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!

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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.

Three girls and a dog

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Hatchala Chadashot – A New Beginning

by Holly Bol

Bol in IsraelI recently had the opportunity to travel to Israel. When I came back the question most asked of me was, “What was your favorite part of going to Israel?”

There are many memories that I love and will always cherish. Walking where Jesus walked definitely brought the Bible to life for me. But my favorite event was going on a boat out on the Sea of Galilee. The further out we went, the stronger it got… The feeling of Strength.     Power.      Awe. Israel.pngThe further from the shore we drove, the more intense the feeling became until I could not handle it anymore. The tears just started streaming. I had sunglasses on, so I leaned over the rail and looked out on the sea to hide the fact that I was crying. Why did I hide? Because if someone asked me why I was crying, I could not tell them. I did not know why. All I knew was that this intense power was seeping into me. Consuming me. Overwhelming me. And yet, I liked it.  pottery bird and girl

I did not want this feeling to end. I wanted to stay out on the Sea all day, soaking in this feeling. This feeling that I had never experienced before. This feeling that I could not describe, yet seemed to fulfill an unknown longing within me.

The captain cut off the engine, and we just sat. Drifting. Taking it all in. It was beautiful. I stopped tearing, wiped my face, and looked back toward the boat. Two men were on their knees, almost sobbing. Three other men were standing along the rail doing the same thing I had just been doing – they too were leaning over the rail to hide the tears that I could see rolling down their cheeks. 

1boy on horseSomething was happening. It wasn’t just me. It was Him. His Spirit was moving. Out here, on His Sea. He was moving. I did not want this feeling to go away. I thanked Him for the gift of His presence. I asked Him to keep that memory alive and vivid in my mind. My heart. My soul.

 He gave me new eyes that day. Eyes to see new things, new hopes, new beginnings. Many of our students come to FCA, seeking a fresh start. No matter their past or their background, they are given just that–A new beginning. 4 together

As you enter this New Year, may you too, accept Hatchala Chadashot. The gift of A New Beginning.fca-new logo

 

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.

Keoni & pizza

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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Got ‘Cha

By Sylvia Dickson

The young man had been busily raking leaves into a large pile. As he worked he sang boy rakingMy God Is an Awesome God using each stroke of the rake to keep time. He caught my shadow out of the corner of his eye and turned to look at me with a startled expression.

“Hey,” I said. “I like the way you’re working, and the singing, too.”

“Uhhh, thank you,” he replied.

I could tell he was somewhat embarrassed so I said, “Keep up the good work,” and turned to leave. As I walked away I could hear him again start working and singing.

Got’cha!girls with plant

It’s great to catch someone doing well. It’s great to say encouraging words. And, it’s great to tell other people about it.

Each evening in the FCA dining hall we have a time of announcements, scripture, and prayer. Part of this includes our own version of “tweeting.” Quick snippets of recognition for doing a job well or going the extra mile are announced. Or, projects are pointed out: take a look at the beautiful new flower bed that Nancy and Felicia helped Mrs. N with; the guys at Taylor Home helped clean up elderly Mr. P’s house.

Work crew at Buddy & Barbara's webAnd so it goes.

Got’cha.

The French Camp work program was started in the 1950’s by Sam Patterson, FCA president. He knew the value of work superseded the physical result. The moral effect of a job well done and recognition for it permeates and transforms a person’s self-view. It even can transform his world view.

Let’s look at one student. Let’s say he arrived at FCA feeling worthless and ashamed. No one expected him to do anything worthwhile. His grades were bad and his behavior was ruled by anger and fear.sorghum mill

Let’s say he’s assigned to the grounds work crew. At first he knows nothing about taking care of things, much less serving others. At first his mowing leaves streaks in the lawn and his weed eater always jams. But his work supervisor teaches him how to mow, use the weed eater, check the oil, clean, and properly store the equipment.

After a while, he looks at the well-mown lawn, edged sidewalks, and manicured flowerbeds with pride. What started out as drudgery has turned to delight, and his supervisor gives him a great big Attaboy.

Susan copyGot’cha.

Now he can point to something he has accomplished and has an awareness that he can do something right and good. So, what else might he do? Maybe he can do better in school. Maybe he can control his temper. Maybe, just maybe, he can help someone else.

Maybe one day he can say, Got’cha, to another student doing something well.

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.

Bless Their Hearts

by Sylvia Dickson

Teaching and Training: Boys Growing Into Men

The transformation was quick. A quiet afternoon suddenly shattered around her as boisterous boys shouted their arrival home from school. Mrs. Boys’ Dorm Mom met the onslaught with hugs, laughter, and snacks.

Across campus, a gaggle of girls raced to their rooms to unload their backpacks, hurrying back to tell about their day (classes, tests, friendship crises) and dive into their snacks. Mrs. Girls’ Dorm Mom was ready to serve and feed them, emotionally as well as physically.

FCA brings smiles to girls.

Later that evening, dorm moms and dads gathered their “children” for a devotion and prayer. Afterwards was the time of delay before bedtime. Bless their hearts….no racing, skipping or shouting as they headed to bed. Feet dragging down the hall; I need some water; I’m not sleepy; etc.

An uncertain peace settled over the campus of French Camp Academy. Which child would emerge from his room to talk through painful times, looking for reassurance and value. Would someone quietly tug on an arm and ask, “Why hasn’t my mom called?” Or, maybe we’ll hear, “I just wanted to tell you I love you.”

God placed in our hearts a profound need to be loved and valued. That need can only be filled by God through Jesus Christ. After filling our need, we are given the joyful opportunity of pointing others to Christ—of blessing hearts for eternity.

girl thinking about healing

Bless their hearts, O Lord, we pray.  Keep them safe, both night and day.  Guide them, Jesus, through the night,  And wake them with the morning light.

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