is it?  But God gives LOTS of grace and wants us to work out a proper perspective of work.  Most French Camp Academy young people who come out of a culture demanding us to make bucket piles of money fast.  And the message is clear: YOU come first.  Look out for number ONE.


French Camp strives to teach a different model of viewing work, because we believe a perspective shaped by God’s Word can transform a life and generations to follow.


  • Every afternoon Monday–Friday and Saturday mornings young people 7th –12th grades are assigned to work coordinators. If you visit our campus during those hours throughout the week, you will notice young people accomplishing and learning different tasks.  Photography, weed eating, retail, writing thank you notes to FCA supporters, cleaning offices, answering telephones, operating a back-hoe, and a host of other activities provide opportunities for adults to teach young people life skills and develop habits of working every day.


  • As FCA students enter their Junior year of their academic program, French Camp’s Life Coaching program kicks into high gear. Students learn about their unique God-given strengths, their passions in life, natural abilities, personality characteristics, and life experiences.  Monthly mentoring meetings and classroom instructions help students shape a life purpose catapulting them into the future by laying out a track they can run on for life after high school.


Sound biblical teaching supports all of our work we do with young people ensuring that a Christ-focused world view shapes their lives.  The work program at FCA is designed to point our students into career paths, teach them a Christian work ethic, develop skills and enhance talents, and ultimately serve others as they follow their God-given calling in life.


Five Nights of Prayer

Would you make time to pray for us in October?  The first 5 nights in October we are encouraging our ministry partners to stand with us in fervent prayer for the following:

Night One:             FCA students have multiple needs based on life situations. Pray for perseverance as they each address challenges, reach for new life goals, and take guided steps that will change the trajectory of their lives.

a-girls-in-church-1Night Two:            Pray for FCA House parents who work daily with the ones in their care.  Eleven sets of parents from all around the country are called to meet the emotional, physical, social, and spiritual needs of young people.

Night Three:          FCA Family Ministry kicked-off last year by providing life-changing retreats, counseling, and resources for families of our young people.  Pray that God would use this targeted ministry to re-adjust marriages and families.

Night Four:            The FCA Life Coaching program pairs staff with students Boy prayinglooking to start the next phase of their lives.  These students need career direction, a clear understanding of their gifts and abilities, and someone to walk through goals to get them across the finish line and set-up for the next phase of their lives. Pray for over 60 adults who are serving as Life Coaches and the senior students being mentored by them.

Night Five:            Counseling plays a major role in our program to children and teenagers.  Some need a little, others need a lot, and a few none at all.  Pray that our counselors will have discernment and godly wisdom as they lead our youngsters through the bumps and bruises of their lives and allow healing to begin.