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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Priceless

By Sylvia Dickson

 Our seniors have graduated with pomp, circumstance, and joy. The closing of this chapter in their lives mandated the tossing of hats in the air, hundreds of hugs and congratulations.

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CharlotteFor the past several years I have helped conduct our Senior Exit Interviews. This is their opportunity to give us a report card. Each area is rated and commented on: home, school, sports, activities, and work. All, except for a couple, gave us an A.

The prevailing comment in all areas was that we care. What does that look like? We want them to succeed. We spend time with students; we listen to them; we tutor; we know their names; we follow up; and, we provide a safe, welcoming community—a family atmosphere.

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God entrusted these young people to us for a season. Now He has opened new chapters in their lives, continuing their stories. We pray for them; we have high hopes and trust they will remember the many priceless things they have learned at FCA—mainly, that each one is priceless in God’s eyes.

One of the Proverbs says that we are to train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. We have countless alumni contact us, or come back to campus and tell us that the scriptures, the Christian role models, the healthy emotional and spiritual input have shaped their lives. Things they learned in Bible classes, Christian Worldview and Christian Family Living still speak truth in their lives today.joe-richards-boy

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 Our students are very important people. God made a place called French Camp Academy, and made a place for each young person who comes here. They are part of the hidden treasures and’ riches stored in secret places* God is calling us to value, cherish, and prepare for His kingdom.face-painting

These young people are precious. We tell them that. We give them High Fives and Atta’ Boys for jobs well done. When correction is needed we tell them, You’re too precious to act like that. When they are sad, we tell them God is always with you and will never leave you alone. When they are anxious or confused we pray with them and tell them, God knows you inside and out and will answer you, because He loves you.

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*Isaiah 45:3

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!

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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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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!

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.

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a poem by Holly M. Bol, FCA staff member

Child, what are you holding on to? Child, I want to know. 1grace in purple hatChild I want you to tell Me. And then, I want you to let it go.

Set it down. Walk away. My precious child.

Don’t you know your name?

Your name is Free. Forgiven. Chosen and Divine.

1boy & girl with ballChild, your name is Holy, Pure, Precious.

And You’re Mine.

Your name is Called.

Oh yes, that’s true. I’m calling Your name.

I’m calling You!

So rise up my child. Come to Me.

Rise up my child.

I have set you Free! 1students  (5) copy

To walk in the light and not the shadow of shame.

To stand up tall.

Now break off those chains the bondage, destruction, dark and despair.

They no longer hold you, I have freed you from there.

1boy on horseYou are worth it.

You are mighty.

You are blessed and redeemed.

Precious and Holy, Pure and Clean.

So answer my call.

Hear my voice.

I’m calling your name.

You have a choice to come running to Me. Please, don’t run away.

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In the shadow of My wing Is where you’re welcome to stay.

I am your protector, Your Father, Your comforter, and friend.

I am your champion, supporter, Everlasting, end to end.

I am your guardian, Your strength, Your warrior, and your might.

I am Your sun your moon Your day and your night.

1Kate copyaI am your white your black, All colors between.

I am the most brilliant of pictures.

I am the unseen.

I am your story, your song,

I am where you belong.

I am your Father, your God, your Savior, and friend.

I am your everything–that is who I am.

Alpha, Omega, Beginning, and End.

So child again I ask what are you carrying? 1guy holding young girl

It’s too big for you. Will you consider sharing?

Hand it to me, I’ll take good care.

Hand it to me, now take a rest over there Under that shady spot–the one under my wing.

Take a nap and over you, I will sing.

For my child is back. My child is home.

This Father is rejoicing because you’re no longer alone.

Come to me, child.

Just come to me.

Come to me, child.

I will set you free