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.



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!


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.


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.

A Place of Renewal

DSC_0012by Sylvia Dickson

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.

And 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?

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 Renewal

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 or 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.

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.

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).

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.

From Fear to Delight

125By F. Stewart Edwards, President of French Camp Academy

A number of years back, you may have read about my (then) two-year old daughter, Dabney’s, fear of thunderstorms.  At night, it was a common thing for her to run into our bedroom, jump in between Rebecca and me, and pull the covers over her head.  After a few minutes had passed and the thunder had settled, the room’s darkness became apparent to Dabney.  She asked me in her warm little voice, “Daddy, are you looking at me?”  There was some sense within her that gave her comfort and peace in the midst of fear that she had the gaze of her father.  Even though Dabney could not see me, she knew that her father’s gaze was on her and that he would not allow any harm to come her way.  After I confirmed that I was watching her, she was then able to go back to sleep.

Let’s fast forward to another time to a beautiful Saturday morning.  Dabney was six, her older brother, Holman, seven.  When I first saw them outside that day, they were in our front yard crouched behind an oak tree, positioning themselves to deliver a small golden BB to any unsuspecting bird that flew into their radar.  Holman is the hunter and Dabney his able assistant (and General most of the time).  Unbeknownst to them, as I watched them from fifty yards away, a certain pleasure came over me.  It was a warm feeling, one that caught me off guard and demanded that I take a moment out of my Saturday punch list of “TO DO’s” and find pleasure in simply gazing at my children.

You know God has given life many pleasures, but very few times do those pleasures grip you at the heart and mind at the same time.  These experiences are ones that usually cannot be planned or paid for; they simply show up as unexpected gifts.  This was one of those special times, when all you have to do is “take it in.”

As I reflected on that thought, it also occurred to me that my Heavenly Father takes great joy in His children.  His gaze is always on us.  That means he watches what we do with keen interest.  He looks out for our best at all times.  He protects us from things he knows would harm us. Even when we make poor choices that do not please him, he is always there and ready to pick us up, dust us off and receive us when we turn from my wrong and ask Him for forgiveness through the blood of His Son, the Lord Jesus. 

The Scripture teaches that God actually “delights in me.”  Psalm 147:11 says, “the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”  When I trust God to lead my life and to take care of me, my trust in Him grows too.  When children play the “let me jump–you catch me game” the first time is pretty scary for them (and sometimes for me, tooJ). But after the first and certainly the second time, their trust grows and the next day there is hardly a second thought when leaving their perch.

Faith in God is somewhat like this…the more we trust Him and let go, we find He is worthy of our trust.  If the child never jumps, there is no way for them to know if Dad will catch them.  As you think about your life, where do you find yourself?  Is it hard to believe that God really does delight in you?  Have you made poor choices and decided that you can go it alone?  How is that working for you?

These lessons are ones we teach each and every day at French Camp.  Some lessons need to be re-learned at any age. However, God is gracious to us and we can find hope and be renewed by His gaze, because it is filled with His unfailing love.