At this point in my journey of researching "how to start a school" it was early August (and yes, I may or may not have googled that once or twice). It was so incredible to see how God was orchestrating all the little details. I followed every lead, I asked to meet with any person I felt God laid on my heart, went to any school a person mentioned I should go and tour. I was trying to soak up and learn as much as I could. Through those few months, I was able to meet with a few different Pastors and their wives to share the vision and pick their brains a little. I brought my prayer journal with me to each meeting and just poured out all of the ideas and thoughts I had written down during my quiet times with the Lord, or maybe as they came to me in the car! It was so encouraging to get feedback on something I hadn’t really spoken out loud in months- actually speaking about this idea out loud was almost surreal. Each time I met with someone, God would point me to the next step. Two of those meetings led me to visiting other private schools in Middle Tennessee. After being encouraged to go and see these schools I emailed their Headmasters and just told them I was planning on starting a school in Clarksville and asked if they would be willing to allow me to come to tour and learn more about how they began their own journey.
“God- this morning the song “I Surrender All” is running through my head over and over again. Today you have brought me to a place to tour JECA. God, I trust that this is something you planned as a result of my lunch. You knew they were passionate about this and would share. Lord God- I truly want this day to be whatever you want to show me. Lord open my eyes and ears to see or hear all that you want for your school. Lord God- may I truly- really give this over to you instead of trying to carry it on my shoulders”
That day I was amazing. As I toured the school and listened to the story of how they started, it made me feel like this was really possible. I walked the halls and passed by each year's school picture printed on a canvas . As we went from one picture to the next, he would tell me the story of what happened that year and how they continued to grow. We continued on down the hallway and into one second grade classroom. As I entered, the students stood and greeted me, and then recited scripture from Matthew and told me the importance of those words. In my head I thought, this is what school should be like- this is what we should be teaching our kids to memorize- HIS WORD- HIS PROMISES. I teared up thinking about how I wanted this for my own children- for my own community. I continued touring and was able to peak inside other classrooms, the art room, music room- each room filling me with such excitement and hope for what God would create my school to be like. I sat down with the Headmaster after our tour and asked about 2000 questions. He was so grounded and rooted in the purpose of this school- why pushing through and making sacrifices, taking risks in the first couple years was worth it. And look at it now- look what God has done with their faithfulness.
“Thank you Lord so much for the visit yesterday- it was incredible to hear the stories of how you didn’t let that school fail in the beginning. You began it with just a few children and you’ve continued to grow them. I loved hearing the students recite scripture and poetry. I loved seeing another way of education- one that combines YOU. You are the focus, you are the purpose. They start their days together in prayer- in praise and singing hymns. I loved the intentional focus on truth, beauty, and wisdom. God- will you begin to stir the families’ hearts- the parents and the children for an education built around you Lord.”
Another school that I was led to visit from one of the meetings is located in Franklin. I made it a day and continued driving on down the interstate to visit a school that had launched out of a church. The church ended up building on an entire wing for the school, and they continue to lease part of that building, but have also expanded into the farm land beside that church for their middle and upper school. As I pulled up to the upper school building, an incredible brick home that has now been turned into a school, I could see students coming in and out of the building. I walked in and was greeted by a sweet lady that would end up praying over me before I would leave that day. She toured me around the building and how they were able to transform this 3 story house into a school. It was impressive! After our tour, I was able to meet with her and the Headmaster to talk more. Once again, I pulled out my prayer journal and began to share my story and ask a lot of questions. I was also able to listen to how they began with 3 people who wanted this type of school for their area and a credit card. They started with 63 students and now have over 700 enrolled. WOW! One of the things I remember the most about this trip is the way I felt- I could feel God’s presence so strongly. This wasn’t a surface level Christian school either- this was the real deal. As we finished, that same sweet lady that greeted me, held my hands and prayed one of the most fierce prayers over myself, my family, the school, and the families that would attend the school. I cried of course.
“God- thank you for being so faithful to me in stirring their hearts to allow me to come and visit. Dear Lord, help me- give me wisdom to discern what’s next Lord? God, increase the desire in my heart and Chad’s heart Lord- to build this school together with a team of people who can help guide us in the right way- according to your will- people with a heart and focus aligned to you. God lead me in the way you would have me go.”
Both of the schools I visited have continued to support me along this journey- sharing resources and ideas. Answering any questions- no matter how simple or “should already know that” I feel about them. It has been one of the supports that I know God had planned for me all along and has really impacted this journey.
I ended that journal entry with something I find myself telling God over and over again, more like my heart crying out to him…
“God- please don’t let me go ahead of you or lag behind- I want to be right with you Lord. I can’t do this without you Lord- Stay with me. Lead me. Walk with me Lord.”