Doubling Our Blessings

DSC_1566Courtney Collins has come full circle; from once being a member of a student work crew to now leading her own work crew as Manager of Double Blessings Thrift Store. As a former student, Courtney enjoyed being part of a Christian community so when she married her husband Craig, who serves as the pianist at French Camp Baptist Church, it was only natural to inquire about positions available to her on campus.

Even though it has been challenging for her to step into an adult role at FCA, Courtney has made several innovative improvements at Double Blessings including a new computer system, operating an eBay store for donated items, and social media advertising. Recently she coordinated with Kosciusko Walmart to receive a donation of round clothing racks and three days of volunteer labor. While the makeover isn’t complete, store items are organized and visible making shopping pleasant.

Courtney isn’t the only one adjusting to a new role. Cindy Cox was Courtney’s dorm parent while she was a student and is now her supervisor at Double Blessings. “She’s grown in her decision-making ability and she’s growing daily in her walk with the Lord”, Cindy said fondly.

Working alongside a work crew allows our staff the opportunity to spend time connecting with students on a personal level. Recently Courtney was asked by a student to attend a mother daughter event as a mentor. She has a unique connection with the students to be able to talk with them about their current struggles and they know she’s been in their shoes.

Courtney glows when talking about the work crew. “The best part of my day is when the work crew comes in each afternoon. Getting to know the kids and learning them as individuals is very rewarding. The Lord has provided me an opportunity to become a role model for students.”

 

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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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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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FCA: Different in the Best Way

by Stephen Korpi, FCA teacher/coach

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Before coming to FCA, I taught in several public schools in TN. I am now going into my 3rd year on staff at FCA. I started out as activities director and JH math teacher and then began coaching basketball and tennis my 2nd year.

I truly enjoy teaching and coaching my students. One of the greatest changes in teaching at FCA from public school is that I am not only allowed to tell the Gospel of Christ, but encouraged to do it each lesson. One of the highlights of my day is the privilege of doing devotions with my students each class and practice. This is what I love most about my job.

Watkins runningAnother thing different about teaching here is that you are better able to build relationships with the students. At public schools you might see them one hour in a day and never again, but here you live in their world.

I have found that when you are able to build relationships with students, it is then that you can really mentor them—and they will listen to you! I am learning to have fun with the students and laugh with them more, and when the serious times come, I am able to be used of God and speak Truth into their lives.

A complete new thing here to me is the way discipline is done. I have never seen Drivin' 'round copydiscipline done in such a loving way. It is done in love, truly for the interest of the student to grow them into a person of good character. God loves those He disciplines. Through the close, caring, godly relationships of the staff and students, the students see that we want the best for them.

Another difference from teaching in a public school is I am blessed to be surrounded with a Christian staff. I am so thankful to know I have coworkers praying with and for me. I’ve never had a better administration— leaders who love and mentor me. I am so thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow in my faith just by watching and living with more mature Christians around me as they allow themselves to be used of God.

Katy, Octavious, Farida copyAnother thing about staff and students living as neighbors, is you always have ministry opportunities available. When I feel the slightest bit bored or lonely, I head to the guys’ side of campus and hang out with the students. The kids love it when staff will get out and play games with them—and I am thankful that I am young enough to enjoy it! I am able to do things I love and minister at the same time—basketball, tennis, swimming, frisbee, biking, table tennis, etc.

Many times I feel like I am the one who is being blessed by being here. It is One Fine Place.

For information of admissions, policies, and how you can partner with FCA, contact Lance Ragsdale at (662) 547-6482, or visit our website, www.frenchcamp.org.

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This Is Really Something

by Sylvia Dickson

Young men and women find a stable home, healthy atmosphere, loving guidance, quality academics, and wholesome activities at French Camp Academy.

Young men and women find a stable home, healthy atmosphere, loving guidance, quality academics, and wholesome activities at French Camp Academy.

Let me tell you a story that is really something, and is the heart of FCA’s mission: making a difference in lives–sometimes in small ways, and other times in huge ways. Read on to see how one life (out of many) is being changed by the love of Christ through French Camp Academy.

Jake* is ten years old and repeating the third grade. He knows his dad but can’t remember the last time he saw him. At home, he had to find food to eat, set his own bedtime, get himself off to school, and do his schoolwork on his own. He and his mom had been living without water and electricity for several months when concerned people intervened.

He had close to nothing when he arrived at FCA. What he had was dirty or beyond repair. His house parent went to Double Blessings Thrift Shop and was able to outfit him completely from donations people had made to FCA.

At the dining hall, he asked if he had to pay. When he learned he would have free food—even seconds—morning, noon, and night, he jumped up and down.

For the first time in his life, Jake is being a boy without worrying about having a roof over his head or food on the table.

Now, he has help with school work and is catching up. When he comes home he rides a bike or shoots hoops with the other boys. At night, he has lights to turn out and clean sheets on his own bed.

*Jake is not his real name

Successful Living

BoyScoutsBy Sylvia Dickson

The Kindergarten teacher welcomed her new class with a bright smile. After the class was seated, she asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” One after another the children answered: fireman, nurse, doctor, wife, daddy, teacher.

And the list went on. Each set his sights on success, and each was encouraged to work hard and do his best.

Tools for Success

Most of us want to make sure our children have everything they need, get a good education, marry well, get a good job with a retirement plan, and are happy.

So, how do we fall short of those goals? We tell each other, “You can be anything you want to be.”  But where do we get the tools for success?

To ensure truly successful living, we must be fully equipped through God’s Word.

Moving Up?

Recently, Charles Stanley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA, pointed out, “As the nation has moved away from biblical principles, we have seen an increase in divorce, drug abuse, suicide, depression, teen pregnancy, and selfishness. Ethical compromise and greed have resulted in financial instability. Instead of basing decisions on God’s truth, we tend to act according to personal preference or popular opinion.”

And yes, it seems to be true. Successful living, according to worldly wisdom, is mainly about self and keeping up with the Jones’. As Willie Nelson aptly said in his song “Luckenbach Texas,”  

This successful life we’re living’s, Got us feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys …  We’ve been so busy keeping up with the Jones, Four-car garage and we’re still building on. Maybe it’s time we got back to the basics of love. 

But even that statement to can lead to emptiness, unless we look to God’s perfect love.

Truth or Consequences

The only sure way to success is to live by God’s Word. Godly wisdom says that to be successful we are to …clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12). His Word tells us that if we want to be first, we must be last, the way to greatness is through service, and to be rich we must be generous.

As we teach and train our students at French Camp Academy, we tell them the truth. The way to true success is through the truth of Christ. The consequence of not living by God’s Word is ultimately failure. In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus gives us a great analogy for success and failure:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, and the streams rose, and the winds beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

The Rest of Your Life

Walking with Christ is not for the fainthearted. But, walking without Christ is even more trying and desperate. The effort of showing young people the difference in the two is our job and our joy.

Pray for us that we will use the tools God has given us for success, and our students will put down their old tools and pick up God’s tools.

May you walk with Christ for the rest of your life, and be truly successful.