Who We Are: Providence Blog
God's Plan Is Not Always Our Plan
Monty DeMayo, High School English Teacher
If someone had asked me what I thought about Providence Christian Academy two years ago, my response would have been, “I’ve never heard of it.” But it’s amazing how God works though, as His plan was slowly being revealed to my family.
My wife and I were looking for the right school for our three children and it seemed as though doors were closing on us. We had been homeschooling our children (ages 12, 10, and 9) for several years, and as a former public school teacher, I knew the public schools were not an option. We thought we had found the right school, but we were notified that it wasn’t meant to be.
Scrambling to find a solution, we turned to our friends Bill and Lynda Cantrell. They calmed our fears and told us all about Providence. With their blessing, we felt Providence was at least worth a look. There just happened to be an Open House that next weekend, so we signed up and attended. We were extremely impressed with the school’s mission and with the students giving the tours. The icing on the cake was when our young tour guide prayed for us in the parking lot before we left. What a humbling and inspiring moment!
God had unveiled to us a place where He is thought of first in a world where He is often thought of last. We were feeling much better about our children’s educational future. But God was not done yet. He was not content to only open one door for us. Having the kids attend Providence was not enough. He opened another door immediately. Lynda called me the next week to inquire about my teaching experience. She then told me that a position would be opening up and I might want to submit my resume. I did, and God’s faithfulness proved almost too much. I was offered the position in the high school and eagerly accepted.
The kids have made the adjustment amazingly well. I credit their successes to the amazing teachers and support staff in the elementary and middle schools. They have encouraged my children and helped them in so many ways I cannot even count. My children have made tremendous strides, developing a love of reading previously untapped, a desire to represent their respective classes in different ways, and a passion for worshipping God through Impact/Chapel. As a parent, I could not ask for anything more for my kids.
As for me, God has placed me in more than a school. He has brought me into a family to experience His love, grace, and understanding. I love the fact that every Monday, my spiritual cup gets filled by one of my male counterparts in our men’s devotional or on Wednesday when Dr. Hart leads us through God’s word. The students have been a joy to work with as they bring their strong values and work ethics to the classroom. And the parents have been amazingly good to me throughout the year, showering all of the teachers with wonderfully tasty foods and gifts. In 10 years of teaching in Georgia’s public schools, I have never felt so appreciated and valued.
God’s plan is not always our plan. We don’t always understand why things happen the way they do or in the time frame that they do. But God certainly knows and He has proven His faithfulness over and over to me this year.
May 6, 2016
How One Decision Changed My Life Forever
Adam Cantrell, High School Science Teacher and Varsity Baseball Coach
Whenever someone asks me how I feel about Providence, my standard answer is to respond that Providence has impacted me and my life more than it has impacted any other person.
That is a bold statement for sure, but when you consider that I was a student here on day one in September of 1991 and graduated in 1993, am married to Erin (class of ’98), have been employed as a teacher in the science department since 1999, and now have both of my children enrolled here as students (AJ in 2nd grade and Sazy in 1st grade) I think I make a pretty strong case.
I, of course, had no idea how important my decision to come to Providence would be, but our God knew. I had been at Dekalb Christian Academy since 5th grade, and had loved every minute of it. DCA, however, was changing and I knew I would not be returning in the fall of ’91.
It is well documented that a core number of families wanted to start a new covenant school in Gwinnett, and when the events surrounding the formation of Providence began, I knew it would be an option for my last two years of high school. I had three other options as well: Marist, Parkview, and GACS.
As everyone knows, Providence had ZERO facilities at this time and as an athlete with plans to continue on the college level, that was a big issue for me. I know now that my parents wanted me to be at Providence, but my dad left the decision completely up to me.
So as a 16-year old kid, I made the decision to attend Providence for what is probably the most shallow and immature set of reasons that anyone ever had. Let me quickly walk you through my thought process.
Parkview was a huge school, and although I had many friends who went, I knew of no one who played both basketball and baseball there, so I assumed you were not allowed to do so. Parkview was off the list. Marist has everything you could ever want for education and athletics, but they also make their students wear a coat and tie every day. Marist was off the list. GACS was a school that I had attended through 4th grade and I still had a large number of friends and acquaintances there. I applied and was accepted and then had to decide whether it would be GAC or Providence.
To keep this short, GAC started school that year at a normal time in mid-August, while Providence was not going start until after Labor Day due to construction of the renovated building. When mid-August rolled around, I wanted a few more weeks of summer…. so I chose Providence. That’s right! What turned out to be the most pivotal decision of my life was made because of dress codes and the timing of the first day of school. I do believe our God has a great sense of humor.
I am often asked if I ever have plans to leave Providence for a job that might pay a better salary, or for a job that might be more prestigious in the eyes of others. My simple answer for that is no, as I feel very strongly that the Lord has called me here and will keep me here until He decides it is time for me to move on.
The longer answer to that question goes back to what I learned from the teachers and administration during those first two years of Providence’s existence. The staff at that time signed contracts without knowing for sure that there would even be a building, what the salary schedule would be, and if the students would even enroll. With the generous help of some of the founding parents, none of the staff ever missed a payday (that I am aware of), but still faced that possibility of the unknown.
Even in the face of that uncertainty, their commitment to serve Christ by working here modeled what dependence upon Him really is. Not only did that give me confidence to know (years later) that when God directs, I need to follow, because he will care for my needs, but their witness of dependency on Christ allowed His light to shine clearly through them. What could be more prestigious than clearly representing the Creator of the universe in a public way?
I love this place. I love it for what it provided for me, for what I have learned as a student, as a teacher, and now as a parent. I also love it for the opportunities it provides for me to be for others, what teachers like Coach Hart were for me. I look forward to being 70 years old travelling around school in my Hoveround one day too.
April 13, 2016
From One Side of the Desk to the Other
A Homecoming Story
Michelle Shealy, 5th Grade Teacher
A teenager’s life is full of questions and decisions, great and small. It’s a time of discovery and awareness. My teenage years were no exception. After a childhood filled with rigorous gymnastics training, I had a PIVOTAL DECISION to make at age 14: should I join my brother at Providence, or should I continue to homeschool while training as an elite gymnast?
After personal prayers and regular communication with Providence, God led me down Highway 29 toward the school where my life changed.
On my first day of school, I met my best friend, Morgan. We regularly shared hilarious lunch conversations with Mrs. Strong, and those conversations helped me to feel right at home. I quickly realized that this school wasn’t “normal.” Providence became a GOD-CENTERED FAMILY for me, full of teachers and peers who cared for each other and lived life TOGETHER!
I became a girl who loved going to school.
God used Dr. Hart to teach me to study each word of every verse we read, thereby broadening my understanding of the Bible. My relationship with Christ became more personal. I realized that MY DECISION to dive into God’s Word and trust Him daily was essential to live a life unto Him.
Providence provided leadership opportunities, such as serving as a student ambassador and facilitating a girls’ discipleship group, that helped me develop into a servant leader.
Several student life activities, including weekly Axis and the Encounter and senior trips, offered memory-filled times of WORSHIP and bonding. Dr. Chapman still laughs at the memory of his horse spooking my horse down the side of the hill during my senior trip. Those growing and bonding EXPERIENCES will last a lifetime.
I felt the strength of that bond even more when I competed with the new Providence gymnastics team. When Mrs. Puckett first suggested the idea of reviving the team, I never anticipated how I would feel looking up into the stands at the state meet during my junior year and seeing my Providence family cheering us on to winning state! TO GOD BE THE GLORY!
As a student, I often took time to reflect on the influences around me. I knew that I wanted to one day positively impact others as my teachers and administrators had impacted me. I began to dream of returning to Providence as a teacher. So, I graduated from Providence in 2010, and began my Elementary Education studies at Iowa State University while competing on their gymnastics team.
I wasn’t able to visit Georgia often due to my gymnastics schedule, but I made visits to Providence a priority during my breaks, because it felt like home! Some of the staff even made a trip to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to support me and my team during a post-season meet. That meant the world to me!
After graduating college and returning home in December 2014, I began substitute teaching at Providence and other nearby schools. I prayed for guidance and open positions for the upcoming school year. To teach at Providence was my preference, but I knew God could have other plans for me.
I will never forget the phone call I received from elementary/middle school principal Mrs. Adams when I realized my dream was coming true! I was going to do what I love at a place I call HOME.
I currently teach Math, Science and Bible to 5th grade students, and I absolutely love it! I love watching “LIGHTBULB MOMENTS” occur when they learn something new. Their questions in Bible class reveal their OPEN HEARTS and searching souls. I have prayed that God would use me to impact others, but I never could have guessed how He would use the students to IMPACT me!
The faculty and staff at Providence affect me daily, as well. The JOY OF THE LORD shines through them. Every day, we’re laughing with, learning from, and supporting each other. I don’t just call them co-workers… I call them FRIENDS.
God works in so many ways, and I am humbled by the way He has used Providence to bless me and many others over the past 25 years. This GOD-CENTERED FAMILY of believers continues to care for the growth of each individual of every age.
I am still the girl who loves going to school each day -- on the other side of the desk.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” ~ Philippians 4:4
January 29, 2016
From a Box of Pencils To “The Perfect School”
Dean D. Unsicker, Head of School at Rosehill Christian School in Tomball, Texas
As part of the ongoing recognition of our 25th anniversary, we’ve invited Dean Unsicker who served nine years as Providence’s first elementary principal to share his memories.
Our family was among the privileged ones to be a part of the miraculous launch of a ministry that would affect an untold number of families and community leaders until Jesus comes back. The birth of Providence Christian Academy wasn’t without a huge step of faith on behalf of those who started the school.
In 1991, on the good advice of the ACSI Regional Director, Glen Shultz, approximately 20 families hosted a meeting at a local church to inform attendees of the intention of starting a Christian school somewhere in Gwinnett County.
Eight hundred and fifty interested folks showed up to hear about a school that wasn’t named, was unsure of its location, had an undetermined tuition, and had not been staffed.
Frank Uzzel, the man who would become the school’s director of business, with much wisdom, reported to the school’s newly formed board that all we had at the time was a box of #2 pencils and the Lord.
A ground swell of help from many dedicated parents and future staff members provided hands and feet for the birthing of this new school.
Through the summer of 1991, many great things confirmed that the Lord was in the effort. I’ll bullet what might be little known facts that helped make what my present school calls “The Perfect School” whenever I refer to Providence.
- Our goal for the first day of school was 350 students, including 19 seniors. During the first day of school our 351st student registered.
- It was predicted by some that the school wouldn’t last more than three years. The enrollment of the school increased an average of 50 students per year for six years.
- All our computers, furniture, and other needed desks and chairs were donated.
- We leased a 52,000 square foot building (what is now the elementary/middle school building) at $3.00 a square foot in year one, $5.00 in year two and $7.00 in year three. The building was purchased after the third year.
- It took only eight weeks from the start of construction to retro-fit the shopping center in what became the K-12 building.
- The front parking lot had three different car pool lines since grades K-12 were in the same building.
- The first five years we had no gym; playing and competing at the highest level in varsity sports. During that time we rented gyms from three churches and played home games at Mercer University.
- An anonymous donor challenged us to raise $750,000 to build a gym and he would match it. It was raised and construction of the gymnasium began in 1997.
- We had no soccer field or baseball field for the first six years. Just like with the gym, we had to rent fields from the Soccer Academy and a variety of baseball fields.
- After the construction of a second gym we were blessed with a new soccer and baseball complex.
- Our varsity girls won state in soccer to become Providence’s first state championship team. This was later to be followed by championships in soccer, softball, gymnastics and baseball.
- Construction on the old Lowes building changed that building into a functioning 90,000 square foot building that is now the high school.
All three of our children graduated from Providence in what I believe to be a “perfect school.” Their experiences academically, spiritually, and athletically were so profoundly led by the Lord because of the Godly influences that they experienced. We constantly prayed that the Lord would be present in every aspect of the school.
As for me, Providence Christian Academy is still where my heart is. I consistently look back with fondness at all the moments I shared as an elementary principal for the first nine years of the school and my involvement in helping to design and construct the facilities.
I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the strong evidence of the presence of the Lord. God was the One who made all of this happen. Without Him the school would have truly fallen on its face as predicted by the naysayers. Time and time again we saw His hand in delivering us from harm. I miss my friends at the school and have been blessed to have worked with such Godly people. Congratulations on your 25th year!
December 17, 2015
I Want More In My Life Than What I Can Do
A senior shares what God taught her at Encounter
Kelly Rose, Providence Senior
How amazing is it that Providence is a school that values their student’s hearts and relationship with God as much as they value academics?
This is why every year the high school students take a break out of their semester for a spiritual retreat called Encounter. We leave the school bright and early in the morning and come to Sharptop Cove expecting to encounter the reality of God over the next few days. Our expectations have never been made in vain; God always moves in astounding ways.
I don’t think that I will ever fully understand the impact that Encounter has made on my life over the years. The Lord has taught me who I am, who I am not, and who He wants me to be. He has mended relationships, brought unity among my classmates, and breathed life into seemingly hopeless situations.
This year as a senior, I got to stay up at Sharptop for the entire week. Before the underclassmen arrived, the seniors spent a few sessions with Dr. Hart learning about hearing God.
Without the distractions of everyday life and with an open heart to receive, I realized that God is eager to be in communication with us. I have never heard God’s voice so clearly in my life. I learned that God is waiting for us to reach out to Him and say “Lord I want what you have for me. Your ways are better than mine. Would you tell me what you want me to hear?” His answer comes immediately in a still, small voice. We serve a personal God who is readily pursuing us, a God who reveals himself without hesitation.
Dave Rhodes, our speaker for the week, spent time with the seniors in the book of Daniel. Dave challenged us to be leaders whose vision does not outweigh their virtue. He also challenged us to lead now. If we wait until we have it all together, we will never lead. He reminded us that being a leader is changing culture, not just being unchanged by culture. He set the standard for the senior class to live up to throughout this year.
When the underclassmen arrived, we dug into the theme for the week: Overcome. We looked through Hebrews 11 and saw a group of people becoming overcomers through their great faith. I learned that there is something worse than suffering: not having anything in your life to suffer for. These men and women came out of their trials as overcomers because they realized that their life was a part of God’s plan, not that God was a part of their plan.
Later on we looked at Gideon as an overcomer. Gideon overcame his fear of the Midianites when the Angel of the Lord came to visit him. The angel called Gideon a “valiant warrior,” an overcomer of his circumstance. The ironic thing about this is that God calls Gideon a mighty warrior while he is still sitting, hiding, and afraid. God sees Gideon not for who he is but for what he has dreamed for Gideon to be. This was so encouraging to me. Although I may be terrified of a situation, I already know that I am an overcomer. Why? Because we serve a God who has already overcome! We look at our situation from our perspective NOW but God looks at it from a different perspective as already WON.
The last night I could feel the joy and thankfulness to the Lord in a tangible way. There is something so intimate about a family of believers coming together and worshipping God for all that he has done.
Dave touched my heart with his message from Ezekiel 37. In this chapter, there is a graveyard that Ezekiel is walking around in. God asks him if the bones could ever live but Ezekiel seriously doubts this could ever be possible. Suddenly, the bones begin to rattle and come together to form bodies. These bones are not alive yet, not until the breath of God breathes into them. Bones are pretty far removed from life; in fact, bones are the absence of life. Yet God took the bones and breathed into them.
Nothing we have ever done is so far out there that the grace and breath of God can’t reach it. I often have days where I feel like a pile of dead, dry bones, void of purpose and caught up in the chaos of the world. This is not what God intended. Why should we accept anything less than God’s best for us? Dave encouraged us to have a holy restlessness, to not accept the ordinary, everyday chaos. I invited God to breathe into me that night, to take my dry bones and bring them to life. I want more in my life than what I can do. I want a life filled with the extraordinary, filled with the breath of God.
Encounter this year can be summarized into one verse of encouragement “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). I will forever look back on previous Encounters as the sweetest times during my high school years. I am so sad it is over but so thankful for the way God has worked and continues to work.
October 2, 2015
Milestones and Miracles
Connie Adams, Elementary and Middle School Principal
As all of you are aware, we are celebrating our 25th Anniversary as a school. Some would call that a milestone, some may even call it a miracle! I am reminded that this anniversary is both, yet so much more. It really is providence… God’s providence.
With that perspective, it is easy to see and understand that everyone at Providence is here by God’s divine appointment. The longer I am part of this wonderful school family, the more the statement rings true. Each of us has a “God story” where we can trace God’s guidance towards Providence.
For me, it included arriving in the parking lot on a rainy day during carpool. Of course, I was going in the opposite direction, but I managed to park and make my way into the elementary office. Drenched, I handed a wilted resume to the ladies at the desk, confessed that I had just created havoc in the carpool line, and would call for a follow up if they needed more information! I still can’t believe that I am blessed to be part of this amazing community where God’s standards of excellence and His immeasurable grace are joined together daily.
Milestones, miracles, and God’s providence. I get to witness milestones on a regular basis as students begin to read or understand scientific concepts for the first time. I get to celebrate with them when they have figured out the balance between independence and responsibility in middle school. I get to rejoice with parents and teachers as we witness the sparkle in a student’s eye when they understand that God loves them. I even get the privilege to pray with parents as they ask for God’s providence as they lead their families in God’s will. No gift, no surprise party, no Hallmark card can compare to those moments.
My husband Dan, my daughter Taryn and I have been blessed to be part of Providence. We have experienced our own milestones and miracles in this community. With each of them, we are reminded that milestones celebrate what has happened and miracles celebrate what can only happen with God. And God’s providence, well that is how we can see the connection between what is happening today in order to receive what can happen tomorrow.
September 18, 2015
God's Providence Over the Past 25 Years
Dr. Jim Vaught, Head of School
To watch the vision of 20 plus families unfold over a period of 25 years has been a wonderful experience.
It began with a vision for establishing a covenant Christian school in Gwinnett County with the mission of providing excellence in Christ-centered education as an extension of the Christian home. The goal was to inspire transformative experiences in faith, life, and learning.
Since the summer of 1991, this has been the focus of the Providence board and staff working in partnership with parents and students. Since that time, more than 1,600 graduates have been provided the opportunity to grow in their walk with Christ, demonstrate excellence, and impact the world. It has been a privilege to be a part of this process and share in both the challenges and the celebrations of the Providence family.
While the central focus has been to maintain the mission of the school, Providence has faced what I will call “facility challenges.” In June of 1991 with over 150 student registered, the board and administration were in search of a place to open for that fall. It has been amazing to witness how God has met needs through school community members - staff, parents, and students - one step at a time.
In early July, a lease was signed on the former Greenhills Shopping Center in Lilburn. In about two months, classroom space for 350 students was completed and school opened in September. Much sweat equity and personal sacrifice by parents and staff were necessary to make this happen.
Through 1996, families supported Providence and entrusted their children to the staff in strong support of the school’s mission and vision. At that point the facility had been purchased and completely renovated with an enrollment of more than 500. However, the school owned one building and 7 acres. There were no athletic facilities for any sport. All practices and competition took place at rented, loaned, or away facilities.
In 1997 the main gym was completed and within two years, two 8 acre tracks were purchased. One contained a former Lowe’s facility, which would be developed into the high school building, and the other a piece of property for building baseball and soccer fields. These were completed in the early 2000’s along with the second gym.
Still limited by available land, in 2009 God provided an 11 acre track of land which will, for the first time, allow the school to complete a softball field, tennis courts, track and field facilities, and a multi-purpose field for soccer and football. During 2014 and 2015, current school families, alumni parents, alumni, grandparents, and staff are joining together in raising the funds required to complete the Lussi Athletic Complex. We are almost there!
It’s been 25 years and we continue to see God’s hand of providence at work. We’ve seen our physical campus grow, our academic and athletic programs grow, and we’ve seen the ever expanding influence of our wonderful alumni as they serve and minister in places near and far.
All the while, our mission as a school has remained the same. For that, I am truly grateful.
We extend our thanks and gratitude to our Lord and Savior for meeting needs in miraculous ways and allowing us to witness His hand at work for 25 years. May we continue to be faithful to God’s mission and vision for Providence as we celebrate His kindness and provision.
August 12, 2015
Remembering and Saying Thanks
Duncan Gotfredson, Student Body President
Going into senior year, I anticipated classes to be easy, college applications to go by quickly, and a clear path to emerge as to what would happen after high school. Several weeks in, I figured that the rest of the year would not play out like I had hoped. Whether it was coming in late from a basketball game on a Tuesday night or studying my notes at lunch right before a Systematic Theology test, the year presented many challenges.
As an individual, I had many responsibilities including Student Council, Axis, academics, sports, and continuing my walk with Christ. As a grade, we faced so many ups and downs. We went from the mountaintop at Sharptop praising our Lord and Savior one week to finding out one of our classmates has cancer the next.
Looking back at this year, it becomes visible to me how our grade was unified through all of the tough experiences we went through. Because of the trials, we had to rely on the One who not only knows what the future holds but who also has a never-ceasing, steadfast love for us. When uncertainty hit, we had to trust what God was doing. Isaiah 41:13 says, "For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says you, do not fear; I will help you." I cannot think of a better verse to describe our year.
Our senior trip is over and I’m grateful for the memories and fellowship it provided our class. We made the most of the trip and our last moments together before the day we have all been waiting for: graduation.
As an 8th grader at Providence, graduation seemed to be an event that was an eternity away. And then you blink, and it is almost time to walk across the stage, shake Dr. Chapman's hand, and receive your diploma.
On graduation day, seniors, remember everything Providence has done for you. Remember the time you missed a week of school because Providence thought it was important for you to get away and focus on God. Remember the off-campus lunches on Wednesdays where only seniors are allowed. Remember Dr. Hart pouring into our lives and trying to teach us the essentials before college.
Seniors, it is time to look back and say "Thank you, Providence, for everything you have done for me." Maybe one day we can show our gratitude by all giving back to the place that was and is such a huge part of our lives.
May 22, 2015
Safe in the Storm
Coach Scott Williams, High School Bible Teacher
In May of 2010 I left Providence, which was a tough emotional decision. I never thought I would return for more than a visit. After teaching and coaching at this school for five years I went on to pursue coaching at the college level.
I had a great first season, but it just wasn’t the same. A series of circumstances and stirring from the Lord led me to give up coaching and return to my hometown of Augusta, GA with my wife and son. I became a personal trainer, worked a few different jobs, and did some writing. The main reason for going to Augusta was to do workplace discipleship and house church planting. It was a challenging time that led to much growth. My work in Augusta took a few turns and a number of doors closed. Other doors opened, but my wife and I felt that God was leading us back to Gwinnett County.
We once again left with mixed emotions because we had grown familiar with our new life in Augusta with three boys and being close to my family. I had no job prospects and no idea what I would do upon returning. I did sense the Lord telling me that I would not have to apply for my next job; however, I had no idea what that job might be. I doubted like so many of us do when God tells us something we cannot grasp. I had been going on this walk of faith for four years and nothing seemed to work out the way I expected.
Over the years I kept in touch with Providence. The people were always like family, so I decided to take a visit. Little did I know that the visit would yield more than just catching up on friendships.
I was asked if I would like to substitute. I thought it would be a good idea to at least bring in some income while waiting on something more. I went back up the next day to update some paperwork only to find out that there was a potential opening in the Bible Department for 2014-2015. Months later, I received a call from High School Principal Ken Hunsberger offering me the position as a Bible teacher. I also returned as Head Cross Country Coach. The summer was filled with preparations.
I left Providence a “Star” and returned to a “Storm.” I never really did much with the Star nickname and wasn’t sure about the Storm, but then I really caught the idea. We are always in the midst of the Storm in some way. Our lives are busy with school, work, sports, church, and the many other activities that fill our days and weeks. It can be hard to hear the whisper of God in the midst of the storm. He calls for us to slow down and listen. He calls for us to keep our eyes fixed on Him. He also calls for us to storm forward in our faith not allowing the world, the flesh, and the devil to hold us back from the fullness of God’s love and grace.
Part of God’s love and grace is realized in community. I’ve been through a few storms over the years, but there has always been someone in the Providence family that has offered support. This school truly is an extension of the Christian home. It extends the home of the students. It extends from the home of the faculty, staff, and parents. They all point to the home we have with Jesus in God’s kingdom.
February 20, 2015
A Joy I Couldn't Have Imagined
What I love about teaching Providence students
Dr. Carl Barrington, High School Bible Teacher
I first came to Providence in the summer of 2002 as a new Providence parent. I had recently resigned a ministry position with my denomination due to excessive travel demands and was seeking the next step in my life and ministry.
The first time I ever met Providence’s Head of School, Dr. Jim Vaught, I told him, "I know you have no faculty positions available right now, but I would like to be considered if such an opening ever occurs." He replied by saying, "Well, Dr. Barrington, it just so happens that one of our Bible teachers called me yesterday and told me that he would not be returning for the fall semester (which was scheduled to begin in only three weeks.)"
Thus began a series of interviews, resume and transcript presentations and lesson preparations. I had taught in both seminary and college, but never before in high school. Also, the three courses I was assigned were all new to me. I initially thought I would teach here until my daughter graduated in 2009, but little did I know that I was entering into the most joyous ministry of my nearly 40 year career.
Although I had served as youth pastor of several churches as a younger man, it had been several years since young people were my primary focus. Most recently, I had served as a senior pastor and denominational executive. I soon came to learn, however, that my heart was with "my kids" as I have called them for the past thirteen years now. I have been able to teach a variety of Bible courses, Ethics, Apologetics, and also invest in their lives.
They give me joy! Nothing is as fulfilling as seeing them learn something of significance for the first time. In Apologetics, we study the many evidences for the existence of God, the divinity of Christ and the change that knowing Him can make in one's life. Whether it is learning that God is first cause, designer, moral law giver, savior or life changer, I get to see young people embrace the truths of Christianity for themselves, many for the first time!
One of my great concerns is that we prepare them for college and beyond. Christian teachers such as Josh McDowell have reported that over 70% of teenagers who attend church with their parents stop attending between the ages of 18-21. In my own case, my college years (even at a state university) were the greatest time of spiritual growth in my life and I want my kids to have the same experience. If I can help their parents'/pastor's/church's faith become THEIR faith, then they won't be as likely to consider college as a spiritual "dead zone."
I regularly tell my kids that I love them and I hope the feeling is mutual. The students here at Providence are a special breed. There is genuine caring for each other. I love it when both current and former students drop by after class just to talk. My hope is to continue teaching here until retirement.
There is no micromanaging of the classroom. I have been encouraged to develop curricula for new subjects and I have done so. I can not imagine a better work environment. Providence is where God wants me to be for now and the foreseeable future. Providence is home!
November 21, 2014
More Than Just a School
Rebecca Lightfoot, Administrative Assistant, Technology
As a Providence graduate (class of ’05), I never got to be the college kid visiting her/his alma mater. As much as I wanted to come back and hug Mrs. McHugh in the high school front office and run all of my life choices by Coach Hart (come what growls that may), I simply didn’t have the opportunity. As an athlete, my time was not my own. There were no breaks. Christmas “break” meant a red eye flight from a tournament in Vegas/New York/D.C./Cancun for four days at home, maybe. Full disclosure, I was homesick something fierce.
It was for all of these reasons and more that I can so clearly remember one of the highlights of my college career. I was a sophomore and my team had flown down to Alabama for a weekend game. We were returning to our hotel from a practice/dinner and headed to watch game film, when a couple of my teammates started calling my name. I turned toward the ruckus and it was like the Red Sea parting in that hotel lobby. My teammates had created a path for me to see a man at the end. That man was our very own Dr. Vaught (Providence’s Head of School), in town for a conference that was happening at our hotel.
It was an unexpected glimpse of home and I just lost it. I started crying in what was one of the most embarrassing public displays of emotion I have ever had. He was smiling and without any words, he just opened his arms, as a father would for his child, so that I could walk into his comforting embrace.
THAT is what Providence is to me. It’s an association with my home base. It was in Mrs. Corbett’s 7th grade Bible class that I gave Lordship over my life to Jesus Christ. It was on Coach Dan Davis’ varsity basketball team that I learned to play with heart and in a way that was honoring to the One who had gifted me all along. It was in Mr. Hunsberger’s Marriage and Family class as a senior that I gained a greater appreciation for my parents and an awareness of the legacy that is their blessed union. And it was to Connie Anderson (the assistant to the Elementary/Middle School principal) that I went when I first learned my father was diagnosed with stage 4 follicular lymphoma. It was all right HERE.
With an amazingly close and supportive family, I am already blessed with more than most. I know this. However, it has been through this school’s impact and presence in my life over the past two decades, first as a student and now as a member of the staff, that I have seen the importance of community and why God so strongly encourages fellowship among His children.
It’s not just a SCHOOL that creates and maintains a week long fundraiser event for childhood cancer research for ten years in honor of a kindergartener who lost his life. It’s not just a school that packs out an entire gym to support our basketball team after one of their teammates, and our friend, dies tragically in a car accident. It’s not just a school that organizes a year’s worth of meals for a family that lost a mom. It’s not just a school that has every available computer watching a baseball alum’s major league debut during a school day. Providence is not a mere school, but the PEOPLE behind it — it’s the COMMUNITY that gets emotionally and spiritually involved. It’s the community that IS Providence.
Providence is not a just a building, same as your house is not just four walls. It’s a place where the heart gets touched and a character is molded. Lives are transformed because an encounter with our Savior and the people He uses can be nothing less. That’s what love does…it revolutionizes the ordinary. You take a group of people serving and submitting to the One who first loved us and the impact becomes exponential.
So to me, Providence is not just a school. It’s not just my alma mater. It’s home.
October 24, 2014
Encounter Changed Us
A student’s personal account of how God moved at the annual Encounter retreat
Laura Per-Lee, Providence Senior
If I am being honest, I live most of my life like Martha in Luke Chapter 10. I am organized and want everything to be perfect and in order all of the time. But the Bible tells us how Jesus reminded Martha that her sister Mary has chosen what is right — to sit at His feet and listen to Him, not worrying about anything else.
There is one thing in my life that has taught me to have the spirit of Mary instead of Martha, and that is Encounter — the annual retreat where middle and high school students are given the opportunity to sit at the Lord’s feet and simply listen to what He wants to say.
It says so much about Providence that they allow the students to let go of everything going on at school for a few days, and take us out of the craziness of life, so that we can center ourselves on God at the beginning of the school year. It speaks volumes about the character and mission of the school that believes the students’ spiritual lives are just as important as their academic lives.
Last week at Sharp Top Cove, I truly felt like Mary. I found myself speechless after many of the sessions. Because of the depth of the teaching, there were a few nights when I found myself sitting on the floor, at the end of the session, pondering all that I just heard. I went into Encounter thinking the whole week I would be focusing on figuring out where God wants me to go to college, but the Lord had greater plans for me.
“He Sees Us How We Were Meant To Be”
The senior class got to go up to Sharp Top Cove two days before the 10th and 11th grade. This is such a special time to have with your class. The sessions kicked off with Dr. Hart speaking about “Hearing God”, something that is so important for seniors to understand especially since we are about to make some really hard, life changing decisions. His talk hit right at home and gave me, and many others, a solid foundation going into the week. Dr. Hart set a really great tone for our speaker, Chris Moerman.
The first two days Chris spoke about identity. The topic he chose hit me hard. How was I supposed to be focusing on where to go to college if I am struggling to find and understand my own identity?
During Chris’s talk he proposed two questions we have to answer in our faith. Number one: “Who do I say God is?” and number two: “Who does God say I am?” They seem like simple questions on the surface, but the more you think about them the deeper the answers become.
Though I was struggling to understand my identity, things were becoming clearer. One thing Chris said that really helped was, “God doesn’t see us how we see ourselves, He sees a deep creative glory within us, He sees us how we were meant to be.”
So often humans let the enemy tell us small lies that build up and eventually completely tear us down. I realized I was letting this happen to me. I had heard that I was a Daughter of the King so many times, yet ideas kept popping up in my head like, “so is every other girl,” and “how can I be a Daughter of the King when I mess up so often and make terrible mistakes?”
I realized these were lies straight from the enemy. I found truth in Chris’s words that God does not see me how I view myself. For the first time I felt power behind the Identity of being a Daughter of the King. After that night I realized that there were more important things for me to focus on and figure out other than college.
Something Began to Stir
As the week went on something began to stir in me and my classmates. To be honest, I never thought my grade could grow as close as we did over Encounter.
On Tuesday night, the last night before everyone else arrived, the senior class went up on the mountain and had Communion together. That was an experience I will never forget. I remember looking around seeing my classmates having conversations with people they had never spoken to, friends mending broken relationships, and others loving on those who were struggling. I was such a beautiful picture of God’s faithfulness and promise to His people.
Throughout the rest of the week Chris Moerman spoke about when we begin to see ourselves grow as Christians, we can guarantee the enemy is going to come after us. He spoke about Luke 4:1-13, the story of Jesus being tempted in the desert. He told us to be aware of our appetite, ambition, and need for approval — three things that every human possesses (including Jesus when he was on earth).
He spoke about how to maintain a healthy amount of each and ways to keep the enemy from twisting them into unhealthy habits. Chris also spoke on how to “Practice a life of Heaven.” We do this by discovering our identity in Christ then letting that influence our instincts and actions.
He explained to us that it was also important to live our faith not in fear of the punishment, but instead live out our faith seeking and striving for the promise of a better life that God gives us. This idea lead to his next talk which was about not living our faith by boundaries but by pillars.
He expressed how important it was for Christians to choose to have faith because of the truths of Christianity, and not just believe they are living as a faithful Christian if all they do is stay within the boundaries of faith. Every one of these thoughts Chris taught on really developed a good picture of how to grow from baby Christians to men and women of the faith.
Ripples in the Pond
The last night was incredible. Chris spoke about how “the wages of sin are death” and how sin is like a rock being thrown into a pond. We may think our sin only affects us, but truly it starts ripples that reach and affect the entire pond. We have to be aware that our sin does not just affect us.
In contrast, Chris spoke the truth of the promise of Jesus, no matter how many rocks of sin we throw into the pond, we can still at any point choose to accept Jesus and begin throwing rocks of life into the pond, because they too create ripples that affect the entire pond. I thought this was such a beautiful message, and when it was time to worship after the message my heart was filled with joy seeing how all of the students responded to the message.
Chris offered and invitation for those who had not accepted Jesus in their hearts to go pray with a teacher and make that decision. Immediately my mind jumped back to my 10th grade Encounter when I made that decision, that Jesus was the only way and everyday for the rest of my life I want to follow Him.
As we were worshipping I began to pray for all of those in the room who had not been given their life to The Lord. I could feel the Holy Spirit flowing through that room like the most refreshing breeze I had ever felt. I turned and looked around the room and the picture I saw would not be possible if our God did not exist. That moment was a true testament to who God is. He never leaves us, He never abandons us or forsakes us. He is a constant God who works all things together for our good.
There is nothing quite like Encounter. It is truly a blessing and has changed my life as well as many others. God moved this year at Encounter, I have no doubt. I cannot wait to walk down the halls of Providence and feel that same refreshing breeze of the Holy Spirit like I felt the last night of Encounter. God is so good and He deserves every ounce of praise.
September 15, 2014
What is Encounter?
The goals behind our annual retreat
Ken Hunsberger, High School Principal
“What is Encounter?”
As high school principal, I get this question from time to time. It’s a great question. After all, Encounter is a big endeavor that literally empties our high school building for several days each fall as students and staff embark on this annual retreat.
The concept of Encounter began twelve years ago. Previously, grade level retreats were conducted at five different locations with a primary goal of enabling students to “encounter” one another away from the campus in a retreat setting. But Encounter is meant to be much more.
Encounter has a two-part goal. First, for students to encounter one another. It is a great time for new students to interact and develop new friendships at the beginning of the school year. For all participants, these days are filled with fun and laughter “which works good like a medicine.”
Grades eight and nine travel to Camp Awanita but have separately scheduled meeting times. The bonding of friends and the times of spiritual growth are central to all they undertake. (And then there is the mud pit, too!)
Sophomores and juniors meet at Sharp Top Cove Young Life Camp in the North Georgia mountains. While being housed in separate dorms, these students spend quality time together as upper classmen learning more about their individual and corporate class relationships.
The seniors are at Sharp Top Cove for five days. Arriving before their younger peers, seniors are challenged in these days to recognize the positions of leadership they hold not only within their class, but also with the student body as a whole.
The second goal is for our students to encounter at a deeper level our living God. Providence provides challenging speakers and worship leaders to help our students awaken to the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives. For many students, Encounter will literally become that occasion during which they receive Jesus as a personal Savior. For others, it will be a time of powerful renewal and spiritual reflection. Each year, God has chosen to deeply bless these days.
The Encounter Team, comprised of sophomores, juniors and seniors, plans the schedule of events, themes and logistics for Encounter week. Much time, work and resources are poured into these specific days of experience. While the retreat requires much preparation, seeking God for direction is the key to all these students do. In the end, these efforts are not measured in quantifiers, but in the eternal value of our students gaining a closer relationship with Jesus.
In fact, prayer to our Heavenly Father IS that which defines these days. While we see many victories for the Kingdom of God every year, it does not come without spiritual battle.
The Enemy would seek to deter and destroy that which God is about in our students. Intercessory prayer during the days of Encounter and AFTER Encounter is vitally important. It is imperative that the flow of prayer continues far beyond September 8-12, as the students return from mountaintops — both literally and spiritually.
YOU, standing in the gap with intercession, will make the difference. We are called to pray without ceasing. If God awakens you in the middle of the night, hasten to pray — a spiritual battle for our teens could be raging!
September 8, 2014