An Alumna Speaks Out

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by Michaela Parker

As a student living in the area, I experienced French Camp Academy differently than people who live in the homes. FCA may have been  the place where I attended high school, but it was so much more than that.  I received a great education, but more importantly, I was cared for, loved, encouraged, and pointed to Christ.

I graduated in 2013 with a grand total of 28 classmates.  Having such a small class was so much fun because I was able to know and befriend everyone in my class.Allie Pendleton on air (3) copy I loved the small school scene and decided to further my education at Mississippi College. I graduated in 2016 with a degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations and journalism.

In high school, I was the girl everyone tried their hardest to avoid. Why? Because I was on the yearbook staff. I constantly carried my camera with me to events and school hoping to get that perfect picture. I served on staff for all four years. Most of my time after school was spent at WFCA Radio where I worked all four years of high school. That opportunity was one like none other, and sitting behind a microphone is where I discovered my love for communications.aaaMexico group

Mission trips were a big part of my high school experience. FCA is  unique in that it gives students the opportunity to participate in mission trips to Mexico, New York, Texas, and Wales. For three consecutive years, I served on mission teams to Fort Worth, Texas and aaa Mexico Mission Wales. Most young people are not given the opportunity to serve on a mission team until college. Because I had that opportunity while in high school, it helped me build my foundation on Christ and gave me a heart for the lost during my teenage years.

I will always value the staff members at FCA. During my four years in high school, I developed so many relationships that are still in my life today. They were influential figures to me as a teenager, and now as a young adult, they are great friends to me. I felt comfortable enough to discuss different challenges I was facing, and I expected to receive wisdom in return – which I always did. Even now, I know that I can go to them with anything and they will help me in the blink of an eye.jocelyn-hannah-o-with-camera

The love, encouragement, and support that was so graciously bestowed upon me while at FCA was very beneficial in my life. 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. Even though I did not live on campus, they still took the time to invest in students like myself. I can’t properly express my gratitude to them for being some of the most intentional and genuine people I’ve ever met.boy contemplating

The one thing that I love and value the most about FCA is the commitment to giving students a solid foundation built on Biblical principles. The Lord’s teachings are interwoven in the lessons taught in the classroom. Each year, I took a different academic class that was built around the Christ’s teachings and principles. Two of my favorite courses were Christian Family Living and Christian Worldview, both which I took during my senior year. The information that I learned in those classes I still apply to my life today. Defending my faith and recognizing healthy, Christ-centered relationships were two things that I had to deal with while in college, and FCA helped me with both of those.a-cassidy-reading-to-marcus

FCA is not like any other place I’ve ever experienced. I’ve seen so many people be changed for the better, I being one of them. The love that I have for FCA has only grown as the years have gone by. Even though my time as a student has come and gone, I am still a part of FCA through frequent visits, and most importantly, through prayer.

The Lord has tremendously blessed this ministry and the young people who come into FCA’s care, and I am confident that His faithfulness will be evident in the years to come.a-3-girls-in-church

They say that French Camp Academy is “One Fine Place.” Well, they say that because it’s true. A place as special as this can only come straight from the Lord, which in my books, makes FCA one fine place.

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Impressions

 By Erin Ulerich

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The day really was going well with my two little ones. My kids had napped well, snacked well, and were excited about going to swim. My husband, Stephen, and I got to the pool, 2011 Summer School 084wrestled the floating devices onto the kids and finally got into the water. We introduced ourselves to a new staff family and their children, met several students from one of our girls’ dorms and were ready to play with the kids in the water.

Then it happened.

My children went bad. Rotten in a heartbeat. I can’t remember exactly what they were doing, except that they were definitely not obeying.  And in a crowded swimming pool, obedience and safety are synonymous.DSC_0018

My husband and I gave each other the “time to go” look. We told the kids that we were leaving because they were not obeying, and in response they launched into total meltdown mode. Screaming, wailing…you get the picture.

Stephen and I got the kids into the van, put them in their car seats kicking and wailing, looked at each other, shook our heads, and started laughing.

2011 Summer School 090As we drove home I said. “I’m sure we made quite an impression.”

A few days later, one of the dorm parents told me that my children’s meltdown had been the subject of some discussion in her dorm. As I hung my head, she assured me that her girls had been unphased by the meltdown. Our reaction is what grabbed their attention because it was very different from what they were used to seeing.

Life at French Camp Academy definitely resembles a fish bowl. The staff and students are DSC_0038around each other constantly. Those of us with small children give the students many opportunities to see the good, bad, and ugly sides of parenting. Really, it is good, because relationships form as we do life elbow to elbow.

As these relationships form, the impressions go both ways.

As I get to know our students, and know even a fraction of their stories, I am constantly impressed. Impressed that they are Dylangetting out of bed each day, going to school, looking forward to their future. Impressed that the same young man or young lady who was abandoned by their parents would have the courage to allow other adults into their lives.  Impressed by the student who is determined to be the first in their family to graduate high school, or go to college. Impressed that they want to do life differently than they were shown at home.

Staff/student relationships are vital to the ministry here at FCA because within these relationships walls come down and stories come out. Every student and every staff member come to FCA with a story and, for a time, their stories include French Camp Academy.Hannah O, Victoria, Monica M

Some students begin a brand new chapter in their lives here. Others may be here for a paragraph, or a few sentences. But while they are here, they hear truth that we trust will bear fruit in their lives. And while they are at FCA, we will learn from each other, meltdowns and all.

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A Race Worth Running

by Sylvia Dickson

They pressed in on one another at the starting line, waiting for the second when theyKids run1 yellow rose copy could burst forth and begin the race.

And they’re off! Zooming past me in a whir, I see looks of intensity on each face, the excitement and energy pushing each runner onward.

A few minute later, I begin to see runners headed to the finish line, making each arm pump and leg stride count. Some are definitely loosing speed while others are stretching to win.

boy with shoeA few are having to overcome unforeseen obstacles, but their spirit is good. Others, having completed the race, rush back to encourage friends to keep on going. Still others are being carried across the finish line.

What a sight! The Kids’ Run at Camp of the Rising Son’s annual Run for the Son was the highlight of my day. Their Making the effort was enough to fill my emotional bucket, much less the delight the runners showed at being a part of the event.

Something Wonderful

Isn’t it wonderful to be part of something big and good? One of our seniors told me how much she enjoyed being part of the drama productions. She said, Even though I was backstage, I loved being part of something good.grad2

God’s kingdom is big and good. That God loves us and gave His Son so our sins could be forgiven fills my emotional bucket forever. Not only that, His race is worth running because the prize at the end is perfect.

goofy runner In It Together

We are not alone. Many others have run the race, laying aside whatever hinders, focusing on the goal, and helping others along the way. Now it is our turn. We are the runners and the encouragers.

How do we encourage? We tell our young people at FCA to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Romans 12:2a). We are here to strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed (Romans 12:12-13).

CheersHigh Jump

French Camp Academy is preparing young people to run the race well. We show them the track, make them aware of the obstacles, nurture them with good spiritual food, give them the tools they need, and we run alongside them, cheering them on the way. Sometimes they out run us (Yea!), and other times we pick them up and carry them until they can run on their own.

Our strength comes from Jesus who has finished the race and is sitting at the right hand of the Father. We know that He will carry us through and the race will have been worth it.

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Everything’s Coming Up Roses?

By Sylvia Dickson

The box blade dug into theDYlan bending over crop lawn, removing the green grass and revealing deep, rich, brown soil underneath. The smell of freshly turned earth brought back memories of youth and running barefoot…of digging into flowerbeds for worms that would be forfeited (hopefully) to the hungry mouth of a bass in my grandmother’s pond.

My brothers and sister and I played softball in the front yard, or dribbled the basketball on the dirt court under the goal. Nothing fancy, just designated spaces for fun and games. But mother’s rose bushes were off limits, and we respected that. (Also, the thorns were not very pleasant).boy with bat

We could see those roses from our breakfast room, where we ate most of our meals. When they bloomed we would oooh and aaah at how pretty they were. And since this was before hybrids had taken away the sweet aromas, we could inhale the heavenly scents as we passed by. Carefully cutting them and placing them into vases was a special treat. Simple and sweet.

Many of our young people at French Camp have not known the simple fun of childhood…they have not known childhood. They have lived in places where innocence and wonder were tucked out of sight.

I think of one group of students who came to Rose Laura Bush copy2 copyFCA many years ago—in the 1980’s. One of them recently married and is serving the Lord. When he came to us he was 4 years old, not old enough for kindergarten. He and his brothers, along with other children, came from the inner city of New York City. Their childhoods had been spent in apartments, on sidewalks, and on building stoops. Places where no grass grew, much less roses.

On the drive they had exclaimed about the trees, deer, streams, and sounds of the birds. When they arrived at our beautiful campus they were filled with wonder and awe because they could see grass…touch the grass…smell the grass…roll in the grass.Hayden with grass stains

The flowers Miss M grew in her garden soon filled grubby little hands and were brought joyfully to her. She graciously placed these love offerings into Mason jars, vases, and tin cans. For this little boy and his group, everything was coming up roses. The wonder and innocence of childhood was being renewed.

running hardWhat about other children whose childhoods are shattered? Can the shards be put back together?

YES! These lives will always be scarred and scratched, but they can be renewed. These precious vases can be mended to hold the delicate and aromatic beauty of roses through the kindness of God, lived out through His people.

We’ve seen God’s work at French Camp Academy for over 130 years.girls hugging He takes the broken pieces of lives in His hands and restores them with loving patience. Through the hands and hearts of other broken vessels, He pours His spirit into precious children. He placed them here and He lives here in His people in order to mend the broken jars that will hold the roses of His grace.

Everything IS coming up roses!

Transforming Hearts

by Sylvia Dickson

Hannah O, Victoria, Monica MWhen young men and women come to French Camp Academy, they can expect the love of Christ to be lived out.

Some come with hearts soft and willing to change. Others are hardened by circumstances, choices, and hurt. To train our young people spiritually we open the Word of God to them in the home, at school and in church. We pray for the Holy Spirit to mold them to the image of Christ. We live out Christ’s love with them.

Connecting Hearts Drivin' 'round

Relationships are probably the most important aspect in life for young people. Many of them arrive having only experienced bad relationships. So, showing them what good relationships are all about is very important. Home, the classroom, work, sports and activities–these are all platforms for modeling healthy relationships.

blue 5What do they see?–married couples and families loving, forgiving and cheering each other on; single staff respecting each other and living by Godly standards; coaches patiently guiding teams to play and live by a high standard of conduct; work supervisors teaching good work ethics and skills that spill over into other areas of life; teachers offering help after school so students have a better hope of success.

Revealing Hearts

Each year we conduct interviews with our seniors. They tell us what they think about FCA. Here are some of their comments:

I have a good foundation for further study…I am closer to God since coming to FCA…taught how to view the world, how to live life…Before FCA I didn’t graduation 1care about living the Christian life…Being at FCA has been life changing: I’m seriously considering mission work for my future…Staff care about you personally…The people at FCA want to see me succeed…CFL (Christian Family Living) and Bible have taught me to walk with Christ and never give up (or in)…Teachers make extra efforts to help…I can go to the staff for advice…FCA has shown me God’s word more clearly…I’ve learned how to help others, and like it…I have developed a good work ethic and learned some practical skills in the work program…FCA is a great place to build a foundation and figure things out…FCA pushes you to do your best.

Sharing Hearts

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What happens at French Camp DOES NOT stay at French Camp. The teaching, training, loving, encouraging has a lasting effect on our young people. We see hearts changed and young people standing firm on the solid rock of Christ Jesus. And when they step on sandy soil that shifts under their feet, we are praying for them to stand firm. When they leave us, we are on Facebook, twitter, the telephone, and e-mail still cheering them on to stand firm.

 

Each student, current or alumnus, has a special place in our hearts. As French Camp Academy works to transform hearts—to stand firm in Christ—for eternity—we never give up.

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ADVENT-ure

By Sylvia DicksonMoriah Christmas copy

‘Tis the season when all is merry and bright. Christmas is a-comin’. Our lives are filled with anticipation for a joyous ho-ho-holiday.

Ann Marie & LeilaniIs this our only view, this memorial to the advent of the Messiah? For the Christian, this is a time of remembering when Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, took on flesh. The Creator of the universe took on the created form, ultimately to die and pay for our sins. How sweet and how bitter!

This ADVENT-ure began when the only thing that existed was God. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created all things and set history in motion. The mysterious workings of the omnipotent, omniscient God is out of reach for my mind. How God ordained before the beginning of time that a Savior would need to redeem the world is far beyond my little pea-brain’s understanding.

Go Into All the World                                                                                                    The Advent—the coming of Christ. SHoebox SUnday 2015

Christ came so we could know the love of God and celebrate His glory.

Christ will come again so that we will participate in God’s love and glory.

In the meantime, the adventure of sharing the gospel continues. Neighbors and co-workers, friends, strangers, and family are on the journey to eternity and we have the joy of giving them Christ.

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Students at French Camp Academy come from all over the world. God has brought them here to speak to them about His love, deliverance from sin and shame, the truth of the Bible, and saving faith in Christ Jesus.

When we go into our student homes, we are going into all the world. Russia, Romania, Ethiopia, Mexico, South Sudan, the USA, and probably other countries are represented here. God has brought each young person here so that The Advent might become their Advent-ure.

Unwrapping the Presence of Christ                                                                         Celebrating Christmas the American way is festive with presents, opening presentfeasting, parties, decorations, and Christmas trees. Celebrating the Advent of Christ is a joyfully humble, peaceful, and grateful presentation of ourselves—not at the manger, but at the cross.

Sharing the presence of Christ at Christmas is much more meaningful and lasting than any other presents. I encourage you to carry the light of Christ to each holiday gathering this year. Shower grace and glory that will last when the tinsel and glitter are gone.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Life                                                             And pray for us as Advent leads us to Easter when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, the Son of God made flesh.

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Milestones

by Erin Ulerich

The graduation invitation came in the mail, mixed with bills and sales papers, as if it were an ordinary piece of paper, as if it didn’t carry the weight of a decade. When I Dylanopened the envelope memories rushed in. The invitation was from a student that came to French Camp Academy our first year on staff.

We were new to French Camp, with an 18 month old and an infant. My husband, Stephen, was training to become the Plant and Property Manager and decided to sub for a Junior High boys’ dorm one night a week.

3 boysOne of the boys in that dorm took special delight in aggravating my husband, especially during study hall, when all was supposed to be calm and quiet.

“Remember, you’re the adult. He’s the kid.” I would try to encourage Stephen when he called to let me know how the evening was going.

Over the years, the aggravating turned into friendly sparring and settled into friendship. This boy, now a young man, is graduating from college, with eyes toward graduate school.

Yes, the significance of that invitation stretches across the years.

This looks like fun copyWeeks later another invitation arrived. This one was a wedding invitation from a young lady that came to FCA during High School. I smiled, remembering her first year here. For a semester she and another student helped me each afternoon after school. At that point, I had a 2 year old, a 1 year old and a baby on the way. I remember listening to the girls talk one afternoon as they helped me chop carrots for baby food.

“I want kids one day, but I don’t really want a husband.”

“Yeah, I know.” The other student nodded. “I just want to give my attention to my kids and not have to worry about a man.”

As I got to know the girls, I learned that both of them were being raised by single momsgraduation 1 and had no relationship with their dads. Any man that came into the picture was seen as a competitor, diverting their mom’s attention. This was their “normal.” They had never seen a marriage in action.

But this young lady stayed at French Camp throughout her high school years and got to know some of the families here and see husbands and wives working together as a team. And now, after graduating from college, she is enthusiastically choosing marriage.

These milestones remind me that students come to FCA and over the years, they really do grow up. While they are here they are surrounded by adults who sincerely want to see them succeed. The staff are here primarily because they want to point students to DSC_0872the hope of life found in Christ. A by-product of that is showing them how that hope transforms and guides all aspects of life. This can’t be done through programs or lectures. It is done through living side by side on our small campus, through seasons of both aggravation and relationship building.

It is an honor to celebrate these milestones, knowing that they represent years of choices these students made to change the “normal” of their life experiences. They are building a beautiful legacy for their future families and we are here to cheer them on.