An Alumna Speaks Out

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by Michaela Parker

As a student living in the area, I experienced French Camp Academy differently than people who live in the homes. FCA may have been  the place where I attended high school, but it was so much more than that.  I received a great education, but more importantly, I was cared for, loved, encouraged, and pointed to Christ.

I graduated in 2013 with a grand total of 28 classmates.  Having such a small class was so much fun because I was able to know and befriend everyone in my class.Allie Pendleton on air (3) copy I loved the small school scene and decided to further my education at Mississippi College. I graduated in 2016 with a degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations and journalism.

In high school, I was the girl everyone tried their hardest to avoid. Why? Because I was on the yearbook staff. I constantly carried my camera with me to events and school hoping to get that perfect picture. I served on staff for all four years. Most of my time after school was spent at WFCA Radio where I worked all four years of high school. That opportunity was one like none other, and sitting behind a microphone is where I discovered my love for communications.aaaMexico group

Mission trips were a big part of my high school experience. FCA is  unique in that it gives students the opportunity to participate in mission trips to Mexico, New York, Texas, and Wales. For three consecutive years, I served on mission teams to Fort Worth, Texas and aaa Mexico Mission Wales. Most young people are not given the opportunity to serve on a mission team until college. Because I had that opportunity while in high school, it helped me build my foundation on Christ and gave me a heart for the lost during my teenage years.

I will always value the staff members at FCA. During my four years in high school, I developed so many relationships that are still in my life today. They were influential figures to me as a teenager, and now as a young adult, they are great friends to me. I felt comfortable enough to discuss different challenges I was facing, and I expected to receive wisdom in return – which I always did. Even now, I know that I can go to them with anything and they will help me in the blink of an eye.jocelyn-hannah-o-with-camera

The love, encouragement, and support that was so graciously bestowed upon me while at FCA was very beneficial in my life. The Lord used so many staff members to show me what a young, Christ-like lady should look like. For my entire high school career, I was prayed for and invested in. Even though I did not live on campus, they still took the time to invest in students like myself. I can’t properly express my gratitude to them for being some of the most intentional and genuine people I’ve ever met.boy contemplating

The one thing that I love and value the most about FCA is the commitment to giving students a solid foundation built on Biblical principles. The Lord’s teachings are interwoven in the lessons taught in the classroom. Each year, I took a different academic class that was built around the Christ’s teachings and principles. Two of my favorite courses were Christian Family Living and Christian Worldview, both which I took during my senior year. The information that I learned in those classes I still apply to my life today. Defending my faith and recognizing healthy, Christ-centered relationships were two things that I had to deal with while in college, and FCA helped me with both of those.a-cassidy-reading-to-marcus

FCA is not like any other place I’ve ever experienced. I’ve seen so many people be changed for the better, I being one of them. The love that I have for FCA has only grown as the years have gone by. Even though my time as a student has come and gone, I am still a part of FCA through frequent visits, and most importantly, through prayer.

The Lord has tremendously blessed this ministry and the young people who come into FCA’s care, and I am confident that His faithfulness will be evident in the years to come.a-3-girls-in-church

They say that French Camp Academy is “One Fine Place.” Well, they say that because it’s true. A place as special as this can only come straight from the Lord, which in my books, makes FCA one fine place.

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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!

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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.

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.