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.

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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.

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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Recycled and Reconciled

By Karen CatesDCF 1.0

While visiting a sewing store recently, my attention was captured by beautiful quilts hanging everywhere—elaborate, colorful, strategically designed, with luxurious fabrics.  Those quilts triggered precious memories of simple quilts tediously and lovingly put together by hands that invested the truth of God’s love and Word into my life.

I envisioned my great grandmother pulling a favorite dress, worn out and raveling, from the chiffarobe, laying it across her table, and precisely cutting it into strips.  She would be thinking of how her dress would soon provide warmth and comfort for her five children.

Then, she took her husband’s shirt, ripped by barbed wire, carefully removed the buttons, cut it into squares. Laying her hand on the shirt she could feel his strength and her heart resonated with his work for his family. Stacking the strips and squares neatly in a box, she would slide them under her bed where they would wait for more pieces to complete her project.

She gathered all the remaining pieces and stuffed them into a pillowcase hanging on a nail. It was filling up with old dish towels, socks, and flour sacks to use as batting and backing for the quilt. Nothing was thrown away. There was a new use for everything.

The children’s clothes were mended, passed down, and eventually cut into shapes for a quilt. When she finally had enough to cover the big feather bed, she would sit by the fire at night and stitch each piece together using a needle and thread.

As she sat piecing the quilt top together, she would quietly pray.  Every piece elicited a prayer for those who had worn them. She prayed for them to know and serve their creator and provider and she thanked God for His provision and protection. She took comfort in knowing that as she would gently tuck them in at night under this quilt, they would rest under a covering of prayers and under the Father’s wings.

Those were days of utility and purpose, a recycling of everything—a time of new creations.  When we read how God created the heavens and the earth, we see order and attention to detail. We see His love and provision. Through Christ, we see His sacrifice that mends our brokenness. He makes all things new—new purpose—new life!

We come to Him broken, scarred and worthless in our sin. Yet, He carefully and gently removes the pain and the hurt and remakes us into new creatures for His glory. He fills us with His Spirit to make us his own unique design. He makes us a new creation to encourage and comfort others.

When Christ recreates us according to His likeness, He puts us in a group to serve. Each life brings a new story, a new experience, each changed and stitched together as part of His body. Our differences fade for the common unity of purpose—recycled and reconciled—for His Glory!

Beginning Mid-Life (Hand in Hand: Parenting the Second Time Around)

French Camp Academy is a wonderful place to grow!

Beginning Mid-Life

by Susan Donald

So who begins parenting again when they are middle aged?  Apparently more people than you may realize.  In this country there are 5.8 million children being raised by grandparents.  That’s more than double the entire population of Mississippi.  And nearly 3 million more are being raised by other family members besides grandparents or their biological parents.  Each one of these families has a back story, one that probably contains a lot of heartache and maybe some hope as well.  Continue reading