People often ask about the history of Grace Classical Academy—how it came into being. I used to think the story was easy to relate—amazing, but simple. But that was because I only told a small portion of it from my point of view. However, the story would be told differently by each of the people involved: each staff member, each board member, each student, each family member, each person or church who has been instrumental along the way. It would be told differently by those who had to learn that all of their ability was not enough to do the work God appointed for them and by those who discovered that all their inability was not enough to keep them from doing the job God called them to do. It would be told differently by those whose ministry has been encouragement and by those whose ministry has been helps and by those whose ministry has been admonition, bringing us back to a Godly direction when we started to slip. You see, GCA is made up of all of us, and God does His work in such a way that each part is necessary to the whole.
In the same way, we cannot point back to an exact date that God began planting the seed of vision for the school. I tend to think back to a desire within my own heart that began over twenty years ago to see a particular kind of Christian school born. Or I could remember some brave people who began a school in Ozark and laid a foundation for our understanding of Christian classical education. I could go back to God’s particular call to Lonnie to come before Him and learn His will for us at that time. But do you see, this is all from my point of view again.
It would make a great story (told from my perspective) if I could say that when the desire for a Christian school was born in me, I pursued that goal with great knowledge and forethought and refused to be denied until it came to pass after much blood, sweat, and tears. But that would not be the truth. You see, I did actually sit down and do several days’ worth of figuring with a paper and pencil once. After that, I explained to God what He would need to start a school. I told him the required time frame: at least one year of in-depth preparation before the school opened. And I told Him how much money would be needed up front: at least $200,000, so the school would get off to a solid footing financially. And if He would have answered my prayers as I asked them, I would have been proud of my preplanning and my power in prayer. God gives us the desires of our hearts when we serve Him, but He also allows us to go through the death of the vision, sometimes more than once. And what He wants to bring about, He brings about for His glory.
It is possible, however, for us to look back at the time the school actually opened. In the beginning of August, 2001, the year-round school where I taught closed suddenly. Some of the families approached us about beginning a similar school. Lonnie felt God was leading us to see what could be done. If we began a new school, we felt the latest we could begin was the day after Labor Day—and this was only three weeks away! A meeting was held with interested families. The only definite answer we received from that meeting was that a school was needed, but more questions were raised than answered. Was it God’s plan for Lonnie and I to be the ones who started the school? How many would be interested? Where could a facility be found in such short notice? How could we get a board and teaching staff functional in three weeks? Where would the money come from? What would be our philosophy of edu-cation and our guiding principles?
Parents with approximately 15 to 20 students from Kindergarten through the 8th grade indicated interest. At this point Lonnie and I shared some very definite convictions if indeed we were to be involved in starting a school. The first was that the school should seek to honor Christ in all aspects of its existence: in the finances, in the classroom, and in its growth and development. We wanted the school to be a witness to the community of faith as well as to the general community. In order to bring a witness of God’s faithfulness, we encouraged intercession for His provision instead of fundraising and begging, we would avoid debt, we would pray that God send the students and families who were to become a part of GCA. Our goal would be to minister faithfully to the students enrolled and not focus on or measure our success or failure by how many students were gained or lost. We would keep the class size small enough to allow the teacher to know each student and bring individual attention to each one. We would pray for teachers with a heart for God, for the age of student that they would be teaching, and for subjects which they taught. All subjects would be taught from a Christ-centered world view. We had the convictions, but, like Solomon, we felt like children who knew neither how to come in or to go out.
A commitment was made to be-gin a school. All of us who desired this beginning told God that if He actually supplied a board, teachers, curriculum, a building, and enough money for basic operation in three weeks, we would openly acknowledge that it was strictly by His grace! He did it all. In three weeks. A group of five men agreed to serve as the board, a group of teachers and one secretary agreed to join us (many of whom worked with no pay), we had all the necessary curriculum before school opened, and Jefferson Avenue Baptist Church made space available at a very reasonable rate. Therefore, as a constant reminder of His provision, we named the school Grace Classical Academy. We knew full well that the endeavor was in the hands of God. If He blessed and provided, it would thrive; if He did not, it would be one of those we-gave-it-our-best-shot experiences which worked another good of some kind. We were not sure of the outcome, but we were sure that God knew all things. Many of our circumstances—and even our goals—did not coincide with the prevailing wisdom about how to begin and run a private school. Man’s wisdom is good to seek, and reason is beneficial. But there are times God leads in ways that seem to go where man’s wisdom and reason are not enough. The school opened.
This is now our 10th year. Each year has been miraculous. We look back at an absolutely incredible adventure. God has never failed to provide all that was needed: we have never been late with any payment, we have always had people willing to serve on the board, always had teachers and staff as we have needed them, always had an affordable facility and adequate equipment, always had a student body growing in God’s grace, and always had a wonderful group of supporting families and workers to make GCA possible. Time after time God has given miraculous direction and provision.
Have there been obstacles, struggles, and mistakes? Of course. Adventures are not adventures without these components. Is God growing us in love, faith, truth, and beauty? Most definitely. He is making it clearer and clearer to all of us how dependent we are on His strength. And He is enough. He is enough to weave the threads of our lives together to make an incredible tapestry that we will only be able to view completely later.
So where do we go from here? Remembering that God is not working to glorify GCA nor to lift any of us up for others to worship, the path is the same as it has always been. We are to walk humbly with God and one another, asking Him to lead us and enjoying the next step as we take it. If each of us takes the next step He shows us—or at least gets up after a fall to try again—we will be exactly where He would have us be in the years to come.
Don't miss the opportunities God places in your path!
"We pray and study in preparation for the great opportunities we will have someday to evangelize, while those God crosses our paths with today walk unheeded and unloved before our eyes. They are too common, too time consuming, too provoking, too selfish, too different, too evil—too everything we are ourselves as we stand before the Living God." ~Esther Vandiver~