A PLACE OF RENEWAL

by Sylvia Dicksongirls with plant

There is a certain beauty to the winter landscape: stark silhouettes of bare branches brushing against a gray sky, empty fields bathed in crisp, winter sunlight, nippy mornings coated with glittering frost. However, what we truly long for, after waking in the early dark of winter, is to throw open our windows and feel warm spring breezes brushing away the sleep from our eyes.

Spring is a time of renewal. Daffodils spring from brown turf, trees dress up in spring green, the urge to fly a kite or plant a garden takes hold. We long to freshen up and fix up. Out with the old and in with the new.

daffodilsAnd so it goes, year after year. Our souls, bodies, and all of creation long for renewal. So many years of frustration and futility! How long will it last?

At French Camp Academy we see firsthand the ravages of sin and the bondage to decay. Students come to us from families fractured or destroyed by sin. They come to us looking for a place of renewal.

Why Renewal?boys and wisteria

In God’s Word, we see that even though Adam’s stomach was full, his purpose in life defined, his success certain, he wanted more.

When Adam and Eve broke the only commandment their Creator had given, they received a horrible shock. No longer could life be lived free from fear, pain, and destruction. A new law went into effect with the immediate verdict, “Guilty. Condemned to Die.”

The Beginning of Renewala-another-boy-in-church

Redemption and renewal are themes that guide French Camp Academy. We live out lives renewed in Christ before our young people, showing them “… there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

We tell them that even though mother ora-boy-painting father may have deserted them, God will not. We tell them that Jesus Christ came to free them from sin and give them new life: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3: 19).

The Work of Renewal

House parents and Historic area personnel work with students to reveal God’s plan for renewal. Teachers, coaches, work directors, radio personnel, all work at chipping away the chains of sin.a-girl-with-horse-web

In the afternoons and on Saturdays, you can see students and staff working on different projects. Horses must be fed, the bed and breakfast freshened for visitors, and the conference center readied for the next group. WFCA trains students in broadcasting. At Rainwater Observatory, students learn how to work telescopes and help with astronomy programs.tennis-player

Every aspect of FCA contributes to the accomplishment of our mission of being a Christ-centered home and school, serving young people and families for the glory of God.

Effects of Renewal

Lives built on the certainty of God’s redemptive work become stable, fruitful, and fulfilled. Hope takes root and enlivens minds and hearts. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (I Cor. 5: 17).katy-octavious-farida

The cords of sin and evil that so easily entangled thoughts and emotions are slowly unraveled and tossed into the flames. The stagnant water of sorrow is drained and lives are refilled with fresh water. Grins replace groans, direction replaces destruction, clear minds replace cloudy thinking.

Sometimes the renewal takes place quickly, sometimes slowly. But all around us we see God renewing lives at French Camp Academy.

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!

4-ladies

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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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.

FCA: Different in the Best Way

by Stephen Korpi, FCA teacher/coach

Korpi, Stephen1

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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Child

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.

1pottery shop girl

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