Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Milestones

The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility goes before honor.  Proverbs 15:33, NRSV

One of our faculty members is celebrating a career milestone as a teacher, in her classroom with her students here at Midwestern Christian Academy.  Mrs. JoAnn Saunders, wife of principal Lee Saunders, first started her teaching career in the 1981-82 school year at the Broadway Baptist School on the far east side of Houston, Texas.  Broadway Baptist was, at the time, one of the oldest Christian schools in Texas, founded as a pre-kindergarten program before the Second World War.  By 1981, when Mrs. Saunders arrived on campus, it had over 600 students in pre-school through 12th grade.  Altogether, Mrs. Saunders has now spent 40 years serving as a classroom teacher, with all but two years of that in Christian school ministry.  

Mrs. Saunders grew up in St. Louis, Missouri.  She says she always knew that she wanted to be a teacher, and got her first experience at age 11, helping out with vacation Bible school in her home church, Lafayette Park Baptist Church, which was known for its summer outreach and ministry programs that included a very large VBS at the end of the summer.  She worked as a volunteer in the church's bus ministry as well.  She served during the summer as a volunteer in the church's "Cartoon Bus" outreach ministry, where the bus would park in a neighborhood, or near the housing projects, and show cartoons and have a puppet show, then teach Bible stories, and have refreshments.  That was how she decided she wanted to teach. 

She graduated from Southwest Baptist University in 1981 and shortly after summer graduation, she and her college roommate headed for Houston, to find jobs and start their teaching careers in Christian school.  They both landed jobs at Broadway Baptist.  While she was teaching there, Mr. Saunders came to Broadway to teach in the high school.  They were married in December of 1989 in the Broadway Baptist Church in front of an audience made up mostly of former and current students.  

After getting married, Mrs. Saunders moved to Ft. Worth, Texas where she enrolled in graduate school at Texas Woman's University to be a special education teacher.  Her teaching career included a self-contained special education class at Springtown Elementary School in Springtown, Texas, resource special education at Irving Elementary School in Cleburne, Texas.  After a short hiatus, she became family resource coordinator at Oakland Elementary School in Oakland, Kentucky.  

She returned to Christian school ministry back at Broadway Baptist in 1995, before taking an elementary teaching position at Fort Bend Baptist Academy in Sugar Land, Texas, a Houston suburb, where she taught first grade for sixteen years.  When Mr. Saunders became lead administrator at Portersville Christian School, in Portersville, Pennsylvania, in 2010, Mrs. Saunders thought she was going to get a break, but when a second grade teacher decided to quit just two weeks before school started, the board convinced her to take the position, which she held for 8 years.  This being her sixth year at MCA, that brings the total of her teaching years to 40, with 37 of those years being in the service of the Christian school ministry.  

She served as the cheerleader sponsor for both middle school and high school while working at Broadway Baptist, and was also cheerleader sponsor for one year at Portersville Christian School.  The number of basketball games she has attended with her husband, who was a coach, are too many to count.  

Having had the privilege of living and working in five different states, former students, the oldest of whom are now in their late 40's, are scattered all over the place.  She still keeps in touch with many of them.  The Christmas tree in her home is a memory tree, with many of the ornaments give to her and Mr. Saunders by their former students over the years.  Every Christmas, when decorating the tree, they talk about the students who gave them the ornaments, and wonder what they are doing.  

Her greatest joy in teaching has been seeing her students come to faith in Christ, and grow up to serve him through his church.  


Saturday, January 27, 2024

Looking Ahead to the 2024-25 School Term

Since the pandemic, we have seen a major increase in interest from parents in enrolling their children in a Christian school.  Of course, the primary reason given by most parents for putting their children here has to do with the school's distinctive Christian identity and curriculum.  We operate from an educational philosophy that acknowledges the existence of the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present God of the Bible, and his plan for saving humanity from its sin through the sacrifice and resurrection of his son, Jesus the Christ.  All of our curriculum objectives recognize this as fact, and recognize the need for each person to confess their sin at the point of conviction, repent, and turn to Jesus by grace in faith to be forgiven and restored to God.  

The only social agenda in our instruction is the Christian life taught by Jesus and the Apostles, found in the Bible.  This is integrated into every subject area.  We encourage students and their families to be connected to a local church, which is the body of Christ, and our instruction will support and undergird that church relationship.  

In Matthew 5:13-14, Jesus says, "You are the salt of the earth," and "You are the light of the world."  He intended for his followers to testify to his existence, and to the salvation God offered through him, by the way they live their own life, in every aspect of their existence.  Humanity is sinful, and that means that the culture and society around us live in spiritual darkness.  The way our society is structured, children come into contact with the worldly nature of the surrounding culture at an early age, though their education, which, for some students, starts as young as age 3.   

Unless children are influenced and taught the principles of the Christian gospel, starting with salvation, by social institutions that reflect a belief in God, in Jesus, and lead them to experience conviction of sin and repentance, there is a risk that they will remain in sin, and spiritually lost.  So at MCA, we bring the Christian gospel into their learning experience, not merely giving students head knowledge, but actually integrating its principles into every subject area, showing students how to live according to its values and virtues.  

Over the past few years, we have had an increasing number of parents bring their children to our school, telling us about classroom instruction which causes them to doubt their identity in spite of their physical gender, to be guided more by the way they feel than by any external authority figure, including their own parents, to develop their own values, based on those things which appeal to their senses, and to avoid guilt by rejecting societal, and religious, norms in developing their own determination of what is right, and to develop an antimoral perspective based on experience, feeling and human reason.  

These objectives are present in every classroom, in the objectives of multiple subjects, and they include instruction in application of this perspective to human sexuality through gender identity and sexual orientation in which there is no opt-out for parents, except, of course, to find an educational alternative that supports their values.  

Even aside from the religious perspective, these are things that parents, not a social institution, should be responsible for teaching their children.  Those of us in Christian school education who have been seeing this for years, and have been trying to point out the differences to parents have been aware of this for quite some time.  We've been working, not only to increase awareness so parents can make a good educational choice, but also to make it easier for them to access a Christian school so they can have confidence that their children are in a safe place both physically and intellectually, where their values can be supported.  

There are some things that you should know in your decision to provide a Christian education for your child. 

Your child's teachers, the administration, and all of the staff who support their education are making the same financial sacrifice you are making to pay tuition.  

The training and education required for Christian school teachers and administrators are the same as those of public education.  So our staff members are certified and qualified by the same level of education and experience as those in the public school down the street.  However, because the payroll affects the school's budget bottom line, which affects the cost of tuition and fees, those who are called to this ministry are sacrificing what they could earn elsewhere.  A family with two children enrolled at MCA pays just under $10,000 a year in tuition and fees.  A teacher at MCA with ten years of seniority earns $15,000 less per year than the base, or entry level salary, of a CPS teacher, and $30,000 less per year than a teacher with the same degree and experience. 

That sacrifice, along with church ownership of the property for which we pay no rental or lease, and which has been renovated for us to enjoy, keeps our tuition among the lowest for a private, religious based school in the city of Chicago.  So while you're eating more meals at home and turning the thermostat down and driving a 2015 model car with 100,000 miles on it, hoping it lasts one more year, so are we.   And some of our teachers are still paying their student loans back, and riding CTA to and from work.

Your child's teachers are trained and serve as ministers of the Gospel, not just as employees of a school. 

In addition to their college degree, every teacher at MCA is an expert student of the scripture, is involved with the ministry of a local church which shares MCA's convictions, doctrine and theology, and understands their role as being that of a minister to their students, more than just a classroom teacher.  They have a relationship with their students based on an order that comes from the Bible's principles and includes their role as a teacher, an authority on their subject matter and in the management of their classroom, not just merely a "facilitator of learning," and provides for the moral guidance of their students in the Christian gospel, as well as serving as an authority on the subject matter they teach.  

MCA recognizes, and supports, the responsibility given by God to parents for raising their children under his nurture and admonition.  

Biblical principle points to parents as being responsible for the education of their children.  You have them, you raise them, you love them, you try to offer them opportunities to make good choices in life and you have to let them go to make their own way.  Our role is to support you, to make sure that what they learn in school is consistent with your family values and leads to their own salvation and Christian life, as they live in the world, observe it, and prepare to live in it, but not be of it.  

Over the many years that I have taught and served as a principal in Christian schools, I have heard many students talk about their school as a "bubble," an attempt to keep out worldly influences, or, as one student put it, a "sin-free zone from 8:30 to 3:00."  They would be surprised when I would agree with what they intended to be a criticism.  

Yes, indeed, a Christian school is a "bubble," and we deliberately filter out elements that are both worldly influences and simple distractions to focus.  Perhaps that's one reason why students at MCA show average proficiency in reading, language arts and math that is almost 40% higher than their counterparts in the public and charter schools around them and why two-thirds of our students find themselves scoring in the top two quartiles of standardized tests.  There is an advantage to a curriculum that focuses on developing skills without elements of a social agenda being required.  

And that may also be why research shows that, across the country, students who are enrolled in and attend a Christian school for at least five years of their life are much more likely to remain as a faithful, participating member of their local church, or commit to serving as pastors, ministers and missionaries, and Christian school teachers, than those who don't have this opportunity.  It's hard to miss an opportunity to be introduced to Jesus in a Christian school.  They happen several times every day in every class.  

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works, and give glory to your Father in Heaven.  Matthew 5:16


Thursday, January 18, 2024

It's Never an Easy Decision! A Personal Perspective on Snow and Weather Cancellations at School

Any time we have a weather cancellation, there are questions about why we are doing it, observations about whether it's safe based on personal perspectives, excitement among some students about having a day off school and anxiety on the part of others because we are missing a day of school.  There are always a lot of considerations, balancing the relative safety of a weather situation against the scramble to secure child care by parents and the amount of time we have for learning objectives.  

The school does have some thresholds, based on similar practices at other private and public schools in Chicago, for handing the kind of weather situations we have in common. 

We will close school when the following conditions occur: 

  • We receive advice from the Chicago Police Department, primarily from parents who are officers, that road conditions are bad, and the street department is having trouble keeping up with clearing snowfall from the streets. 
  • The National Weather Service has issued a warning which indicates that travel conditions are dangerous and persist into the morning or afternoon commute times.  This would include blizzard conditions, along with freezing rain and sleet.  
  • The issuance of temperature or wind chill warnings with sustained, actual temperature of forecast of -20 below zero or colder, or a sustained wind chill temperature of -25 or colder.  
  • If water lines freeze in the school building, or heating units are not keeping the building warm, we will close until repairs are made, hopefully within 24 hours.   
The reason for closing during extremely frigid temperatures has to do with the fact that, while most of our students commute to school in their own family vehicles, and the building is warm and heated, we do have employees and a few students who depend on public transportation to get to and from school, and this is a risk to them.  There is also a risk factor involved any time someone is commuting in those kind of weather conditions.  We're weighing safety risks that are greatly increased against the necessity of spending the day in school.  There are also employees of the school who wind up having some duty responsibility that requires them to be exposed to the cold in order to make it safe for students when arriving and dismissing.  The rarity of such an occurrence warrants taking the precaution.  

The other reason for a frigid temperature closure is to take some of the pressure off first responders.  There is an increase of emergency calls during periods of extreme cold, or very bad weather.  Closing schools down reduces that risk.  It reduces the potential number of emergency calls.  And that's another reason why we do it.  

We are careful, in our scheduling, to make sure our students have enough time to adequately master their learning objectives.  Under Illinois' compulsory education requirements, students must spend 180 school days, the equivalent of 880 hours of instructional time, in school.  Our school day gives our students just over 1,000 hours of instructional time during the year, and our calendar has built-in days for use in the event of an extended weather event preventing us from attending school.  So when we need them, we take them.  

I've experienced some events as a school administrator that have taught me caution in dealing with bad weather.  At a previous school, one of our busses stalled on a rural road about six miles from the school campus when it was under 10 degrees outside.  Diesel fuel tends to gel when it gets cold, and the fuel line had jammed.  On another occasion, I had to stay at school until well past 6:00 p.m. one evening with students whose parents couldn't get to the school quickly, due to a heavy snow that had been falling since mid-afternoon.  Commutes that normally were made in 15 minutes were taking up to an hour, and two students couldn't get home, and wound up spending the night with a friend who lived close to the school.  I thought, for a little while, that we might have a situation like Lois Lenski's "Prairie School."  

We appreciate parents understanding the decisions necessary for the protection of the safety of all of our students and their families.  


Saturday, January 6, 2024

A Model for Christian Education That Works

Christian schools in the United States have experienced some hard times over the past 25 years.  As conservative, Evangelical churches and denominations, which are the largest single constituency for independent Christian schools, have experienced steep declines in attendance and membership, especially among younger families with school-aged children, Christian schools feel the pinch in smaller enrollments, tighter budgets and in many cases, schools have been unable to continue operations, and have closed.  At one point, prior to the pandemic, ACSI reported more than 300 schools across the country closed each year.  

MCA has been around since 1956.  It was founded during a time when the congregation at Midwest Bible Church was very involved in a youth outreach, with a pastor who was one of the founders of Youth for Christ, and just a few years after they had established the Phantom Ranch Bible Camp.  The school has survived during the ebb and flow of demographic change in the neighborhood, adjusting it's vision for the future to meet the needs of families and students while maintaining a strong mission and purpose.  

At one point, the vision led to opening and operating a high school, ninth through twelfth grade, which operated for more than a dozen years in the 70's and 80's.  We've heard from many graduates who were here during that time about what MCA was like during those years.  Changes in the needs of families led to the school going back to its grade school format, with Pre-kindergarten becoming an option, so a three's and four's "junior kindergarten," still part of the school, was added. 

The school has also gone through times when possible closure was considered, due to declines in enrollment and a very tight operating budget.  The most recent valley that the school experienced had the potential to cause its closure, had things not turned around in a reasonable amount of time.  Adding to some of the difficulties was the viral pandemic that sent us online to close out the 2020 school year.  But God clearly intended for the school to continue its ministry and he kept the vision for providing it alive in the school community and in the church,  

What a Church-School Relationship Should Look Like 
The vision for Christian school ministry has always been a part of Midwest Bible Church, even though the congregation, too, has experienced change over the years, due to the demographics of the surrounding neighborhood.  Many Christian schools have been started by churches, and many others lease the facilities of churches to provide the necessary classroom space.  But considering a Christian school as a discipleship ministry of the church to young people is not as common as one might think. 

In this church-school relationship, which goes back to 1956, the one constant has been the connection between the school and church as a ministry.  And that model involves more than just tenancy in the building and a financial arrangement.  It involves a mutually supportive relationship, the primary part of that being dependence on the leadership of the Holy Spirit to provide unity in vision, mission and purpose.  

It is, in fact, consistent with the Biblical function of a Christian church to operate a school ministry, provided the school is actually a ministry of the church.  Churches have specific ministry functions in their mission, including worship, education and discipleship, evangelism and missions, ministry and fellowship.  Establishing a school is primarily a discipleship ministry, because of the Bible teaching opportunities that a school provides.  But there is also the possibility of extending the ministry of the church to school families and of course, there is also evangelism ministry that can take place, too.. 

Factors in MCA's Recent Recovery 
Of course, discerning and following the will of God is the key to revival of any kind of ministry.  There are, however, several key factors in the relationship between MCA and MBC that assured its recovery from a deep valley, rather than becoming yet another statistic in the closure of Christian schools saga. 

The church provided prayer and spiritual support, and also contributed the financial support necessary to sustain the school's expenses when money became scarce.  They had already invested over $350,000 in the renovation of two of the buildings on the property, and in addition to this, they provided funds when the school's budget receipts fell short of expenses.  We use the facility lease-free, which is a huge contribution of support to our families in the lower tuition rate that it produces.  Members of the church are consistent donors, and the church's alignment with the school's ministry vision has allowed for projects like the playground and gym renovation, which involve changes to facilities owned by the church.  Their response has always been, "What's best for the school?" not "what's best for us."  

Most of our parents probably couldn't tell you anything about school accreditation.  But MCA's recognition as a school of quality is part of that process.  During the past five years, we have established the credibility of our academic excellence with a developed set of curriculum standards that inspire and encourage achievement well beyond grade level expectations and state standards.  Our achievement test scores are evidence of the excellence of the academics in our classrooms.  We have stabilized our staff, with a very low turnover rate, and we have achieved an enrollment return rate of over 90%.  Trust has been restored in the school and its leadership, and as improvements can be made, they are made.  

We are financially stable, and had the resources to give our teachers a much deserved raise this year, for the first time in a while.  We've had people express confidence in the school by giving money which we have used to renovate our gym, install a much-needed playground and we have equipped our classrooms with useful technology and our students with laptops and tablets for classroom use.  

The relationship between the church and the school as a ministry is what Christian school education should be all about.  We are a ministry that assists the church by performing one of its assigned biblical functions and in teaching our students, one of our purposes is to support and undergird the work of their local church.  One of our expected student outcomes is to lead students to see their active engagement in the ministry of a local church, whether they are called to serve as pastoral staff, or whether they are laypersons.  

Hope for the Future
I wish more churches and church leaders had an understanding of the value of Christian schools to their ministry and their continued existence.  Not only are Christian schools a primary source of future church leaders, who will be thoroughly trained in the scripture, and understand the importance of the church as a body of believers, but we help students understand all of the functions of the church, their spiritual gifts and how they will fit into the ministry of a local body of Christ.  Our ministries go hand in hand.  It would be wonderful to see more churches decide that one of the best uses they could find for their facilities is to have a Christian school using them rather than sitting empty all week.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

An Open Invitation From Midwest Bible Church

Midwestern Christian Academy has been a ministry of Midwest Bible Church ever since the school was established.  The church has a long history and legacy of ministry to children and youth.  One of the church's former pastors, Torrey Johnson, was the founder of Youth for Christ back in 1944.  Part of that legacy includes the establishment of Phantom Ranch Bible Camp in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, as an outreach and discipleship ministry to youth and children, and the establishment of a Christian school, Midwestern Christian Academy, on the campus of the church, also as a discipleship ministry and evangelistic outreach to children and youth.  Evangelist Billy Graham was involved with the Youth for Christ ministry, and his first sermon broadcast on the radio was preached from inside the Gideon Building, which now serves Pre-School on our campus.  

We know that most of our students and their families are involved in many different churches all around Northwest Chicago.  We are very glad that the ministry of Midwestern Christian Academy, started back in 1956, is able to serve every student who comes our way, and share in this discipleship and educational ministry.  

We are also aware that some families who send their children our way, and who understand and appreciate the value of a Christian education, aren't currently involved with a local church.  We want to extend to you an open invitation to visit Midwest Bible Church.  Our pastor would love to have the chance to talk to you about your family and our church's ministry or about any spiritual need you may have.  You are part of our family, and you are always welcome.  

As we start a new year, this may be the time that God's Holy Spirit is leading you to become involved in the ministry of a local church.  Since you already know where we are, and are familiar with our campus, please consider joining us each week for worship.  


Friday, December 15, 2023

Early Re-Enrollment is Open for 2024-25 School Term

Early re-enrollment is now open for students to register for the 2024-25 school year.  I know it seems like we just started school, but it is almost Christmas and we will hit the halfway point for the school year just a couple of weeks after returning from break.  

Advantages of Registering Early 
We offer early enrollment because it helps us get a better handle on what our staffing needs will be for the next school year.  It saves the school money to be able to plan for staffing needs in advance of an upcoming year.  Payroll is our largest expense, so it helps us out to know what our enrollment will look like.  That's why we offer you a lower rate of tuition and fees for completing the registration process before February 1 of the coming year.  

We have reached a point where most of our classes are at or near capacity enrollment.  Registering early means you have a guaranteed spot in a class for the next school year.  For example, right now we have 18 students in the Kindergarten class, with a capacity of 21, which means that we only have room for three more students before the class is closed.  We currently have six applications for Kindergarten with enrollment fee paid and paperwork completed.  So if one or two of our current kindergarten students are not re-enrolled, someone may grab their spot in the class on February 1.  It's possible that we will have two kindergarten classes next year, since it's early, and we already have six waiting to get in.  But we can't always guarantee that.  So register early and you're in!  

Over each of the past three years, our re-enrollment rate of current students has exceeded 95%.  It's almost certain that classes in grades K through 7 will be at or near capacity next year.  In each of the past three years, we've had about 50 applications from new students, across the grade levels, primarily in the lower grades.  Our current enrollment won't leave that many spaces open for new students, and it means that on February 1, just about every open space we have in a grade will be taken.  So parents who haven't enrolled by then may lose their spot. 

Quality Education in a Distinctively Christian Environment
MCA is fully accredited, a distinction it achieved during recovery from the pandemic.  What that means is that the quality of the education offered by the school meets or exceeds a specific set of standards considered to be measurements of school effectiveness.  In addition to the educational quality and efficiency of operations, MCA was also evaluated for, and recognized for the quality of its spiritual life, which was part of the accreditation process.  

Standardized testing is used to measure the educational progress of our students from year to year.  Over 90% of our students meet the grade level benchmark scores in the core subjects in language arts, reading and mathematics with over 65% of students being "proficient" in those subjects.  Students leaving kindergarten at MCA are reading on a first grade level.  

MCA graduates have a wide variety of high school options to choose from.  Those who choose another Christian school, such as Chicago Hope Academy or Timothy Christian, are easily able to meet the entrance requirements and easily adapt to being part of the student body.  Our students also find a high level of success in gaining admission to selective enrollment high schools in the Chicago Public School system.  And a few students opt to go to their neighborhood high school, or to one of the nearby charter schools, such as Instrinsic, ITW Speer or Horizon Science Academy.  

But the most important emphasis we offer as a school is our commitment to being distinctively Christian.  With over 200 students representing nearly 60 churches in the community, our teachers help our students learn to study the scriptures, pointing to salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  We spend time in worship together each week, and all students have a class dedicated to studying the Bible every day.  

Every student is different, and every student must approach their relationship with Jesus Christ on their own.  At school, we will support them with our prayers and with our guidance and presence in the classroom, to help those who are already Christians grow in their faith and listen for God's call to ministry in their life, and for those who do not know Jesus, to make a profession of faith.  

An Educational Bargain
We are able to operate as an extension ministry of a local church, an independent and autonomous ministry with the ability to determine, from our interpretation of scripture, our own mission and purpose.  We receive no public funds, consequently we are free from the regulation and restrictions on freedom of conscience which go with the acceptance of tax dollars.  Much of the cost to parents is subsidized at MCA.  We occupy buildings owned by the church on which we pay for our own maintenance, but we have no lease obligations.  Our teachers consider their work as a ministry calling, and sacrifice the kind of salary they might earn elsewhere.  

We estimate that the full value of a year's worth of education at MCA comes in at around $13,000.  The contributed use of the building, sacrifices made by teachers and gifts of generous supporters of the school subtracts about $8,000 of that.  This makes tuition and fees at MCA among the lowest in the city for a fully accredited, non-denominational, Christian private school.  Our tuition rates, including discounts, are significantly lower than other religious-based, private schools in our area.  You get way more than the actual monetary value of that in return. 



 

Friday, November 17, 2023

Give Thanks in All Circumstances, I Thessalonians 5:18

But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labor among you, and have charge of you in the Lord, and admonish you; esteem them very highly because of their work.  Be at peace among yourselves.  And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them.  See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  I Thessalonians 5:12-18, NRSV

During the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War 2, Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsie had been arrested and imprisoned for hiding Jews in their home, and for participating in a network in the Dutch Resistance that attempted to rescue Jews from the Nazis, provide them with ration cards, hide them, and in some cases, attempt to get them out of the country to safety.  Initially kept in a former Dutch prison in the Hague, they were sent into the German concentration camp system when the Allied invasion appeared to be imminent. 

First sent to a camp near Vught, in the Netherlands, the Germans evacuated camps into Germany after the Allied invasion in June of 1944.  Corrie and Betsie wound up at Ravensbruck, a large camp north of Berlin, exclusively for women.  

They managed to smuggle a small, leather-bound Bible that had been given to them while they were still in prison in the Netherlands into the Ravensbruck camp.  Under strict surveillance, other prisoners who saw them with the Bible had warned them that possessing a Bible was cause for strict punishment.  But they kept it hidden, bringing it out when it was safe to read and to share its contents with other prisoners.  

Holding clandestine prayer meetings and worship services with other women in the camp, they would read scripture, it would get translated into all of the various languages spoken in the camp, and then they would pray.  One day, after reading I Thessalonians 5, Betsie led the prayer, thanking God for every blessing they could think of, in spite of being in a concentration camp, in danger, not cared for, sick, and filthy.  

"And thank you, God, for the fleas..."  

Corrie protested.  She couldn't find the ability to be thankful for fleas, which were part of the misery of the camp, and were everywhere.  

A few days later, when Corrie was returning from a work detail, Betsie met her at the door to their large, overcrowded dormitory.  

"Do you remember when we thanked God for the fleas," she said?  "Well, today, I found out why we have had so much freedom in this room to read scripture, worship together and pray, without ever being bothered by the guards."  

Betsie went on to tell her sister that when some of the women on her knitting detail had a disagreement over sizes of the socks they were making, they asked one of the guards to come into the room and settle the issue.  But the guard refused to enter the room, Betsie explained, because of the fleas. 

"That place is crawling with fleas," said the guard.  

So there was, after all, a reason to be thankful for a flea.  Those fleas enabled Corrie and Betsie to continue to minister to women who were in one of the deepest, darkest times in history, and in their own lives, that they would ever experience.  It is unknown how many women, in deep despair, were brought to the joy of knowing Christ, even in such horrific circumstances, because prison guards would not enter a room that was crawling with fleas.  

Many times, the good that comes out of circumstances is unknown to us, or is not part of our own experience.  We cannot always see everything there is to see.  And sometimes, our own selfishness can blind us to the benefits which may be in something that God is doing in the lives of other people.  

The circumstances that happened to Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom removed them from their home and family, from the comforts of their life and put them in a place where it was difficult to find anything for which to be thankful.  Their lives, and everything that they had ever experienced, was turned upside down.  But there was a bigger mission and purpose which God had planned for them which was slowly revealed to them, and which they understood.  There was no guarantee that everything would ever be right again, and in fact, Betsie died in the prison hospital shortly before Corrie was released on Christmas day, 1944.  

Compared to that, there are few circumstances which surround us that limit our ability to give thanks.  


Milestones

The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility goes before honor.  Proverbs 15:33, NRSV One of our faculty members is celebrati...