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

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).




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!


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


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.

Great Expectations

By Sylvia Dickson


YES! I grew up in the South.Georgia with cup

My parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, teachers, and neighbors were all on the same page when it came to how a child should behave. My Southern upbringing was about respect, helping out, getting along, hospitality, and church.

When we were raising our own children, my husband and I were on the same page, and had some of the privileges of family, community and church that I had. Those stabilizing forces helped in teaching the values we wanted our children to have…and expected them to have.


Cowboys copySo, what does that have to do with French Camp Academy?


French Camp Academy is a community where young people can learn about the values that come from living in a Christ-centered culture. Those values that make getting along easier are consistent with Christ’s teaching.


Our young people find consistent expectations. Just as DSC_0048we teach reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic, we teach them kindness, patience, generosity, forgiveness, and loyalty.


How do we do this? More than any way, we live it out before them. Then we practice with them by going to the nursing home, cleaning the house of a neighbor, or taking food to someone who is ill.


What a joy it is when they initiate the help; when they spend time with someone who is sad; when they become the teacher to younger students; when they ask forgiveness from someone.


Sissys workcrewYes, we have great expectations, but not impossible expectations. We train young people to love their neighbor as themselves and pray for God to change their hearts permanently. And, we never expect from them what we don’t expect from ourselves.




 By Erin Ulerich

Two boys sharing(133)

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.